The value of constraints

| life, productivity

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately because I’ve been surprised by how useful they are. One of the challenges of being an agreeable, optimistic person is that I’m often tempted to say yes to many opportunities and try all sorts of things. Explicit constraints help me keep things manageable, and they help me remember why I chose them.

For example, this year, I’m experimenting with limiting my presentations to one talk a month, and little or no conference travel. Except for March (always conference/event season), I’ve been pretty good at sticking to that. It’s easy to explain the constraint to people, and they’re happy with either referrals to other speakers or postponement to one of my free months. It means I have more time to think, experiment, write, and draw.

I’ve also been trying a limit of one blog post per day, instead of bursts of two or three posts. One of these days, I’ll crunch numbers to see if I have a significant difference in terms of volume or comments. I like the rhythm, though. It makes me think more about what I want to publish, which posts I want to prioritize. I still write a lot, but that’s more so that I have a buffer for those busy days.

Now that I’ve gotten over the initial disruption of having a Playstation 3 in the house, I’ve been getting back on track with my sleep schedule. Limiting the hours I spend on work and other things forces me to be clear about my priorities and work more efficiently.

I’m getting better at knowing when I need to use constraints. When I pack my life too full, I find myself reshuffling my task list too often. My mind feels like it buzzes. Choices threaten to overwhelm. It’s a good time to step back and ask myself: How can I simplify this? What can I limit?

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