Gingerbread men, chicken tamales, Kahlua trifles and other delights make for one delicious holiday feast. It also makes for a refrigerator as over-populated as a black friday Walmart. This crowded state spawned an emergency holiday fridge clean out. Once the clean fest began, we quickly gathered a collection of cheeses, produce and sauce jars that were frightfully past their expiration dates and seemed to have their original appearances mixed up. Things once green, were now brown and what was once brown, was now green. A situation neither easy on the eyes nor the nose. The guilt swelled inside me as I slowly poured the spoiled items and holiday cheer down the drain. Fortunately, a few neglected food items survived the purge but were running dangerously close to their own expiration dates. Compelled to not repeat the same mistake. I had an inspired culinary burst in the form of bolognese sauces, green chile salsas and cinnamon french toast that made my families taste buds do a little shimmy. The combination of seeing food fail to make it to the family buffet and the impending expiration dates of others, transformed me into a culinary Jedi.
This reminded me of the lesson we all know but forget all to often—the powerful force of the due date and what I’ve recently dubbed “do” dates. Due dates have the ability to grab us by the ear lobes, smack us in the head and put us to work. They can make us perform wonders in a variety of ways and sometimes over a course of a few weeks, days or even minutes. While the traditional due date can cause one to react when faced with impending doom, “do” dates are proactive blocks of time we schedule to get the actual stuff done. Do dates can be the lifelines in the battle against the deadlines. The powerful mixture of the two can be one heck of a creative elixir.
Let’s “Do” Lunch
The power of setting short time limits and sprinting!
A few years back, my son got Ratatouille on DVD as a gift. I remember my favorite part was not from the actual movie itself but from a Pixar movie preview that played at the start of the DVD. In the preview, they told the story of a lunch meeting where a group of directors got together to plan their next move as Toy Story was just wrapping up. In one lunch, a creative well was struck and the flow of ideas gave birth to what would become A Bugs Life, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo and Wall-e. That’s right, from one lunch meeting, they got the seeds for four of their most successful movies. Years of hard work and production followed but all from ONE meeting. Wow! How did they pull this off. Was it divine inspiration, a deal with el diablo or just other worldly Pixar/Disney genius?!?Maybe…but I think I’ve seen this happen a few times for myself.
Set limits then get in and get out! Then do it again and again and again!
Back in the grunge and flannel days of college, I was working on what I thought was to be my master piece (I still had much to learn). The colors, composition and brush strokes were making me feel like Dali jr., but as the days passed, my hand seemed to move slower and slower as I over thought each careful brush stroke. The once joyful painting process became a stagnate swamp. My instructor having noticed, wisely warned me of the dangers of becoming a perfectionist. He then went on to give me more assignments with shorter time periods. Some within the same week and even a few same day turn arounds. He was convinced that I needed to get into a work flow of what he called, "get in and get out". He was right! The bulk of the work that followed made that first painful master piece I was fruitlessly perfecting, pale in comparison. Sure, I also got some real pieces of firewood but part of the lesson was to not fear doing the bad piece as well. This helped me spring board into more work that would have never been born had I stayed with the process of working one piece to the grave. The result of repeatedly doing my best within short time constraints produced a lot of good work over the course of the semester. The sum of which led to a pretty great body of work.
Just Make Do
Set do dates to longer due date, then get in and get out, repeat, then refine over time.
I remember when I was a young aspiring rock musician. My band had spent enough hours playing and mastering our instruments and we had it all down. Our very hip, lack of fashion sense made us feel brave enough to book our first real gig. There was one minor snag, we only had a handful of completed songs and not nearly enough to fill the 45 minute slot we just booked. Luckily, we had time on our side. We had 2 months to prepare and the later part of our winter college breaks to get something together. Suddenly, our bass player followed his heart to his girlfriend’s call in Santa Barbara and left the band with two-thirds of the three piece. Duoh! After a few days of inactivity and the break coming a close, my friend David (drummer) and I decided to get together and see if we could get something going. With two days left before college would kick our schedules in the dierreie, we set up early one morning and played. After about half an hour, we worked out an idea that began to show promise. We refined it a bit and gave it a basic structure. We then hit record on the four-track (yes, we used tape back then). Just like that, we had one new idea. The day was still very early so we worked on another song idea with same basic process and kablam—we now had two new rough songs down. We followed the same pattern for the rest of the day and evening until we had four new songs roughed out! Exhilarated, we did it again the very next day. By the end of two days of free flowing, no rules, get-in and get out workflow, we completed almost 10 demoed songs. Four of which we refined over the next two months and were played at our gig! When our and mate returned from his love rendezvous, he inquired if I had time to work on a new song to which I replied, no—Dave and I made a new album instead. What, what?!?
So, whether it is over lunch, a few days or many months, the act of setting a block of time (or “do dates”) to proactively get things moving can have monumental results. Combined with a a deadline, the two can really help you kick procrastinations tailpipe. Do and due dates can get you to toss perfect to wind and force you to focus on doing your best, which can produce much good, which could add up to something brilliant. Which means its time to stop reading this and get going!
This ain’t Sprocket Science:
- Pick one thing you’ve secretly longed to do but are always too busy, practical or embarrassed to do it. Write it down and give it a Do Date. See if you can get past that initial feeling of doing something different.
- Now, try to build momentum and pick a project such as the home remodel, website redesign, or office clean out, and set a series of short do dates were you get in and get out. The cumulative results will add up.
- Oh yeah, perfectionists need not apply, but that’s not you right! Right? Right?!?