The Power of Constraints: 3 [and Only 3] Big Goals

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Months pass far too quickly for me. It's only September, but in my planner December is practically over. I'm looking forward to living through the next few months, achieving my goals while spending time with my family, but it's easy to get ahead of myself. 

In 2015, I had the good sense to start a practice of clarifying my focus each year so that I can live more freely and stress-free.  

How did I do this? I decided to embark on 3 (and only 3) big projects each year.

I know what you’re thinking...  Only 3, Lela? I can’t do that. I have to achieve ALL the goals-- yesterday!

But here’s the thing, by focusing on 3 (and only 3) big personal projects, I unleash the power of boundaries. This has a unique effect on getting more done and feeling better doing it. Promise.

Focus + Constraints + Comfort  = Creativity

In 2015, for the first time, I tucked into my cozy couch on a crisp day and chose my Big 3 Things:

  • Throw a party for my husband who turned 50.

  • Keep my son, who was a senior that year, on track for college application season.

  • And launch a book.

 And here’s what happened...

  • With a lot of help from friends and family, the party turned out to be a lovely affair. Complete with a fancy cake, vintage photos, and a bunting.

  • 8 solid months of reminders put my son in the college application mindset. He completed application after application (including getting letters of recommendation) and was accepted to college.

  • Finally, the book launch. There were dozens of essentials that absolutely had to happen. And I accomplished them.

I didn't achieve ALL the goals, but I achieved all BIG goals, and I didn't feel overwhelmed. I probably accomplished more that year -- personally, professionally, entrepreneurially -- than I had in a very long time.

Something about the boundary of knowing that in my after-work hours I had 3 (and only 3) projects to complete for the whole year served two purposes.

First, it kept me focused. I mean, for the most part. Starting new projects is okay, right? So long as I'm not committed to completing them? I knew I had no business starting a new project because there's no way in hell I could get it done. So when I felt the need to start a new project, I’d write it and put it away for later.

Second, the 3 (and only 3) limit provided comfort. Whenever I started to feel overwhelmed (hello, matching napkins), I remembered that I was working on a big project. It had an end, and that I had only committed to 3 of them for the WHOLE YEAR. That made me feel better every single time.

The constraints of 3 (and only 3) big projects facilitates my creativity.

This girl can't put together so much as a playlist without a goal, a spreadsheet, and a deadline. But I've been surprised at how much peace and productivity resulted from such a simple disciplined idea.

So try it. And simply say “No” or even "Later" to the extra projects. And live more freely and stress-free.