Why Putting Constraints On Your Creativity Is A Great Thing

Some thoughts on how constraints foster creativity and limitations can enhance focus, expedite decision-making, and lead to more meaningful outcomes.
Why Putting Constraints On Your Creativity Is A Great Thing

I want complete freedom in what I create.

Ideas need an abundance of time to percolate and grow.

I don’t want anyone to force things into fruition that just aren’t quite right.

I need space to create — I’m an artist.

I’ve learned that these beliefs are misguided at best and toxic at worst.

Creativity needs constraints for an idea to flourish.

Constraints create a sense or urgency, help us hone in on a problem worth solving and force us to commit to a decision.

Sometimes any decision is better than no decision at all.

Without constraints, ideas languish, projects drag on indefinitely and results are often watered down versions of their initial vision.

Unchecked creativity is how ideas die.

Constrained creativity is how ideas blossom.

Something To Try At Home

Where can you add limitations to something in your life?

Here are a few broad constraints you can play with.

Constraint On Time

Let’s be real, most of us could use better boundaries.

Perhaps it’s a self imposed deadline or putting a hard stop on when and how much we work — when we place limits on our time, we accelerate output.

Can you manage all of your work responsibilities in 30 hours/week?

What about 20 hours/week?

How would your focus shift?

What do you specifically need to do, what can you delegate, and what can you completely let go of?

Constraint Through Quantity

Sometimes we strive so much for perfection that we obsess over tiny details.

We’re scared to launch that new product, share our new logo design, or publish our writing.

What if we committed to quantity over quality - just for a bit to see if anything interesting surfaces?

Years ago, my friend Evan from Into It. Over It. committed to releasing a new song every week for an entire year.

He chose to focus on consistent creative output instead of perfection.

He soon caught the attention of tens of thousands of fans as well as record labels.

This “little” project launched his music career and opened up doors for him in ways I don’t think he would have ever expected.

Is there anything if your life where you can commit to quantity over quality?

Constraint Through Necessity

Whether it’s a limitation of space, lack of money or a similar constraining factor, sometimes we need to get scrappy with what we have now versus waiting until the timing and resources are better.

Often, the things that seem to hold us back can actually help propel us forward.

When we launched Cowerks in 2010 we had no interest in commercial real estate.

Our music merchandising business needed an office but we couldn’t afford to rent a full storefront on our own.

Instead of waiting to be ready we threw some desks in a corner put them up for rent and branded ourselves as a coworking space — a concept so revolutionary at the time, nobody understood what we were even doing.

This created future opportunities and eventually led to us acquiring our own commercial real estate properties.

Where do you feel your resources are most limited and you’re being held back?

How can you “get scrappy” and get started, despite not having everything you think you need?

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