The next time you feel overwhelmed, apply temporary constraints.
Let's explore further:
What if I'm feeling overwhelmed with an upcoming course I am teaching... what should I teach?
Here's how I apply a temporary constraint:
"If I could only teach 3 main concepts or skills, what must I teach?"
As I write down the 3 things, I may come up with more than 3, but at least by answering the above question, I've gotten unstuck.
If I come up with more than 10 ideas, I can further apply a constraint, and limit it to the 3 best things to teach.
This is applying a quantity constraint.
Another way to apply the quantity constraint is if you're overwhelmed with your to-do list.
You can ask:
"If I can only accomplish 3 things today, what must those 3 things be?"
...then get to work on just those 3 things... one at a time!
Once you complete those 3 things, you can then ask the same question again, to bring focus to another 3 important tasks.
If within a course I'm teaching, I'm feeling stuck in planning the beginning of it. Apply a temporary constraint:
"Since I only have 10 minutes to start the class well, what must those 10 minutes contain?"
This is applying a time constraint.
In your everyday work, if you find yourself procrastinating due to how big a project feels to you, then do this:
Set a 10 minute timer on your phone, or use this site -- e.ggtimer.com/10minutes -- and simply take the next step in that project, whatever you know to do.
In terms the big picture, I've even applied the time constraint to the topic of life purpose:
"If I had only 1 year left to do my best work, what would I most want to accomplish?"
Probably I'll live more than a year -- at least I hope so! -- but at least by answering that question, I've gotten more focused on doing my most important work.
A third way to think about it: quality constraints.
For example, if I am feeling overwhelmed about writing a marketing campaign, I can apply the quality constraint like this:
"If I were speaking to just 1 type of person -- the most ideal person I serve in my business -- what would I say to them? What's 1 thing they most need to hear from me?"
If dealing with a difficult relationship situation, a quality constraint would be:
"What would love / gentleness / courage / kindness say in this situation?" (pick one quality to ask yourself about.)
A whimsical example...
If I'm feeling confused with how much longer I should make this post... apply a constraint: what if I just shared 3 good examples? Since I've done more than that now, I will stop :)
The next time you are feeling overwhelmed, stuck, or procrastinating, pick one of these lenses and try it out...
...and experience more calm & focus in your work and life!
Share this blog post to help friends and colleagues who sometimes feel overwhelmed:
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Since 2009, George Kao has been training and coaching entrepreneurs to build authentic businesses that give them fulfillment, freedom, and contribution.
George Kao is a Marketing Coach for Counselors, Coaches, Speakers, and Authors. He focuses on ethical & effective ways to grow one's platform and build true livelihood.