Creativity can be easier when it's harder (wait, what?)

September 28, 2015
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Today, I want to share something particular about my creativity.
What I create is very important to me, for many reasons. First off, I'm a better person when I'm creatively satisfied and expressed. Everyone around me is better off when I'm creating! But second of all, and more importantly, creating is my way of serving and hopefully making a positive change in the world.
But creating isn't always easy. I'd like to share with you a story of how I found a way to create when times got tough.

Creative constraints to the rescue...

Let's rewind to a few weeks back, very early on Sunday morning.
Luck was not on my side. My front door was broken and wouldn't lock, so my little family of three faced a long day stuck at home. My husband, toddler and I settled in for a long day of cabin fever.
The biggest problem of all? JJ and I each had to-do lists a mile long but nobody to help babysit. Getting things done with a toddler around isn't the easiest, especially when you add the complexity of the just-learning-to-walk-so-I-fall-every-two-seconds phase. I foresaw a gloomy, stressful day at home.
So, I came up with a plan and presented it to JJ:
"What if we take one-hour turns with the baby?"
I quickly imagined the rest of the day split up into increments of one hour. If I was in charge of the baby for one hour, JJ the next hour, and so on, each of us would get solid blocks of time to get stuff done without having to worry about interruptions or diapers.
Luckily, JJ was all for it, and we immediately started our one-hour shifts on baby-duty.
You'd think that one-hour blocks of time isn't much to get anything done. Before I tried this experiment, sixty minutes didn't seem enough time to accomplish anything of substance. I'd think to myself:
"If I only have an hour to write, then I rather not write at all."
Many projects, articles, and to-do's were pushed back and ignored because of this.
Boy was I wrong.
On that day stuck at home, I was amazed how much I could get done in sixty minutes. After just two "shifts" of work time (or two solid hours alone with my to-do list and laptop), I'd accomplished the following:
  • Finished writing, editing, and preparing my newsletter
  • Imported and coded the newsletter in Mailchimp
  • Finished writing show notes for the following week's podcast episode
  • Sent next week's podcast audio files to editor for production
  • Responded to all emails and sent follow-up emails to potential podcast guests = inbox zero!
That was enough to cover my to-do list for almost the entire next week! After getting all that done, I was able to relax, spending my next few "work" shifts reading a book, journaling and Facetiming with my bestie. Blissful me time.

Why do constraints work?

All of this really surprised me.
I'm not the kind of person that jives well with the last minute. Working under pressure is like giving me the death sentence. I hate stress and will do whatever is necessary to avoid it.
Like that time JJ came to visit during my senior year of college and I pre-prepared for all my classes to avoid having to studying when he was in town.
I'm just that kind of nerd.
But never once during this experiment did I feel stressed out or hurried or panicked. Mostly because of this:

Putting a time constraint on my creativity forced me to eliminate all distractions.

My friend James Clear (who you'll hear on the podcast in a few weeks) put it this way:
"Constraints can make it easier to stick to good habits by eliminating the number of decisions you need to make to move forward."
When you have to get XYZ done in an hour, there's no time for Facebook or Instagram. But there's also no time to deliberate whether I should scrap the topic of the newsletter and start fresh. Every second is go-time.
This doesn't only work for parents. Just two days ago, this topic came up while recording an upcoming podcast episode with Justin Jackson, who had this to say:
"You've got so much time in your day that you don't realize how much of it you're wasting. When time is much more valuable to you, you treat it with more care (or at least try to.)"
I'm spending a lot of time thinking about this lately. How much do you really value your time? How do you spend it?

Give yourself a deadline. Cut out the excess. Stop hiding behind the distractions. Create.


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Marcella Chamorro ✍🏻 Writer at the crossroads of personal growth, marketing + tech 🎙 Podcast host of Process and Kin 🗣 Master of deep conversations
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