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A couple of weeks ago, David & I talked about “moving the needle” in one of my favorite episodes of Focused to date. David shared his system for making sure the things he was getting done were in fact the right things, and it got me thinking about what happens after you identify what moves the needle for you.

I’ve been a productivity nerd for long enough that I’ve seen (and tried) just about every system out there. And I’ve noticed that even though the system or the app changes, the cycle of motivation is almost always the same:

  1. You do the thing that moves the needle and feel really good about the progress you’re making
  2. You get distracted by something you know does’t move the needle
  3. You get mad at yourself for allowing yourself to get distracted in the first place
  4. You recommit and promise yourself that it won’t happen again

It’s a cycle that looks something like this:

The real problem with this those is that each time you get back to the top of this cycle you have a little bit less faith in your ability to follow through. Your promise to yourself means a little bit less and you have a little bit more doubt about whether you have the ability to do what you set out to do.

This is where the idea of intentional constraints comes in.

The purpose of creating constraints (IMHO) is to keep you from doing the thing that moves the needle. For many people (myself included), if you can eliminate the distraction then you have a much better chance of not falling into this cycle.

If you want to dive deeper on this topic, I highly recommend you listed to Focused episode 75 where David & I really geek out about this.