In my house, it's time to start thinking about getting holiday cards made. My wife and I sat down last night to go through some of our favorite photos of the year to see which one would make the cut (the jury's still out on that one). For the past couple of years, I'd been designing and printing the cards that we'd eventually send out, but this year, we decided to take a look at Tiny Prints, the online card company that seems to have taken over the game of late (solely based on the amount of mail we receive featuring their imprinted logo).
As we began checking out the card styles on their site, we were quickly overwhelmed by the quantity of options. There are 719 card designs in their Holiday section alone. With so many possibilities, after 20 minutes of exploring, I eventually X'd out the page, having accomplished nothing and with little desire to go back. This isn't meant to be a knock on Tiny Prints – I'm sure countless people love their ample selection – but more of an insight into the strange limitations of freedom.
In theory, it seems obvious that the more choices you provide a customer, the happier they will be. Everyone, no matter their sense of style, will be able to find something they like. But it is this very attempt to be everything to everyone that also limits your possibility. Do we really need over 700 card options? Tiny Prints would be a much more valuable brand to me if they truly supported the efficiency of getting my holiday cards out the door. If they presented me with 10 styles, I would have been able to choose in a matter of seconds. As it was, nothing was chosen, and they didn't get my money.
This paradox of freedom shows up everywhere. We often say that we need more time to complete a project at work, when what we really need is a hard deadline. Limitless time offers limitless possibility – we're not forced into action, and as a result, nothing happens. So if you're looking to have a breakthrough somewhere in your life, whether at work or in getting a holiday card out the door, place constrictions around the project. Deadlines, budgets, curated options, fixed resources. Your energy needs to be focused to produce real power. That's the difference between a lightbulb and a laser. (If you have any laser-like recommendations for holiday cards, lemme know.)