7 Steps to Completing Anything: The Power of the Deadline
Yesterday, I turned in my new book to my editor at St. Martin's Press! This is my latest book since "The Comedy Bible" and I've been working on it for 1 ½ years. If (before I started this project) you'd told me that I could write for nine hours a day -- I would have said that it's impossible. I'm like most comics. We write when inspiration hits us, which is usually while driving, working out at the gym, or having sex - in other words, anytime other than actually sitting down to write. Inspiration rarely strikes when it's supposed to.
So how am I able to make a deadline? Fear. Yes, the power of the threat of humiliation over writing a shoddy book -- not to mention having to return a substantial advance -- is a great motivator. The results? At night I'm dreaming about the book. I'm up at 5am working for 4 hours, then a gym break, and then another 4-hour stint. Of course, now that it's done, I plan on having a life, seeing what my peeps are doing on FB, taking a Sierra Club hike, getting my roots done, and actually getting out of the house. But, if you're having a hard time finishing projects, I've learned a lesson I want to share with you. We all can't wait for a book deal, an HBO special, or a starring role in a sitcom to motivate us. You have to show others that you can finish what you start before they'll invest in you. So -- here are some tips to complete your projects: 1. Have a deadline with consequences. We've all seen deadlines come and go with nothing done. That's why you need a deadline where you are accountable to someone else and there are grave repercussions if you don't hit your deadline. Find what motivates you. (Humiliation? Having to pay money if you don't finish? A trip to Maui if you do finish?)
Then, find someone to hold you accountable to complete your project, so that if you don't get it done, they will be handing out the punishment, or reward.
2. Spin only one plate at a time. Many of us are spreading ourselves thin by trying to do stand-up, put together a speech, write a book, and not doing any of them well. Focus on one project and don't start another until you've completed it. We funny people tend to have a lot of ideas. Just know that ideas are worthless unless they are nurtured, evolved, and developed.
3. Money is a great motivator. Before putting all your resources into a project, make sure it's time well spent. There should always be a realistic possibility of making money off your project, or advancing your career.
4. Passion only gets you so far. You need passion to get any project out of first gear. But just like a fizzled love affair, passion wanes and you find your marriage to your idea in trouble. So, pick a project that's not only meaningful to you, but also meaningful to others. Doing things for others sometimes can keep you going when your own ambition fails.
5. It takes a village. Very few people have what it takes to create alone. Have regular meetings with supportive people and assess your progress. Go to social.comedyworkshops.com to find a Comedy Buddy.
6. Make your goals manageable and incremental. Start with small commitments and keep them, like weekly writing one blog or one minute of new material.
7. Have a huge reward for yourself when you finish. Thank yourself for following through with a trip, a party, or a binge night. Go ahead, you deserve it!