ocean pools
Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pfly/35674252/

When I was a kid, I remember reading an old fable about a boy who somehow got himself into the unenviable position of having to drain the entire ocean with a teaspoon. Not a happy task, you’d be right to think. Not a job that would have you spring out of bed with eyes aglow, grabbing your beloved spoon and humming to yourself merrily as you head down to the nearest shore.

I sometimes find myself reminded of this boy’s predicament when faced with a creative job that, while it may be interesting and inspiring as a whole, nevertheless involves large chunks of repetitive action that isn’t creative at all. In fact, it’s hard to find a major creative work that does NOT involve that kind of work.

Being addicted to solving problems, dreaming up ideas, trying new things and learning – in short, exercising the brain – these oceans of simple, straightforward labor make me feel pretty miserable. To use a different metaphor – it’s a bit like making a professional Formula 1 driver drive his fancy Formula 1 car on 100 miles of straight road. Easy enough on the face of it, but BOY is it difficult!

Luckily, developing the CreativityWise method provided me with a solution to this problem, in the form of micro deadlines.

What’s a micro deadline?

Micro deadlines are internal deadlines you set yourself as a means of making a more substantial deadline, often external (i.e. dictated by client or circumstances). They’re used for slicing a big chunk of work to bite-size portions of somewhere between a couple of hours and a couple of days. It means your next deadline is never more than a few hours away.

A week’s deadline turned into 7 micro deadlines. The next deadline is never more than a few hours away, reducing mental clutter and making the repetitive parts less tedious.

This may sound like a pretty stressful way to work, but the effect is actually relaxing. Consider: rather than having a ton of important stuff on your mind at any given time, dozens of urgent tasks that fight for your attention, and a host of creative fears in different sizes and shapes bothering you with questions like “am I going to make it?!” or “haven’t I forgotten something really important?”, micro deadlines let you concentrate on just one task for a preset and limited amount of time. It’s an excellent way to shut the mental door on all the clutter, impatiently dismiss procrastination, switch to hyper-focus mode, and start “racing” to the next finish line.

Almost as a by-product, I found that using micro-deadlines also solves the “drain the ocean with a spoon” ordeal, and helps me deal with the more tedious parts of creativity. Instead of a seemingly boundless body of water, you now have to drain a large number of small puddles; and while the actual amount of water, as well as the unfitting draining instrument, had not changed – the feeling is considerably better. Each puddle has a different size and shape, each presents slightly different challenges, and every time you finish draining one you get to feel like you’ve actually accomplished something!

Try it yourself…

Try this tomorrow: give yourself 3 micro-deadlines covering 3 different tasks. Write in the comments how you did and how it felt!
Press “like” if you take the challenge :

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