One of the biggest obstacles to professional and personal freedom is not understanding what enough really is. Not many people think about what is enough. Instead, we allow other people to determine it for us.
How much money do you need to be happy? How many vacations? How much free time? How many projects?
Most of the people I know think the best answer is ‘more’ or ‘a lot.’ The problem is that these responses are hazy and ambiguous. Unclear objectives are tough to achieve. It will be difficult to live your life the way you want or get work done the way you want without crystal clear answers to these kinds of questions.
What is required is taking the time to figure out what exactly is needed to move forward on your terms.
Too Much Everywhere You Look
Do you know what is enough for you? In 1908, psychologist Robert Yerkes and John Dodson established a relationship between arousal and performance. The Yerkes-Dodson law decrees that your performance increases with physiological or mental arousal, but only up to a point. When the level of arousal becomes too high, performance decreases. The key takeaway is that there is an optimal zone where performance (and arousal) is at its best.
This means that we really have to think about what is needed to be happy and how much is required to produce the optimal result for us. It’s an important concept that requires thought – and ultimately some boundaries.
How to Determine What Is Enough
Define the Dream/Goal/Outcome – clearly state what success looks like. Make it observable or quantifiable. Ask yourself why that is important so you can get to the underlying reason.
Define the Cost – Not just in dollars and cents, but time. Get even more detailed. How many hours, days, weeks, months will be required? Create a range (because things can go wrong or take longer than your best estimate). Do your homework and talk to people who have done this before to get a more realistic picture. Be specific about the actual cost of things (again a range might work best.) If it’s more than you had hoped, look at where you might be able to cut back.
Define What Action is Required – How much will be done by you? Is there anything that can be outsourced/delegated? How much time will you be able to spend on this? Do you have a deadline in mind? Is there anything that can be sacrificed in order to shorten the timeframe?
Take Something Off Your Plate
If you are working with someone (or ARE this person) who keeps coming up with more ideas rather than keeping strong boundaries that only allow the optimal number, the best solution for this situation is surprisingly straightforward: You need to get something (maybe even a few things!) off your plate and stick to the boundaries you’ve set.
And, you need to do so as soon as possible.
You may be thinking – won’t that make me seem unqualified or incapable? Yes, that’s a legitimate concern. But in the end, it’s better than either completely missing deadlines or scrambling to turn in a half-assed project at the very last minute and being overly stressed.
And moving something off your plate doesn’t mean that it should never be completed. You just need it taken off your immediate ‘To-Do list.’ That can happen in numerous ways, including asking someone to take over for you, requesting or creating a deadline extension or telling your boss or partner about your overwhelming workload to get help prioritizing.
In fact, whether you have a team of employees or not, delegating well is a very useful skill. First, you should allow others to help. It does not always have to be you to roll up your sleeves and get things done. Are there people who should and could learn how to do some of these tasks? Stop getting in the way of their learning. Are there things that are so easy that you could do them in your sleep? Doing them is NOT the best use of your time – share the work. Data gathering, summarizing articles, finding resources can all be done by others. If you are clear about the desired outcome, which might also include boundaries and constraints (what I want to see and what I don’t want to see), other people can do a lot of the leg work, freeing you up to do the things that ONLY you can do.
Thinking through what is optimal for your best work, the best outcome, your best life, requires the discipline of defining clearly what that looks like, what it requires, and what is excessive. You don’t need a million great ideas, a 10 country tour or a blow torch when one amazing idea, a 4 city tour or a match will do.