Enabling Constraint

Constraint: Important and Urgent

“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Time and time again I’ve seen clients put off the important work in favour of the urgent.

Important work includes committing time, energy and resources into the areas that will generate the biggest returns over the long term, so logically we should always do the important work first. However, for many reasons, we as humans tend to focus on the urgent.

So, enter the idea of an enabling constraint. While the very concept of a constraint that enables may feel like a contradiction, creating the right type of constraint can be very powerful.

For brevity, consider a deadline an enabling constraint. Last week I wrote “The Window for Change is Closing“, highlighting my view that businesses who seek to make radical change coming out of this phase of the pandemic need to act soon, noting: “you will likely know what to do, but won’t do it quickly as there will be so many other things to focus on as you emerge from lockdown“.

I then went on to suggest you set a deadline. Be ready to act by that deadline then give yourself and your business permission to act fast once you have agreed your strategy and created your plan. However, also agree upfront that if you are not ready by that deadline you let that idea go, no matter how good it is.

A deadline is one form of Enabling Constraint that can help you focus on what is truly Important, not just on the Urgent. What Enabling Constraint might you use?

Oh, and who will hold you accountable? (PS hiring the right business coach or sounding board can be valuable in this!)


Also published on Medium.