Can Artificial Constraints Interfere With Your Goals?

You have a task to do. You get yourself a cup of coffee and sit down to it, but you’re not excited about it. It’s ten minutes to eight, and you really ought to get going.

“I’ll get started right at eight,” you promise yourself, then check out social media or do a little shopping online.

You look at the clock and it’s 8:01.

So, you tell yourself, “Okay, I’ll get started at 8:15…”

Does this sound familiar to you?

  1. What kind of weirdo does that?
  2. Eh, maybe a little…
  3. I’m in this picture and I don’t like it.

If you answered 1, I’m jealous of your natural productivity.

If you answered 2 or 3, you’ve probably fussed at yourself more than once for procrastinating. Also, you might be doing something that can mess you up in ways other than procrastinating.

That “Imma start at 8:00” is an example not only of procrastination but an artificial constraint.

If you, to pick something completely at random, need to write an article, does it really matter if you started it at 8:01 rather than 8:00? Of course not. Next week, it’s whether or not you finished the article that’s going to count! The article isn’t somehow “less written” because you started it a minute before or after you said you would.

In my last article, I talked about rituals to get yourself going. They can be important. But sometimes, instead of helping you, they get in your way and make it harder to accomplish something.

Say you want to exercise every day, so you put your exercise clothes and your gym shoes on the chair by your bed and set your alarm for 5:30 in the morning.

But you roll over, you don’t get up until 6:30, and you have other things you have to do before you get to work. But after work, you throw on exercise clothes, have your workout, and then go ahead, prop your feet up and play a video game until bedtime.

Are you any less worked out than you would have been for the 5:30 workout?

There is a place for being strict with yourself, but the question becomes, “Is that strictness serving the goal or setting you up for failure?”

Am I about to tell you that my Get Control of Your Life! class has a method for evaluating that?

Yeah, you already know the answer to that…

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