A Recipe for Disaster: Too Much Time, and Too Much Money.

“If only I had enough time, and money, I could make it perfect”

Wrong. 

The best way to finish what you start, and to be happy with the results, is to have not enough time, and not enough money.

When I was knee deep in designing my first home, my architect gave me some sage words of advice. “You have to have constraints in order to make something great. Limitations of time, budget, physics, and scope and size of the project define rules that drive decisions, and make for better solutions. The creative mind can imagine anything. The logical mind makes it happen.”

We’ve all seen it: the project that never gets completed because you keep trying to make it “perfect;” the kitchen cabinet painting job that turns into a four-year full house remodel; the vacation that never becomes a reality; or the job search, move, marriage or unfinished novel that never is at “the right time.”

The creative mind has no limits, which is a wonderful thing. But in order to balance that creativity, time, money, and scope—those practical constraints, need to be put in place. 

  1. The best way to break a writer’s block? A deadline.
  2. Want to finish that remodel? Invite people over for a project-completion party.
  3. Trying to decide on a new car? Give yourself a budget, and limit your choices.
  4. No time for a vacation? Book a non-refundable airline ticket.
  5. Want a promotion? Schedule a meeting with your boss.

It may sound crazy, but limitations and controls can make us happier, and more creative.

I recently watched two agencies give themselves unlimited creative constraints on marketing projects. Neither managed their time properly, and let creativity be their guide. The first, a website re-design project which should have taken eight weeks, ended up taking eight months—with both client and agency frustrated with the results. The second, a design project, was never given a deadline, or a budget. It should have taken them six weeks to finish. They’re now at month 18, with no end in sight.

Both parties did not put time or budget controls in place. Creatively, both projects are turning out great, but sadly, they are not serving purpose. One created resentment and anger on both the client and agency side. The other project has turned useless, as no one gets to see the project, because of its incomplete state.

For me, the combination of my architect’s words; a clear budget (dictated by my bank account); and scope limitations (dictated by building codes) created “the perfect house.” The rules gave me comfort that I could do nothing more than what was available to me, and we ended up with a house that I enjoyed living in for many years—rather than architectural plans that were never finished.

So whether you’re writing a novel, thinking about changing jobs, redesigning a website or building a house, remember that creativity opens the mind, and logical controls bring it into focus.

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