Constrain Yourself! It’ll Help You Focus Faster

“turned on Focus signage” by Stefan Cosma on Unsplash

Are you having trouble deciding on your priorities for the year?

Or maybe you’ve dozens of tasks in your to-do list app but feel unsure how to get going, never mind what to work on first?

The right constraint can help you find your focus and achieve your goals faster.

Don’t worry, practical constraints are about more than eating porridge or wearing a grey T-shirt every day.

Time

Try the Pomodoro Technique to get more from your valuable working hours.

Get a timer, set it for 30 minutes, and work on your most important task until the buzzer sounds. Then, take a short two-minute break before returning to your most important task and resetting the timer.

Ideally, stack these sessions on top of each other until you finish the task at hand.

Design

A web designer once told me many entrepreneurs go “color and font crazy” when building a site or presentation. His advice?

Pick two and certainly no more than three fonts, colours, and heading styles, and stick with them. Design software Canva can help you with this.

Limiting your options will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed by the array of fonts and colors at your disposal when creating a presentation or webpage.

Word count

Let’s say you need to write and submit an important report by Friday afternoon.

Rather than spending all week crafting War and Peace, use the constraint of 500 or 1,000 words to decide what to include and exclude.

As an example, I once worked with a chief marketing officer who said he didn’t have time for 50- or 100- page reports and preferred two page summaries.

Your time-strapped readers might thank you for applying this constraint.

Theme

Don’t agonize about what to do every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and so on. Instead, pick a theme for each day and stick to it.

Spend Mondays on customer research, Tuesdays on product development, Wednesdays on marketing. And so on.

Having a theme for individual days related to your work will give you mental clarity about what to do and when.

Priorities

Many entrepreneurs have trouble deciding on their priorities for the entire year. Instead of feeling anxious about what you will or won’t get done over the next 52 weeks, pick your top three priorities for this month or even just this week.

For example, one online entrepreneur told me he’s spending the third quarter of 2018 optimizing his website for search and lead generation. He’ll still work on other tasks, but they’re secondary.

Tools

These days, we can pick from more productivity and business tools than ever before. Managing the logins and passwords alone is a job in itself.

Instead of wasting time learning new tools or clicking “Reset password,” pick one for the job at hand, for example a single design application or word processor. After all, done is better than perfect, and you can always try a different tool (and a more memorable password) next time.

Inputs

According to consumer researchers Moreau and Dahl, reducing your inputs might help you become more creative.

So if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information on your desk, refine and reduce it to what’s essential. Rather than reading dozens of reports and papers, pick two or three of the most relevant ones and concentrate on those.

Focus On Getting To Done

It’s fun to riff on Mark Zuckerberg’s choice of attire once you understand that constraints are useful productivity tools.

Choosing a practical and relevant constraint should help you focus on what matters and work through a to-do list faster. Now, pick just one.

Ready to supercharge your productivity?

I’ve created a cheat sheet that will help you FOCUS immediately. Follow this and you’ll accomplish more than you can imagine.

Get the cheat sheet here!