Constraints = Freedom

Want more freedom in life? Create constraints.

Want to cultivate more creativity in your work? Create constraints.

Want to do more with less? Create constraints.

It’s a counterintuitive idea to think that constraints could be so useful in an age of information abundance—where everything we need to know is literally at our fingertips—but this is the time that constraints can help us more than ever before.

If the buzz, the bing, or the flash from your iPhone/iPad/MacBook constantly seems to be pulling your attention in one direction or another—and you can’t seem to get a damn thing done—what you need now more than ever is a set of constraints.

Examples of successfully implemented constraints are everywhere 

  • Dr. Seuss—wrote The Cat In The Hat with only 236 words. It sold millions of copies. Then his publisher came back and said, “I betchya can’t write another one with 50 words.” So Dr. Seuss took on the challenge and hit em’ with one of the most popular children’s books of all time—Green Eggs and Ham—which was written with only 50 words.
  • At work—most people are most productive on the day before they go on vacation… Why? Because they’re working within a constraint. They’ve got X hours to execute Y actions. 
  • Twitter–say what you need to say in 140 characters or less. 
  • Creativity/creative writing–some of my most popular writing comes from constraints. For example: writing a blog post about the 9 habits of insanely successful entrepreneurs, with one of the constraints being that I must start each headline with the word “they” and then proceed to describe a specific action, like this: “They work on their hardest task first"

In Summary:

  • Constraints create freedom
  • The right constraints can lead to your very best work
  • Don’t make excuses for not working—make things with whatever time/space/materials/tools you have at hand from where you stand. Get started with what you’ve got; everything else you need will come about after you begin.

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