5 Ways of Using Limits to Get More Enjoyment Out of Your Life Today

by Henrik Edberg

Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/insomnia90/ / CC BY-ND 2.0

Lately I’ve become a lot fonder of limits than I used to be. I used to see them as something negative. Because on one level it’s great to surpass you own limits. On another level it is pretty helpful to set some limits.

So here is how I use limits to make things easier for myself and to accomplish more.

1. Drop the irrelevant stuff.

What are the most important things in your life? What are the least important things in your life? Find ways to drop the things that are actually pretty irrelevant when you think about it. This may not be that easy though and you can encounter resistance from within.

Even if it’s a change for the better you are still upsetting the order you are used to and that is uncomfortable. But to make room for new stuff or more of the best stuff then something has to go. You can’t just work faster and faster.

2. Set limits for daily checking.

I check inboxes, Facebook, various statistics for my website early in the day. And just once a day. It is relief because your mind becomes less stuffed with thoughts that just run around in circles. You think more clearly and feel more relaxed. I would highly recommend adapting this in a way that suits you and to try it for just a week and see how it feels.

3. Set time limits for small decisions.

This is a new experiment I have been trying out for the last two months or so. I don’t sit around thinking about decisions like if I should exercise, make a phone call, try some new food or anything where I may feel a bit of resistance from within. Instead as soon as I think about it I make a decision to do it within seconds and start moving.

If you wait for just one or a few minutes then that can create unnecessary doubts and excuses in your head. The mental burden in your mind – which can become a pretty big energy sucker over days and weeks of time – is minimized by doing this.

4. Set time limits for tasks.

Last year I started using Twitter. It became pretty sporadic. So this year I decided to set a timebox for 15 minutes each day to use for Twitter. At first, I felt resistance but I had set the limit and so I was going to use Twitter for 15 minutes each day. After a couple of days the limit became useful in another way. Because now I had got into it and it had become more fun than it used to. So the 15 minute limit now helps me to use Twitter effectively and to not spend too much time there.

Try using a similar small limit to either get started with doing something each day or to cut down on something that you are spending more time on than you really want to.

5. Set a limit for commitments.

Say no. Stretching yourself a bit can be good. Overextending yourself is not.

Get to know your limits for getting things done and actually enjoying life instead of just trying to get yourself through each day with your head above the water. Think about it, use the other tips above and find a balance where you get the most important things done but also feel good about your life and not just deadly tired and with a lot of mediocre results.

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Scott Marcaccio January 15, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Henrik, great post! Limits are a cage in some areas of our life, but in other areas they actually can help you get so much more efficient. I just recently put a limit on myself and took checking e-mail from 15 times a day down to once a day… I can’t even tell you what that’s done for my productivity.

I also find if I put a time limit on something like you suggest, I always end up finishing in the time I set… and if I don’t put that limit, the task seems to keep expanding to fill up all the available time I have.

Good perspective!

Anthony Feint January 15, 2010 at 4:26 pm

I created a “do not do” list for myself at the beginning of the year, setting some pretty strong limits. IT really has worked well for me so far…then again its only been 15 days

Steve @Life Change For You January 15, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Very good! I especially like setting time limits for getting things done. It makes it almost a game to see if you can do it!

Hilary January 15, 2010 at 4:46 pm

Hi Henrik .. I love those pointers and I’ll put them into practise too .. should save acres of time as you say. Thanks – limit your actions, limit your mental strain, but everything still gets done ..

Thanks – Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Avish January 15, 2010 at 5:29 pm

Nice post and a good reminder. I think timeboxing both checking (emails, stats, etc) and activity (FB, Twitter, etc) are sooo critical. I have in the past wasted an hour or more just cycling through my list of websites I like to check and post on…

Also, one of my goals this year is to be more decisive. I wasn’t bad before, but I think a lot of people waste a lot of time and energy trying to make the “best” choice on things that don’t really matter (“where do we get dinner?” “What movie doe we?” etc. It’s not that critical!).


Scott Marcaccio January 16, 2010 at 3:50 pm

@Avish – decisiveness is key as well to all of this… take e-mail for example. If you just open your e-mail inbox and can’t decide which one to check, how to respond, which to delete, etc. it’s going to massively expand the amount of time it takes for all these low-productivity activities.

Steve-Personal Success Factors January 15, 2010 at 8:19 pm

There are two suggestions you gave here that I really like: one is to set time limits for checking, and the second is to set time limits for tasks. I’m going to work on both of those, and I bet I’ll get a lot more done!

Paul January 15, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Great post – very true. I see echoes of the 80/20 rule…

I still sometimes over-commit myself to things, and end up stretching more than I’d like – but actually time limits often result in better output – because it forces creativity to get things done within a set time.

At work I often book myself slots of time to get specific things done, something I learnt from a mentor of mine several years back that still works very well.


Clinton Skakun January 15, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Setting limits to checking inboxs, Twitter, facebook and every other thing that doesn’t deserve more than 15mins of our attention is a great time saver.

I heard a quote from rocky that I really love. Goes somewhere along the lines of “elimination is accumulation”

The successful people don’t sacrifice the Good for the GREAT! The GREAT must always get 1st place!

Clinton Skakun

Steve Youngs January 16, 2010 at 4:39 am

Hi Henrik!

