Improve Your Creativity By Applying Constraints
One of my favorite creative tools is a kitchen timer. I set the timer for a few minutes — for a sprint through really boring paperwork or to get started on a big creative project — and then I press start. I give myself a window to work through. After that, I can choose to stop, and sometimes I do. But many other times, I keep going.
My creativity comes from chaotic energy. But left unchecked, the chaotic energy is a breeding ground for obsession, fixation, and compulsiveness. So I do what project managers do: I employ “timeboxing.” The timer provides a structure for both devoting time to a creative endeavor and a way to know when it’s “complete.”
Life already provides us with many constraints, so it’s up to us to work with what it gives us or to reclaim more of it. No matter how many (or few) resources or experiences you have, you can use these techniques to stimulate your inner creativity.
Commit to a single creative tool
Choose a single tool for your creative work, and commit to using only that tool for a 10-day stretch. This will provide you with a clear idea of what you will be doing. You paint with a paintbrush. You draw or write with a pencil. Ten days gives you just enough time to see what you can do with your tool of choice but not so much time that you get bored.
You likely already have some of the equipment you need. So, just start with that and figure out whatever you need along the way. You don’t need to get the best thing, just the version of whatever is in your budget. As Wired co-founder Kevin Kelly writes, “Start by buying the absolute cheapest tools you can find. Upgrade the ones you use a lot. If you wind up using some tool for a job, buy the very best you can afford.”
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Play with ‘sizeboxing’
Commit to a specific size for your work. If setting a time limit is timeboxing, then…