Scott’s Thoughts: Seeking Constraints

“Great things are not done by impulse, but a series of small things brought together.”

-Vincent van Gogh, Dutch Post-Impressionist painter.

Light bulb idea.Have you ever noticed that you get more done on busy weekdays than you do on a lazy Saturday afternoon? Are you one of those people whose focus improves as your time runs short?

If so, you’re enjoying the benefits of working within constraints.

It’s well documented that limitations drive creativity. When you have an abundance of resources, you have relatively little incentive to utilize them in innovative ways. (Chronic procrastinators know this first hand!)

If you’re looking to boost your productivity and spark a little creativity along the way, there’s no reason to wait for naturally occurring constraints. Make your own!

Here are some artificial constraints you can experiment with in order to tackle tasks, push your boundaries, and come up with more creative solutions:

1. Limit yourself to the smallest step possible. Take a project you’ve been pushing off and commit to making the smallest measurable piece of progress– but no more. Often just starting will dispel any angst about a project and help you visualize lots of little “next steps” you can take to advance towards your goal.

2. Set a countdown timer. Challenge yourself to a narrow time window. Commit to do as much as possible within that time frame, or tell yourself the allotted time is the sum total you’ll ever allocate to the task. This helps reduce the drive for perfectionism and effectively coaxes new ideas to the surface.

3. Use the “one browser tab” rule. That’s right. No matter what you’re working on, you’re only able to keep one browser tab open. This means you have to stick to one important task at a time, effectively eliminating the inefficiencies of multitasking.

4. Commit to “do or die” deadlines. Kicking a project across the calendar all year long is painful. If something is important to you, it’s important enough to have a serious deadline. You’ll either get it done or you’ll discover it’s not that important after all.

5. Let your bad ideas hit the page. It’s easier to revise bad ideas than it is to give birth to perfect ones the first time around. Grow wild and trim back.

These are just a handful of useful constraints. Which ones have you used? Are there other limitations you’ve found foster your creativity?

Tags: , ,

Please support the partners who make Tuesday Tactics possible:


Comments are closed.