Looking over my first six-month business plan, I was overcome with urgency. I could see four major projects that would be a cinch to knock out if I had a few days to concentrate. Getting them done now would mean an easier winter – I could pour out every drop of summertime creativity and ensure a peaceful hibernation.
Of course nothing’s ever that easy. I angsted for hours, prodding friends into telling me that it’s okay to clear my calendar and do nothing but projects for a week. It felt like I shouldn’t – like it would be too self-absorbed or burning my candle too fast. Aaaaaangst.
Eventually, my Third Thoughts put her hands on her hips and said, “This is ridiculous. You know it’s the right thing. Just do it!”
So I did.
I chucked everything but client work out of my planner and set up an “up to my armpits in creative juices” autoresponder. Five minutes with a marker later, I had a plan.
Anything But Ordinary was already written; I just had to reorganize it into class form.
The 2013 Headology Yearbook had to be put into a smaller file and have new pages and a calendar/planner thingy added.
The Headology Handbook will never get written if I don’t start working on it; a skeleton outline is enough for now.
The Evil Auctioneer workshop needed a 10-minute speech to be functional; how hard could that be?
Add a handful of minor tasks and voila! One August Blitz.
I didn’t expect to get everything done, if I’m honest. I’m a perpetual Facebook/Twitter/email checker, and I figured that would derail me enough to trash my entire plan. The idea that I could complete four major projects in a few days seemed ludicrous – I’d never finish everything.
But I did.
I got every single motherfucking thing on that list done.
And because I got waves of praise from the tribe, and because lots of those messages were “I could never do that!” or “You’re so much more motivated/disciplined/creative than me!” I want to tell you how I did it.
There are three answers.
One was a surprise. One is super-obvious. One, you’re not going to like.
A container is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a box to hold stuff in. For headology purposes, containers usually hold time or energy – they’re like boundaries for planning.
I decided that a regular work-week would be a perfect container for August Blitz. Not too short, not too long. Five days devoted to cranking out measurable, structured tasks. That would give me one day for each of the Big Four, plus a flex day to tie up loose ends.
Metacontainer accomplished! But to make it work, I had to give myself containers within containers.
I’m such a left-brained creative – I need a ton of structure for my projects; I can’t “just write.” I had a good two-hour panic, for example, the day I worked on the book outline because I couldn’t figure out how to organize everything; I couldn’t begin until I found a container for it. (Thank you, Melissa.)
Each item in the August Blitz container had its own box and set of criteria. By breaking down the big goals into smaller steps, I gave them measurable limits. I’d know when they were done and could gauge my progress as I worked.
Containers within containers! like a planning bento box.
Having all these containers made it way easier for me to focus, despite the constant Facebook-checking. I could tick things off in mini-containers and adjust my schedule against the metacontainer. Knowing I had a set amount of time and a set amount of work allowed me to set a maintainable pace – neither burning out or getting lazy – and everything got done.
SET BIG REWARDS
I cringe to admit this – mostly because I like to think I’m above it – but I respond really well to rewards. They just have to be the RIGHT rewards.
A fancy dinner or a night on the town as a payoff for completing August Blitz wouldn’t have worked. Shit like that just doesn’t motivate me because it’s too temporary.
What does motivate me is freedom.
The reward for finishing the Big Four was that I wouldn’t have to do any major business work until March when Inside Outside would need to be revised.
The reward for getting the Big Four and everything on the low-priority list done was that I could rest until June when my energy comes back.
And I did it!
Of course, I’ll still have blog posts, client chats, Chalk-talk, and social media between now and next summer. But the first two headology classes are done, the next stand-alone product complete, and the outline for my first book (did I just say first?!) is stacked by my desk.
Working hard for a week gave me freedom for nine months. That’s a hell of a reward.
DO THE WORK
No one likes to hear that there’s no magic bullet for being hyper-productive. But it’s true.
I could have planned it down to the font for the PDFs and mapped all my eventual free time, but unless I actually did the work, it wouldn’t have mattered.
No amount of containers or rewards will make you productive.
You do that yourself.
What made August Blitz work was me showing up every day, being present, and doing the work. One thing at a time, one step and then the next. Some stuff got done faster than I expected; some stuff took way longer. All that mattered was the commitment of being right there, right then, and working.
The secret ingredient is that there is no secret ingredient.
Told you you wouldn’t like it.
August Blitz is now a permanent part of my yearly business plan. Knowing I’ve got this wicked creative burst at my disposal lets me plan in alignment with my natural cycles.
That’s awesome for me and for the business, which means it’s awesome for you because you get a happy Ellie and kick-ass materials to play with. Win fucking win.
There’s nothing magical about anything I did. And this process doesn’t just apply to your projects, but your hobbies, you dinner plans, your errands, your chores, your kid-time, your holidays – all of it.
When you use containers, set up salient rewards, and commit to doing the work , no goal is out of reach.