The Gift of Constraints: The Key to Getting Things Done

By Tannus Quatre, PT, MBA

At a recent lunch with one of my business mentors, we discussed the importance of execution: getting things done. Despite the best of intentions, it is hard to do.

For entrepreneurs, ideas are a dime a dozen. They are everywhere. If you own or operate your physical therapy practice, you know what I mean. The scarce commodity is execution—what my mentor coined “the gift of constraints.”

Handed down to him from one of his mentors, “the gift of constraints” is the application of parameters to any task with the specific intent to limit the scope so that something meaningful is accomplished on time, but not necessarily perfectly.

Perfection (or lack thereof) is a topic for another article; however, it is important to note that perfection and execution do not correlate. Perfection is about you—completing something that meets your definition of ideal. Execution is about everyone else: You accomplish something so that others can move forward with their needs.

And the gift of constraints helps us achieve this.

The gift of constraints is a parameter or limitation that allows one to focus on execution, not perfection. The constraints require it. You cannot spend two weeks to get this done, because you have been given two hours. You cannot write a 10-page plan, because you are constrained to just one. You do not have $1,000 to complete the project—you only have $100.

The gift of constraints is a powerful mindset. It forces one to be better: faster, more creative, and results driven.

For me, constraints are liberating—they remove the infinite iterations from the realm of possibility and actually force me through to completion.

Here are some examples of constraints you may choose to use in your practice. I would love it if you would share with me some others you will be using:

  • If you want a proposal for your new program launch, require that it be delivered to you on one page. This will cut down on the time necessary to draft and proof the proposal, and will require that each sentence carry significance.
  • If you want ideas for how to recruit for your next staff member, ask for three specific ideas by the end of the day. The ideas will not be perfect, but they will be building blocks for launching a recruitment plan as soon as possible, rather than when having free time.
  • For your next marketing campaign, specify your exact budget in advance. We should all do this, but we do not. Providing a specific budget constraint will limit the possibilities (especially if it is a low budget).
  • For your next staff meeting, require a three-minute update from each of your clinical leads on new program development, training, and personnel. This requires efficient and relevant information only with no space for tangents.

Place a hard stop on your team meetings so that all items must be covered in the time allotted. Meetings will always fill the space available and you may be able to cut your meeting times down significantly.

The gift of constraints is a powerful tool that can transform execution in the mere statement: “You have X to work with.”

Try it out and let me know how it goes.


Tannus Quatre, PT, MBA, is a physical therapist and entrepreneur dedicated to improving the profession through innovative business and marketing solutions. His work can be seen in such projects as PT Pub Night® and He is president of Vantage Clinical Solutions and can be reached at

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