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…

Routine or Ritual

Last week, I commented on prescriptive routines. Let’s pull that thread. Humans are driven by habit and ritual, after all.

Do you have rituals that serve you?

A little over a quarter of a century ago, I committed myself to completing a novel that I’d been working on since high school.

I had a little ritual before I began writing.

I would make a mug of espresso.

I would turn on the Bring on the Night live album (stop laughing at me).

I would sit down at a large, heavy desk, and fire up the household’s Apple IIe, place my fingers on the keyboard, feeling the ridges on the F and J keys, moving my fingers slightly in the curves of the other keys in the home row, take a deep breath and plunge into the writing.

On Federal Holidays or days when there was too much snow for my husband to go to work (we lived in Virginia, so you’re looking at a couple of inches), I couldn’t really write. I had someone trying to talk to me as I was trying to get into the groove.

I did finish that first draft. It was deeply terrible. But finished.

I sometimes think about that little ritual and laugh at myself for my attention being so fragile that I couldn’t write if my groove were thrown off.

Or, I used to.

Chemex Coffee Maker

Today, I needed to write a blog post about productivity, and I couldn’t get started. So, what did I do?

I made myself a mug of coffee.

I started playing Bring on the Night (on a device that hadn’t been INVENTED yet. I love living in the future!).

I rested my hands on my laptop keyboard, moved my fingers along the keys in the home row.

And I plunged into writing.

As Kenny Kirkland is diving into his keyboard solo, I’m in my groove.

The point isn’t that writers are weirdos or something. We are, but the point is that where proscriptive routines sometimes can be thrown off easily, sometimes a little ritual can serve you when you need to get something done.

Do you have rituals that serve you? Can you develop them consciously?

Sign up for Get Control of Your Life! and find out.

The Perfect Morning Routine

The Perfect Morning Routine
A chart with actions and time to do them.
The perfect morning routine, down to the minute

Did you know The Perfect Morning Routine will bring about health, wealth, and happiness? I didn’t until fairly recently, and I learned it from a very special source.

I learned on the treadmill. I find treadmills deeply tedious, so I would often grab my tablet to watch some videos while I pretended to take a walk.

Being interested in self-improvement and productivity, I ran across a series of videos on YouTube with attractive young men talking Very Seriously about their morning routines and how that increased their productivity.

They would get up before dawn, do some meditating, exercise, eat a beautifully prepared protein-rich breakfast, and read some Improving Literature before getting on with a long bike ride to the office.

While a firm believer in bookending one’s day, the proscriptive “routines” they’d come up with often had me snickering and wondering how long such perfection endured.

Long enough to finish the production of the video? Maybe a few months until the season changed and that ten-mile bike ride would have been dangerous in the dark?

Do I think exercise is Important? Well, obviously. I was exercising while watching the darn things and had gone to the expense of putting a treadmill in my house!

Do I think nourishing oneself well is Important? Yeah, I am managing a health condition with diet until some of my organs give out on me and rebel and I have to go on meds.

It’s the prescriptiveness of it that makes me laugh and wonder if the procrustean nature of the routine wouldn’t become onerous after enough time.

I did an experiment with a finely-tuned “Morning Routine.”

How long did that last, and did it do me any good?

Evaluation of Life Experiments is part of my Get Control of Your Life! course.

Sign up to find out! The results may be surprising.

Be More Successful by Accepting Your Limits

The need for rest is a real constraint. Ignore it and fail!

If you grew up like I did, you were told there are no limits to what’s possible. “If you can dream it, you can do it!”

That feels good, but it is also more limiting than you could possibly believe.

Resources are finite. There’s no getting around that. Everyone has twenty-four hours in a day, sure. The twenty-four-hour day of a single mom looks very different from the twenty-four-hour day of an empty-nester.

It is pointless to pretend otherwise. It is an excellent way to get yourself well and truly stuck.

What if, by analyzing your real constraints, you could have a method to find workarounds that you can use that increase life satisfaction and goal achievement?

I will be teaching a class in precisely that in a few weeks. I’m charging less than you’d spend on dinner in a restaurant. I’ve even been scolded for undercharging.

If you follow through on the course (yes, that’s the catch, the work will be hard) the ROI on this course will be astronomical in terms of life satisfaction and productivity.


Do you want to Get Control of Your Life?

Sign up now!

Named Ranges in Intermediate Excel Make Calculations Easier

I wish I could brag about how named ranges help me professionally.  They do, but I don’t have a cute story about it.  However, it is easier for me to set up tables and formulas when I think about what each cell’s contents represent rather than the actual cell references.  Seriously, Z3432?  Who cares?  I want to know what it means.

Named ranges also come in handy when you start working with the table objects in Excel.  This concept makes structured referencing that much easier.

Wanna learn how?

Excel Intermediate

Excel Intermediate is a six-week course starting:

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

7:00-8:00 pm EST