Fill This Bucket

Constraints improve creativity

Often, we feel like our impulses must be totally free in order to reach our best result. The truth is that clear parameters make tasks manageable and direct the chaos of our creative impulses toward meaningful purpose. 

Not long ago I needed a book description for Amazon and I was thinking, “this could take all day.” It’s the sort of task I get wrapped up in and spin out about. “Is it too short, is it too long, why is this so difficult? Why isn’t it right?” 

Without a clear visualization of the end result, I was stuck in an endless pursuit of a feeling that would indicate perfection had been achieved. A feeling of dread washed over me.

Perhaps I need to see it on the platform. Then I could tell if it…looks…right. That would give me some firm parameters…oh…is that what I’m missing?

I didn’t need to write the description on Amazon. I could use the Amazon parameters and write it anywhere. What parameters are successful on this platform? A word count, for instance, was a simple place to start. What looks right for this application?

Just by having the word count, the task became instantly manageable and I was eager to get started. Rather than a vague task, like “Bring enough water,” instead the task becomes, “Fill this bucket.” That’s easy to understand. My dread evaporated.

Divide and conquer

The Japanese word for understand is rooted in the meaning “to divide.” Just like chewing your food into digestible chunks, tasks must be broken down into manageable parts.

This is applicable when facing any challenge. Deconstruct the parameters, then determine what fulfills those parameters best. Anything less than the best is a compromise…which is usually also fine! In any case, understanding the parameters clearly will improve your chance of approaching the task with curiosity, being resilient after setbacks, and following through to completion. Your success depends on how well the task is understood and the effort you put into it.

Establish the parameters of a task first. Observe it. Break the parameters down into chunks. Ask, “What does the ideal look like for each of these chunks?” Write down a list of all the details. Then prioritize the list and set deadlines for each chunk. That is your plan.

Remember, if you are apprehensive about a task, you haven’t made it small enough. Break your task’s parameters into small chunks and find your curiosity; the rest will follow naturally.