Creativity: 5 Ways Why Living With Limits Can Liberate


Limits. Boundaries. Constraints. It’s human nature to try and push back when we feel imposed upon. Take young children, for example. They always try to procrastinate bed time, coming up with every excuse possible for why it’s unfair for them to go to sleep. Or how about teenage drivers with their reluctance for following the posted speed limit? You can’t deny that getting enough sleep is vital to a child’s health and happiness, and that obeying the law is pertinent to a driver’s safety on the road.

The same perspective can be applied to creative professionals, 77% of which reported to Adobe in 2014 that “having complete creative freedom” was either very or extremely important to them. It’s typical for creatives to resist process and structure. Naturally, they would rather improvise and experiment than organize and document.

However, just as the crying child or speeding teenager actually flourishes when being constrained, so can the creative professional. When done so, chaos becomes contained and recklessness can be replaced with resourcefulness.

Here are five ways why working with workflow limits can actually liberate creative vision and innovation.

1. Implement a Subtle Shift in Perspective

When adopting a healthier lifestyle, thinking in terms of what you should eat (fruits/veggies, whole grains) rather than what you shouldn’t (trans fats, refined sugars) goes a long way to helping you succeed. This subtle shift in perspective adds positivity to your situation instead of  deprivation.

The same thought pattern works just as well when applied to your work processes. Instead of feeling like your organizational tasks are taking away from your creative time, focus instead on the positives.

The more time you are proactive in clarifying expectations, less time is wasted on the backend with reworks and revisions. Likewise, if you take time to think through your workflow as a whole, the less time you will need to spend getting approvals, navigating through confusing or nonexistent processes, and sitting through lengthy project status meetings.

When these very-real time sucks are reduced or eliminated altogether, you will find yourself with much more time to spend in the creative zone.

Take it to the next level: On average, it takes 66 days for new behavior (including learning and getting used to new organizational or productivity software) to become a pattern so get a jump start right at the beginning! The initial stage of your work process is the best time to cultivate this positivity shift. Then, before you know it, your new habits and positive vibes will take root.

2. Realize that Repetition Is Not Monotonous

When you think of repetition, think of automation. We live in a time where we can truly embrace the automation of anything…and we should! The words standardized, templates, and consistency come to mind. Using these tools frees up your time and energy for more of the thought-inducing, complex, challenging, creative, and fun work that you love.

Take it to the next level: The project-intake process is quite often the first place to start automating your repeatable tasks. Project management expert Hala Saleh gives a crash course in starting every project off right.

3. Remember, Even Michelangelo Faced Constraints

If you think the world’s most revered artistic geniuses enjoyed complete creative freedom, remember this…they didn’t. Michelangelo himself faced many similar constraints that you may be facing today. Think about it, he had to please clients (popes), had to follow timelines and respect deadlines, had to submit his drafts for approval (St. Peter’s Basilica), had to work within budget restraints, and had to reduce scope.

These constraints are all part of the job and can’t be ignored, but can be managed. If managed well, they won’t be as bothersome and interrupting to your creative process as they will be if left untamed.

Take it to the next level: Grant clients visibility, view overlapping timelines, automate the reviewal process, and integrate time tracking and billing. Using powerful work management software will make the constraints of clients, timelines, approvals, and budgets work for you, rather than against.

4. Create an Operational Structure

An environment without structure doesn’t take long to fall to rubble, as does a workplace that encourages all creativity all the time. Inevitably, chaos will ensue.

If you can keep everyone focused on the correct priorities and smoothly moving along the workflow path, constant bottlenecks and creativity-killing disruptions will be kept to a minimum.

As a team, you basically have three options for your own operational structure: (1) unquestioningly follow the process placed before you, (2) wait for someone to come up with a random plan, or (3) proactively design and implement a structure that works well for meeting your team’s objectives and delivers the results you want. Being the creatives that you are, you are probably most interested in option number three.

Take it to the next level: Take full advantage of a solution implementation specialist when automating your work-management solution processes. You will gain much-valued help and feedback that will significantly improve your workflow.

5. Think of Your Workflow as a Creativity Safety Net

At first thought, limits feel limiting. That simply is not the case, though. A trapeze artist uses a safety net to limit the distance and negative impact if they fall. This allows them to confidently take wider leaps and perform bigger tricks. The same concept can apply to your work.

Consciously choose to think of your workflow not as stifling, but as empowering. Your talents won’t be confined. You will be able to more fully focus on achieving higher levels of creativity and bigger payoffs.

Take it to the next level: If you are a team leader, your attitude about standards, structure, and schedules will inevitably rub off on those around you. If you feel negatively and complain, others will follow with reluctance and frustration. If you embrace the fact that safety nets preserve precious creativity, others will follow with enthusiasm and conviction.

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