I have a love/hate relationship with constraints.

And, I’ve never thought so much about this idea until this past week…

I am in the middle of a writing course called Ship 30 For 30. The idea of this course is to ship (publish) 30 atomic essays (300 words or less) by writing for 30-60 minutes a day. In order to make this happen they suggest the following constraints:

  • Write every day at the same time. Block your calendar for no more than one hour.
  • Set a timer for 30 minutes and write. Use another 10 minutes to edit and publish.
  • Write no more than 300 words.
  • Hit publish. Don’t worry about your writing being perfect.

I am on day 9 and I am having trouble distilling my ideas into 300 words or less. My personality is to be thorough and explain things well. I’m also a recovering perfectionist. These traits don’t work well within these constraints.

Like anything else, my hope is to get better with practice.

The Value of Constraints

I know constraints are valuable and often necessary.

  • They are an attribute of discipline that when consistently applied can produce great results. (i.e. By consistently going to bed at the same time, and on-time, you will get better sleep.)
  • Constraints can act as guardrails keeping you from getting off track. (i.e. Limiting the number of alcoholic drinks in a day/week.)
  • Constraints also help set limits, so you don’t end up with too much of a good thing. In investing, it is wise to set constraints on how you will construct your portfolio. (i.e. Never invest more than 10% of your portfolio in one idea, no matter how good the idea is.)
  • Creativity thrives with intentional constraints. (i.e. Twitter’s 280 character limit has inspired some of the best ideas into a single tweet.)

Constraints versus Opportunities

The thing I don’t like with constraints is that sometimes they can inhibit new opportunities. Just because my calendar says I’m supposed to be doing one thing today doesn’t mean there’s not a better opportunity that could come along.

It’s good (but not always easy) to know when to make an exception to the constraints you put on yourself to take advantage of life’s opportunities.

But for now, my 30-minute timer has sounded, and I’m going to ship!