When I was in school, it was rare for me to finish a report before the deadline. It really did not matter if the professor gave me a day, a week, or a month to complete it; I didn’t complete it until just before class.

Part of the issue for me was prioritizing. It always seemed like a night playing basketball or video games was a higher priority to me than finishing a paper I had another week to finish.

But it was not just priority. It’s the constraint that a deadline gives. With no constraint, I have a hard time conceptualizing what to do with the excess time. If I thought the paper would take three hours, what would I do with the other hundred hours I could use?

In the business world, there is another constraint. Our partners have budgets and we have to deliver the best solution we can within their budget. As a creative person trying to craft a solution out of 1s and 0s, that’s often a hard concept to grasp. I hear “best solution” and I start thinking about all of the cool features I could build. I want to think about mobile and tablets and responsive design and ajax and push notifications and modularization and reusability; any number of things that could make the application the very best it can be.

The problem comes when the perfect solution in my mind does not match the budget the partner has approved. That’s when I have to change my mindset. I have to understand what the partner needs and find a way to deliver the very best product I can within their budget.

The budget is a constraint. The constraint causes me to be creative in ways that I would not be without it. If I think my idea of the perfect solution will take 100 hours, but I only have 40 hours to complete it, I have to find a way to craft a solution out of the time I have. Perhaps I have to ignore the latest technology because that would take extra research time. Maybe I have to make the module less flexible and just build it to fit the current need.

It is not about delivering less. It’s about delivering something great within the constraint.

Give yourself a constraint on something today. Give yourself one hour to complete that task you’ve been putting off. Tell yourself that you have to have the home remodel done by the end of the week. You’ll be surprised at the solutions you come up with when you make a constraint.

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