Drew Barontini

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Creative Constraints

It may feel like fewer options are limiting, but creativity lives in constraints.

Having less time forces you to use your time in creative ways. A deadline for a project forces trade-offs and creative solutions. You have no choice but to work on the most essential parts.

For example, if you can only communicate your key idea in 10 slides, you will think creatively about the best way to illustrate the most important elements. Or if you only have 240 characters to write a thought, it will force you to only use the necessary words to create the message.

A simple tactic I use is constraining lists to three items. Three is a special number because it’s where our brains start to map patterns. It’s also an effective way to apply constraints to thinking, which forces creative thinking and consolidation of ideas.

Let’s try it with three examples of methods you can try today:

  1. Set a ‘time budget’ on each of your tasks. Assign a time (i.e. 30m, 1h, etc.), and focus on only working on the task for that amount of time.
  2. Put a deadline on a project. Set a hard deadline and think about what needs to be true in order for you to hit that deadline. Get creative!
  3. Limit your words. Create a character or word limit to the next piece of writing you do. See if you can say something more creatively in fewer words.

What else can you do to apply helpful constraints that force creative solutions?