The Done Manifesto and Deadlines

deadline clockBre Pettis and collaborator Kio Stark wrote down everything they knew about bringing “a creative vision to life. They called it The Done Manifesto:

  1. There are three states of being. Not knowing, action and completion.
  2. Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.
  3. There is no editing stage.
  4. Pretending you know what you’re doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you’re doing even if you don’t and do it.
  5. Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.
  6. The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.
  7. Once you’re done you can throw it away.
  8. Laugh at perfection. It’s boring and keeps you from being done.
  9. People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.
  10. Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.
  11. Destruction is a variant of done.
  12. If you have an idea and publish it on the internet, that counts as a ghost of done.
  13. Done is the engine of more.

 from Infographic of the Day 

I’ve written about this before, but I am focusing on a different element this time, procrastination (#5) and its impact on deadlines.  I was re-reading an old blog today, and found this assessment of how prepared the students were to critique each other’s essay rough drafts.  The stats from class in December 2013:

  • Twenty students were still on the rolls.
  • Three have stopped coming to class.
  • Five didn’t have the requisite three-page minimum on their essay page count, so couldn’t participate.
  • Twelve students spent the rest of the hour, trading papers, evaluating.

In other words, just a little over half met the deadline successfully.  Now translate that experience to quilting and participation in bees and collaborative sewing groups.  I’ve been in several quilting groups and the deadlines — or lack of them — sent me to trying to understand the whole concept.

Carl Honoré, in writing for the New York Times, mentions that “Long ago, honoring a deadline was genuinely a matter of life and death. Most scholars agree that the word was coined to describe the boundary past which inmates were forbidden to venture in Civil War prison camps. Guards fired on those who stepped over the so-called dead line.”  He quotes Douglas Adams, the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”  Apparently Adams had to be locked in a hotel room to finish his book.


I’m more of the “see-the-deadline, make-a-plan” sort of person, but perhaps I wasn’t always this way.  When your child is throwing up all night (sometimes on you), or your car breaks down on the side of the freeway, or you just plain-don’t-feel-like-it, it’s hard to force yourself to get on task and get the work done.

Honoré goes on to say that “The truth is that deadlines are useful. They signal that something is important enough to deserve our immediate attention; they can also focus minds and spur us to action. But too much deadlining can backfire.  Setting do-or-die deadlines and then routinely missing them is like crying wolf: People lose interest and the deadlines lose their bite. What’s more, study after study has shown that too much time pressure, whether in the office, the college dorm or the global summit meeting, makes us less creative and more sloppy.”

Yet, as an older student who returned to school again and again, I learned that even though the child may be sick, the teacher still expected the paper in on time, slashing my grade if I was late.  I began to try and do things ahead of time, knowing that the night I left the art assignment to the last minute, there would be some family crisis which obliterated those 3 hours I’d set apart to work on things, and the assignment had to be turned in whether or not it was creative. . . or sloppy.  Once I became a teacher, my students would come to me with their tales of woe about missed deadlines, but it more than not turned out to be a time management problem, not deadline problem.

I can give you a billion quotes about creativity and getting the work done (I collected them for years) yet the bottom line remains that to get the writing done, you have to get the apply the seat of your pants to a chair.  To get the quilting done, the same idea applies. No matter how you cut it, we all have to Get the Work Done, so why not do it on time?  When others honor their deadlines to get things to me, I know the project was important enough to move it forward in their busy life.

Like everyone else I still miss deadlines, but it has to be a pretty big obstacle for it to get in my way at this point in my life, and I feel badly when I do miss them as it gums up the works over here.  Just maybe, I have though experience discovered that the last idea on the Done Manifesto is the most delicious antidote to missing deadlines that ever existed: “Done is the engine of more.”

11 thoughts on “The Done Manifesto and Deadlines

  1. I need to go through my UFOs and apply #11! (And also spend less time on the computer.) I saved the Done Manifesto a year or so ago. It’s good to see it again.

  2. Mmmmm! So # 10 tells me that failure is done! Wished I’d known that before I started unpicking my Shelburne Tartan quilt on the weekend! But I am big one for deadlines! They certainly help me keep on track! And as you say, it has to be a ‘biggie’ to stop me getting a bee block done!

  3. Great post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, and also the link from the prior post.
    People who consistently miss deadlines are like people who are consistently late arriving somewhere. What they have in common is they’ve never experienced important enough (to them) consequences to make them learn a different way. When I taught I made sure my students knew the consequences for being late. Most responded on time. Some people would argue that creativity works on a different clock, but getting things done still requires that you do them. Mistakes are fertilizer for new approaches and ideas, so why not go ahead?
    Last January I posted a list of “Rules” that have a similar bent and are focused on creative work. You might find it interesting, too. https://catbirdquilts.wordpress.com/2015/01/27/theres-only-make/

  4. Love this Elizabeth. I wasn’t familiar with the Done Manifesto and am so glad you shared. Also looked back at your earlier post. I’ve been thinking a lot about 2016 the past couple of months and getting more done will be a primary goal next year so this is helpful. I’ve always met external deadlines but am not very good about my own personal deadlines. I think I need to print this and put it up in the studio. Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving.

  5. This essay kind of makes me feel guilty, but then I remember all the things I DID get done on time. Sometimes I overcommit and can’t make the goal, but if something is really important, it’s done on time.

  6. This is all so true, and especially in relation to the world of mini quilt swaps. I totally agree with your recent comments on Instagram, but don’t want to inflame the situation any further by commenting there. People know the deadline and the standard when they agree to take part. As soon as it becomes clear that they can’t achieve either of those, they should speak up. Sending substandard mini quilts is just not acceptable.
    This is why I don’t participate in swaps – I would put many, many hours into making a quilt for a stranger, only to be potentially disappointed by someone else who didn’t put in the same level of effort. Call me selfish, but I rather spend that time working on something for my family and friends who I know will appreciate my efforts.

  7. Just catching up on blog reading this afternoon. I can’t leave a comment on the beautiful quilt post, but I wanted to tell you that after looking at all of the great patterns I want to sew each one!!! Your color sense and design are just incredible. LOVE the Bandstand one.

    I am pretty good at deadlines. It must be the zero tolerance of being taught by nuns for so many years!!! lol

  8. I love this post and the “idea of creating prototypes as soon as you can, and failing as fast as possible so you can evolve your way to something great”, which I read by following your link. I find the hardest thing about getting things done is losing momentum. I should paste this up somewhere or learn it by heart 🙂

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