Gunk of Low-Energy Living: overwhelm

Last week I was discussing a big work project with a friend.

OK, full disclosure: “Discussing” might be a little misleading. There was a fair amount of whining on my part and kvetching about whether I’d meet my year-end deadline.

I whined about the ever-expanding size and scope of the task at hand. I droned on about my overwhelm and lack of clarity. blah, blah, blah

It was not me at my best. Overwhelm is kryptonite for most of us.

My friend listened. She asked open-ended questions about what I was trying to achieve and obstacles in the way.

I was finally able to articulate my elusive aim: To be done building and finally be able to bask in the glow of leveraging what I’d created.

My friend then made the most outrageous suggestion:

What if you do the minimum necessary to get the project done by year end?


Minimum necessary?! My do-it-to-the-nth-degree world shifted a bit on its axis.

What would minimum necessary even look like?

  • Instead of the 100 things I could include, focus only on the 10 that are essential?
  • Instead of acting as if I can make my project perfect, make it really good, launch, and then continue to improve?
  • Instead of struggle, choose ease?

I admit, I felt some initial resistance to the idea of minimum necessary.

Resistance chimed in: But what about quality? What about comprehensive? What about including this and that—and, well, everything?

Of course, resistance is always a signal. So I dug a little deeper.

  • What was I afraid of with minimum necessary?
  • What did I have to gain by giving it a try?
  • Why would I choose to keep struggling with my project?
  • What if “minimum necessary” is simply a more useful and productive mindset?

Telling Resistance to pipe down, I decided to embrace the concept. First, I had to figure out the minimum necessary to deem my project done.

I was so tempted to add nice-to-haves rather than only include must-haves. But I kept coming back to minimum necessary. Least amount. Smallest quantity.

When it was all said and done, my list was mind-blowingly brief. In fact, the very project I’d been laboring over—the one that seemed undoable by year end—is now slated for completion on October 31st.

Yes, two months early.

I went from undoable-amorphous-can’t get traction-moving target-so much to do-losing my focus to—the project will be finished October 31st.

That’s the power of minimum necessary.

Of course, future enhancements and improvements are possible, even likely. But tweaks and upgrades are far more manageable once the project has reached that elusive initial state of “done”.

Are you struggling to complete a project or achieve a goal? What’s your minimum necessary?