I totally agree. Limits aren’t always for passing. It is good to know when enough is enough, or too much.

Love the idea about putting a time limit on decisions. Think I might try that out.

Kind regards,

Tomas Stonkus January 16, 2010 at 8:30 am

Hey Henrik!

I use the same techniques on daily basis! However, I often fail keeping my commitment to my set limits. For online things, I have started using leechblock to block certain sites for certain periods of the day as to limit my usage of facebook and so on.

It ‘s a great crutch to get you unaddicted from those nasty habits. More challenges comes with real life situation. But over time I have learned that ultimately it comes down structuring your day in such a way that those limits are automatically enforced.

Thanks for the reminder to stop waisting time and get back to what really matters.


Oscar - freestyle mind January 16, 2010 at 10:38 am

A limit I applied recently is to not work after dinner. I prefer to go to bed instead so I can wake up earlier and more refreshed :)

Richard Shelmerdine January 16, 2010 at 11:30 am

A great idea is to block websites like Facebook cold turkey and permanently. Maybe if only for a month. The silence and your mind will thank you immeasurably. Give it a try for a week and see how it goes. It’s brilliant.

Carol King January 17, 2010 at 1:09 am

I really enjoyed your list especially limiting the amount of time spent on Twitter, that’s definitely something I must do.

Josten January 17, 2010 at 7:11 am

Very good tips. I agree with you Checking email throughout the day can become overwhelming.

Keegan January 17, 2010 at 8:45 am

I love the limit on commitments, one of my biggest issues over the years has been to many projects running at once. I now am doing much better. I make a list of 3 projects I am working on at a time and leave it at that. Right now, it is training for a marathon, building my business, and building a stronger bond with my wife. If it is not urgent and important to any of these three it goes on the if I have time list. Great article and thank you very much.

Armen Shirvanian January 17, 2010 at 11:21 pm

Hi Henrik.

You are right about these limits. I think most successful people use them all the time, or in different ways. Self-discipline is the difference between a person who uses two free hours to further their desires, and a person who tosses away the two hours(followed by some regret).

Some folks might save an hour of their day just by following your Twitter limit example.

I will go on a limb and say use of limits is required for being remarkable.

Meg at Demanding Joy January 18, 2010 at 2:11 am

Thanks for an insightful post. I’m a fan of setting limits for self-protection and self-nurturing. It’s not healthy to be accessible 24×7 and to have unlimited communication and responsibilities. Turn off your phone ringer and e-mail now and then, keep your to do lists as short and manageable and own less stuff – it makes a much more peaceful life.

Srinivas Rao January 18, 2010 at 3:18 am


This post is really timely (no pun intended). One of the things I decided to experiment with today was finding a stopwatch application for my Macbook and seeing if I could place time limits on the following:

- commenting on blogs
- writing blog posts
- other social media efforts (twitter, fb, etc)

I’ll write a post at the end of the week and be sure to link to your post here.

Flora Morris Brown, Ph.D. January 18, 2010 at 5:09 pm


Isn’t it interesting that we meet time limits set by others and yet have difficulty setting and keeping the ones we set for ourselves.

Thanks for this reminder, especially #2 and #4. Social media has brought us a new level of building relationships and gathering information, but it also crept into our daily lives taking up more and more time.

Baker January 18, 2010 at 6:07 pm

When we begin to set limits for the ideas you mentioned above, I believe that our life will begin to improve, because these limits you mentioned do produce results for the individual. It’s interesting that I’m reading this at the moment, because I am currently setting limits on my blog commenting at the moment. :) But seriously, great post these tips are highly productive.

Candice January 18, 2010 at 6:12 pm

It is wild how simple things like this can make a huge difference everyday! I think list is a great way to keep yourself in “check” and maintain a positive-stress free attitude. I started a similar routine myself:http://smileonceaday.blogspot.com. When you open your eyes to the beauty around you, you may be surprised at what you see.

AMH in Ohio January 19, 2010 at 12:44 am

I too like the time limit approach – especially for tasks that are less than productive in nature , i.e. – time spent on social networking sites.

Alex Feeling Good January 19, 2010 at 12:47 pm

This is an important point- limits are realistic and trying to do too much is actually a negative if it means constant frustration instead of some success.

Time limits on tasks that can easily start to become obsessions (the internet in my case!) is a very healthy thing because it opens up time for more important things with real satisfaction as an end result.

Henrik Edberg January 19, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Thank you all for adding your comments and insights and for making this article even more useful and valuable! :)

Dr. Samantha January 21, 2010 at 3:56 am

I have a great boundary to add:
Limiting email messages to 5 lines or less!

I’ve been doing this for a few months now, and my email time has dropped by quite a bit… this is especially helpful for those of us who can be quite wordy :)

Scott Marcaccio January 26, 2010 at 12:59 am

Great pointer Dr. Samantha – if it can’t be said in 5 lines or less… pick up the phone or lose your word flab :)

Colbycheeze January 22, 2010 at 2:33 pm

I totally agree with this message. I’ve been discovering more and more every day that the more limits that I put on myself, the easier my day gets and the happier I am. I also am more focused and effective this way.

Limits breed creativity. I wish I would have taken this advice when I was developing Flash games for my last business. I would have gotten so much more done!

http://www.colbycheeze.com – Personal Development Kung Fu

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