The Freedom of Constraints

15 Aug , 2021 Culture,Lifestyle,Minimalism

The Freedom of Constraints

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

– Arthur Ashe

Some constraints are the result of our respective socio-economic situations. Others come from the compounding of unfortunate circumstances or bad decisions. And yet others come from self selection. The last is my favorite. The conscious creation of boundaries to set constraints in a given situation. I call it addition through subtraction.

Work Boundaries

One example of this is the on boarding process at some companies. The traditional “firehouse of information” new hires go through one the first 30-99 days. Most people think to add to this information overload and make sure nothing that can be learned is left out. I argued recently for the opposite, that we remove a ton of content, especially for a virtual on boarding experience. Then impose a guided and constrained experience that would allow new hires to go a mile deep rather than be spread a mile wide on learnings.

To really create freedom for myself at work I employ two techniques constraining my access. I use calendar blocking to keep key moments of the day I want to preserve for myself locked so that colleagues don’t book those windows. These are periods for preparing for the day, wrapping up, or deep work. I am constraining my available hours but giving myself the freedom to focus on the priorities in front of me.

Individual Constraints

The same approach of constraining an experience extends to many life experiences. Like when I elected for going after one really great cup of coffee a day versus a steady stream of caffeine. Or the setup process for a new product. Would your rather configure every setting at first use or just the core ones?

Another example of a self imposed constraint that is oddly freeing is the cap on TV viewing I put on myself. I try not to watch more than 8 hours of tv in a week. This tv viewing allotment extends to series, movies, and any other miscellaneous viewing. The freedom lies in the letting go of the fear of missing out of every new show or film. It comes in the openness to abandon a show quickly if it is not doing it for me. It comes in the extra time available to other forms of entertainment i might have otherwise ignored.

Creativity spurned by limitations.

Social Constraints

Your calendar is again your key to freedom. You have to work against the intuitive default to accept every social invitation.

I limit outings to weekends and ideally one a day and no more than three social commitments over a weekend.

Ideas for Creating Constraints:

Buy a random domain name and try to mock up a product, business, or artistic creation around it.

Use a random writing prompt from a site like The Story Shack to motivate you to create a new story or article everyday with a random prompt to get you out of a writing block.

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