“Dude, I dunno. I don’t think you’re going to like having a CSA,” my friend intones, leveling her eyes at me over the top of her drink. She picks at her appetizer while making that I’m-telling-you-this-for-your-own-good face.
“It’s $400 for four months of vegetables you’d never choose yourself. How much kohlrabi can you possibly eat? NOBODY LIKES SWISS CHARD THAT MUCH, SARAH.”
So I’m preemptively annoyed and swiss-chard-aware when I pick up my first farm share. I squint skeptically into my box of greens and weird herbs. But instead of feeling angry about lemon balm I feel … relief. And inspiration. And a bubbling up of culinary creativity.
I can sprinkle lemon balm on top of all those ripe peaches sitting on my counter! I’ve heard grilled spring onions are amazing! I have everything I need to make a frittata! And, yes, I’m even excited to find recipes that feature kohlrabi.
Instead of wandering the aisles of a giant grocery store, unsure of what to buy, the choices have been made for me. Instead of using all my energy examining produce and deciding what to buy, I can use my energy making the most of what I’ve been given.
Crazy as it sounds, there can be freedom in limitations + creativity within constraints. Click To Tweet
Psychologists call this the paradox of choice; having too many choices actually makes us anxious. We become paralyzed, worrying that we’ll make the wrong choice so we do nothing, and eventually our opportunities pass us by.
And decision fatigue is real! The more decisions we’re forced to make in a day, the more likely we are to make irrational ones. <- why I only seem to mindlessly eat Cheetos after 8 pm.
Constraints don’t have to be about deprivation. They can be a structure that forces you outside your comfort zone. They can be a list you work your way through, or a guidebook for your decisions.
I’m talking about watching your way through the AFI’s top 100 movies instead of watching whatever’s at Redbox. I’m talking about exclusively reading books by people of color. Or only spending your tourist dollars in cities with populations under 10,000.
Here are some ideas for adding (loving, creativity-inducing) constraints to your life
How to add creative constraints to your professional life
- Only take on clients who are _______
Women? Locals? Non-profits? Photographers?
- Create your next offering in just _____ days
Book yourself a DIY retreat and make that ish happen!
- Make your next product using only free images, free software, and platforms you already subscribe to
Ahem: Unsplash, Canva, Buffer?
- Go to a networking event and talk exclusively to people you don’t know
Here’s how to networking if you’re an introvert
- Give yourself a challenging word limit
How much can you communicate in 300 words? 200? 75?
- Do it all yourself
If you usually outsource, could you create something on your own?
- Send one networking email every blessed day
My friend Molly does this and it totally transformed her career!
- Only check your email at 8 am, noon, and 4:30
Sadly, this is so much harder than you’d think 🙁
- Create your next creative project using only ‘old school’ tools
No computers, no software, no apps
How to add creative constraints to your home life
- Don’t buy anything new for ______ weeks
You’re still allowed to buy things second hand (here are all my best tips)
- Cook only with what’s in your pantry
What can you make with red lentils? IT’S A QUESTION FOR THE AGES, DUDES.
- How much cleaning can you get done in five minutes?
So, so much more than you’d think
- Only buy local
Or only things within walking distance!
- Give up meat for a week
Or dairy! Or gluten! Or fried food! Or frozen food!
- Cook your way through a favorite cookbook
I’m cooking my way through a 70s cookbook and it is seriously so fun
- Only display photos you took yourself
Or art you made or things you built or inherited
- Wear e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g in your closet
And if you hate it, get rid of it
How to add creative constraints to your social life
- Get a coffee or cocktail with every Facebook friend who’s local
And if you don’t want to do that, maybe you shouldn’t be friends with them?
- Plan activities that don’t involve driving
Some of my friends did a light rail-centric pub crawl a few years ago and it was great!
- Plan an activity with just your friends from high school
Or college or work
- See how much fun you can have with $___
Five dollars? $10?
- Give up complaining for _____ days
- Give one stranger a compliment every day
I did this for a month and it was so lovely!
- Every time you’re in your neighborhood say hello to the people you see on the sidewalk
Note to self: do this
- Work your way through your city’s best restaurants
Or best bars or coffee shops
- Visit your city’s top 10 tourist attractions
I’m missing two from this list of Minneapolis’s top 10
- Choose a favorite food and then try to find the best one your city
I’ve been trying to find the best hash browns in the Twin Cities: Louisiana Cafe and Hard Times are winning so far
But I want to hear from you! Do you find constraints freeing or stifling? If you’ve had good luck adding some creativity-inducing constraints to your life, please share them in the comments so we can try them, too!
P.S. If this kind of stuff is your jam, I’m in the midst of a five-week spending diet + earning spree. I put myself on a tight budget and take on extra work for five weeks to pad my coffers. You can play along + share resources and ideas in my Money & Happy Facebook group!
P.P.S. This is also the reason I have a New Things Practice and I recommend it to everyone.