Why working late isn’t the answer
3 lessons from staring at the ticking clock late at night
I was staring at my laptop in the dark.
I glanced at the clock and…it was 3 AM! How?
Last time I looked at it, it was barely midnight.
The truth was, I was making zero progress. But I felt unhappy with my day, and I wanted to keep going, trying to cheat time into giving me more hours in the day.
(While all I was doing was stealing time from tomorrow)
That taught me a big lesson: when you give yourself too much time, you end up wasting it on things that don’t matter and…end up always needing more time.
That’s how I learnt the power of constraints: giving yourself a limit, and using it to focus on those things that bring you disproportionate results.
#1 Set Milestones
If you set measurable goals, you can set milestones to measure whether what you are doing is working or not. Before you get to your final objective.
Having milestones is another way to make sure you compress time and make more happen in the same timeline: it will also keep you focused on what truly matters, instead of getting lost in 2,000 tactics.
This leverages the principle of deadlines: do you know how everything seems to happen faster once a deadline is approaching? Having milestones makes sure you have many manageable deadlines, so you are always working on a small section of the final goal.
#2 Use curfews
I love to set curfew times for my day: I have an internet block on my devices that kicks in an hour after dinner time, and I don’t do any work in the evening. Here’s why you should set boundaries too: when you have less time available, you will have to focus on important things rather than getting lost in options (and then finding yourself desperately trying to catch up in the evening). For it to work though, you have to first break the negative cycle, and then respect your own rule: that’s why I like to use a website blocker like Freedom to take temptation away.
Curfews help you make the most of Parkinson’s law (and actually have a life).
#3 Theme your days
Theming is another restriction that keeps you focused, and forces you to choose what to work on…so you will have to drop the unimportant. Essentially, you set a main objective or focus for each day of the week, and then only focus on that.
For example, I like to outline all my content on Mondays, and then write on Wednesday. That allows me to plan my week around my constraints, but it also means that I need to get some of the things done on Monday, or it just won’t happen on another day.
How to embrace the power of constraints
Instead of giving yourself as much time as you want to do things (and then keep borrowing from tomorrow), you can:
- Use milestones to leverage the power of deadlines (and adjust)
- Set curfews to make sure your time is limited and…you get more done
- Theme your days so that you stay focused and don’t work on everything (without many any progress on anything)
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