How to Use Constraints to Improve Productivity, Health & Happiness
For a couple of months I haphazardly attempted to use constraints to improve productivity in my business and get more accomplished in less time, but the constraints I had chosen were not working for me.
Have you ever experienced an “A-ha” moment when you discovered exactly what it was that you needed to fix to improve something in your life?
About a month ago Christiaan and I took a weekend trip to Buffalo to relax and get away. We went to one of the well-known surplus malls where I found a pair of shorts that I liked. Sitting on the bench in the changing room trying on the shorts with my shirt off, I noticed the fat around my waist and stomach. I flicked it with my finger and it jiggled. It’s the first time in my life I’ve ever had that much fat around my waist. It’s also probably the first time in the last few years that I’ve been above 10% body fat.
I was not pleased with myself. I’ve kept track of my weight over the last few years using a bio-impedance scale that measures body fat. Over the last few years I’ve gained three pounds of body fat and lost two pounds of muscle.
When I consider the numbers they don’t seem like much of a change. However, for someone who’s 5’8” tall and has always been lean, losing two pounds of muscle while gaining three pounds of body fat is clearly visible. In fact, I ran into a client who I haven’t seen in almost a year and the first thing he said to me is, “Wow, you look like you’ve got smaller!” Not exactly what my male ego wanted to hear!
Shortly thereafter I was listening to the Grit n Hustle podcast by Todd Hermann. Todd is the coach who taught be about constraints in his business development program, The 90 Day Year (for which I’m an affiliate). It has taken me a while to put my morning constraints into practice because my previous morning habits were hard to break.
I never realized how emotionally attached I was to “not changing.” In other words, I was “comfortable” which is the killer of progress and productivity!
In this particular episode, Todd was interviewing Ben Greenfield who was talking about his journey in early entrepreneurship. He had opened several gyms and had become referred to as the best trainer in America. Ben said something that really hit me hard, right in my brain’s excuse-centre.
Ben mentioned he knew a lot of people who were in the online fitness space, but didn’t look the part. They were out of shape and over-weight. Their excuse was that they were building a website, a business, or writing a book. And yet Ben was getting up at 4:30 AM, working in his gym until about 9pm most days, making over 6-figures annually, all while was still training hard and in outstanding physical condition.
My brain went KABOOM!
These have also been my excuses for the last couple of years. I’ve been busy “trying” to build my online business and prioritizing my business growth over my health and fitness.
It’s not like I’ve become suddenly overweight or diabetic. Things would have to get a lot worse for me to be in that kind of “bad shape.”
BUT, let me say this: I totally understand and have the greatest amount of respect for people who can’t seem to make health and fitness a priority in their life. I’ve experienced it. Thankfully I haven’t lost my health, but I still experienced a “decline” in my health.
Here comes the second “but:” It’s still no excuse!
If I had of worked out regularly I would’ve felt better, eaten better, been more productive, had more creative energy, and most likely had lower stress. If I had kept the same level of fitness over the last two years I would not have looked down and seen that extra three pounds of fat around my waist.
When I look back at this experience I have to ask myself (which is the same question I’ve asked myself about my clients’ choices), why would I ever prioritize anything else over my health?
There’s Always Enough Time to Do Whatever You Want
When we convince ourselves that we don’t have enough time it’s either a result of fear, self-judgment, or a bad decision. I like what Gay Hendrick refers to as “Einstein Time” in his book, The Big Leap, which means that time is simply a concept and we create our own time. We decide and chose what to spend time on, thus we are not limited by time. The limitation or scarcity of time is also a mental construct.
While time is simply a concept, what’s more important is connecting with and identifying our drives and motivations that will help us prioritize eating healthy and staying fit.
The answer to that question is not something I can easily help you figure out in a blog post. However, it’s worth taking the time to figure out your motivations. Find out how to use the “5 Whys” exercise to discover your truest motivations in my article, When Weight Loss Strategies Don’t Work.
Quick Motivation Self-Assessment
Start by asking yourself what’s most important in your life, now.
- What’s your biggest priority?
- What are you spending all of your time, focus, and energy on trying to achieve?
- What is the end goal that you’re working towards?
- What drives you, or what is the reason for doing what you’re doing?
The answer lies within the context of the tension between what you’re most motivated to do, and what you feel less than inspired to do.
A Real-Time Glimpse into My Day
It’s 11 AM and I want a peanut butter banana sandwich. I decided yesterday that I was going to reduce or eliminate bread for a while to see if bread makes me feel bloated.
I know why am craving carbs. When I got home last night Christiaan had bought pizza. I ate two slices, which I completely enjoyed with a glass of oatmeal stout.
A contributing factor to my bread craving is my mood. I’m feeling down and a little depressed about my business, confusion about the customer I want to serve, and wanting to already be in that place of my perfect business design.
My peanut butter sandwich craving is an emotional eating response. I’m proud of myself because I was so close to making that peanut butter and banana sandwich, but instead I opened up a package a pork chops and pan-fried them. I added to my plate a cupped handful of brown rice, a fist-sized portion of roasted green beans, and half of a medium sweet potato. It was a delicious meal and I felt more satisfied and happier after eating it.
Notice how you feel when you make the better choice. If you feel happier, grateful, or calm, spend some time in that feeling. The more time you impress upon your psyche how good it felt to make that better choice, the easier it will be to remember that better feeling when faced with “the wrong choice.”
Remember, we do need to have our cheat or treat meals, time off, TV time, or whatever you vice. If you’re not following the 80/20 rule and spending more than 20% of your time on actions that don’t serve you, you will not get the results you truly want.
How Do You Make the Better Choice?
In my case I had to re-connect with my “why.” I’m disgusted with the extra body fat around my midsection. I’m tired of it, and I’m tired of making excuses for why I haven’t been eating right or exercising enough.
It’s not an app, it’s not a strategy, it’s not a calendar reminder that will make you stick to you desired outcome or habit.
It is your absolute commitment to your “why,” which is dependant upon your emotional connection too how important it is for you to achieve your goal, no matter how big or small.
In my case, my emotional connection is this: “Enough! I’m fucking done feeling gross and seeing this extra body fat!” I’m done making excuses, especially when my excuses for not taking care of my body have not translated into business growth. Go figure!
PS – I started this post over a month ago. Since then I’ve been exercising about 5 days per week by doing cardio, living weights or stretching. I’ve found a balance that works for me and I’ve chosen to exercise first thing in the morning to make my health my number one weekday priority.
This is still a new habit and routine and I haven’t been perfect, but it’s getting better each week. I do know that the days when I haven’t gone to the gym in the morning I’ve been less focused, more scrambled, and more moody.
When you know what you most want and chose the actions and habits to support that desire, when you prioritize the time to spend on those actions, you will more quickly and easily meet your target.
OWW That Hurts
There is a specific “brain cycle pattern” that explains why some entrepreneurs (this is how I used to be) drown in constant anxiety, self-doubt, procrastination, and comparison to their peers.
Others achieve almost effortless momentum, steady wins and compounded confidence.
This is what’s called the OWW vs. WOW mindset.
When I first learned about this from Todd Herman I was blown away and happy to find out how I could break out of the OWW mindset. If you’re an entrepreneur, launching or running a business and not seeing the results you want, watch this video and download the free workbook.