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25 Mar

Let the limits set you free


Date: 2014-03-25 10:25 Comments: 0 st

Have you ever contemplated the paradox of how limitations tend to somehow set us free and release us from our very own limitations and constraints? Sometimes we simply perform better when put under certain restrictions.

A while ago, I and the Pecha Kucha-ambassador Jesper Larsson held a workshop for the information-unit at the National Swedish Police Board concerning the Japanese presentation-format Pecha Kucha. In this presentation-format, a presentation consists of 20 images which are each displayed for precisely 20 seconds – no more and no less.

The restrictions are in other words quite strict. On top of this the participants in the workshop were only given 60 minutes to in every group create a presentation from scratch. Intense work begun and here and there in the room we could here voices exclaiming “This is so difficult!” and “There is so little time!”.

When the hour was up it was time for the groups to give their presentations. To be honest, it was astonishing what they had managed to create in just an hour. Sure, the images could use a tweak and touch here and there, but to be able to in such short time and in a group create a presentation which communicated a message effectively, structure an argument and think of several stylistic features complementing the presentation, was remarkable. I am convinced that the time-restriction made more happen in less time than it otherwise would have (though I am saying this now knowing how this particular group usually works).

Create a restricting frame to create more
Some people say that a task takes as much time to complete as we set aside to do it; meaning that we fill the time we have with the task at hand. I am not convinced that this is always the case, but I definitely believe that we can compress a task if and when we want to.

When you have a task you fear will require more time than you would like, try setting a limit in order to get yourself into a higher gear. And the limit does not necessarily be set in terms of time. Let us for instance say that you will do the task with just a certain number of something, without the tool you usually solve the task with (for example your computer), or by asking five people (no more and no less) for their opinion and advice. I have for instance decided to finish writing this tip before the plane has landed.

If you want to, do this

  1. Choose a task from your to-do-list to try this method on.

  2. Decide what restriction or limit you will play with.

  3. Define a consequence you will have to suffer if you do not finish the task within the set time limit (or other restriction you have set for yourself). Let it hurt a little, but do not overdo it.

    For me this can for instance be: If there is something I really wish to complete since I will feel great once it is done, I will determine that when the time is up I will stop working with the task and instead continue later or some other day. This might sound harsh and I normally have a very allowing approach towards myself and others. But, in order for this to work the restriction actually has to be a restriction. Otherwise it will not matter if I make my set end-time or not.

  4. When it is time to do the task, get started.

  5. Complete the task.

    In order to do what you want to do within the set restriction you might need to think of a way to not be distracted. This is excellent since if you think of a good trick, you might be able to use this in other contexts and situations as well.

  6. Did you manage to complete the task within the set time-frame, limit or restriction? Great. Take a moment to feel how good you feel about yourself right now. Done!

    Not so successful? Enforce the consequence you initially determined, but do not think of yourself in terms of “failure”, “bad” or “hopeless”. Instead try thinking of:
    a) If you set a reasonable restriction to begin with
    b) What you could do next time to make it easier to complete the task within the set limits

  7. Try a different kind of restriction next time. Doing this might very well lead you to new solutions you never thought of before.

Within the frame we loosen up
If you set your own limitations within which you will work, you will work in a way and tempo which you normally do not. You will have some variation in your work-day and if you are the least bit competitive by nature, you will feel motivated by challenging yourself in this way.

What is your way?
What is your favorite restriction which you gladly set for yourself? Write a comment below and share!

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