Constraints

Note to my future self…

As many other college students I got most of my work done the day an assignment was due. There’s something powerful about deadlines that get to just do the work. Whether it’s grades, embarrassment or peer pressure, deadlines provide us a clear objective and the necessary incentive to get work done and it works. Nothing new here. Now how can we use this artificial idea of a deadline in other aspects of my life to help me excel.

Well for a while now I have been thinking about constraints and how can we use them to drive us to do more. So far I’ve identified four main types of constraints:

  1. Time: deadlines and scheduled commitments are good examples.
  2. Money: how can you get something done with just X amount of money.
  3. Energy: How can you do something with as little effort as possible?
  4. Forcing Functions: Arbitrary rules that you set for yourself. For example, I only take the bus to work. This forces to create some time to listen to podcasts. Another example, I stop using my phone/computer at 9pm. This forces me go to sleep early.

I’ve seen other people mentioning other types of constraints (e.g. social) or approaching the it from a different angle (e.g. forcing functions as environment constraints) but at the end of the day I think it boils down to a simple idea:

How can I get more done with less?

The Takeaway

I am a firm believer that constraints make us more creative because they force our brain to think through new possibilities. Evolutionarily this makes sense. If you only had food for a couple of days you needed to figure out ways to build tools to help you stay warm (e.g. fire and clothes) and hunt bigger animals (e.g. spears and bows).

Moving forward I will start thinking about new ways in which I can proactively implement constraints in my life to help me squeeze a little bit more out of it(:

P.S.: James Clear has some good articles on setting constraints and how constrains can drive creativity. I would strongly recommending checking those out if you are interested in this topic.

Now back to work…