Why you need constraints

William Liao
1 min readFeb 14, 2024

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We need constraints because they force us to figure out two things:

  1. What’s truly important. In a world where you have infinite time, you can defer things into the future indefinitely. Limited time and energy on the other hand means you have skin in the game — every choice to do something is also a choice to forego the chance to do something else.
  2. How to be efficient. If you can consistently get away with doing things inefficiently, then there is too much slack in the system. Deadlines and valuable finite resources trickling down force you to figure out how to be more efficient, which in turn pays dividends in terms of what you can accomplish.

If you don’t have an obvious constraint, impose one. Make the stakes real.

Deadlines are good.

And even without them, consider that your time and energy are fundamentally limited.

Playing the game well requires a sense of urgency that you can only fully appreciate when you realize that you cannot play it forever.

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William Liao

Taiwanese American, daily blogger of ideas about impactful work in service of others, photographer (ephemera.photography)