Michael Cundall Jr.
Down with Deliverables
Anyone and everyone has deliverables. School doesn’t call the assignments or grades deliverables, but they surely are. Ask any college student if they stress about deadlines. They surely do. I have deliverables in my job. I have to update my social media and try and post regular blogs as well as do all the other things an entrepreneur needs to create market space. And largely I don’t complain. But many of us feel the weight of these deliverables and more often it's subtle and slow growing. They increase anxiety and distress. They can become anchors that prevent us from enjoying our work: from being creative. That’s why I am here to invite everyone to take a break from deliverables. Skip the action plan, or the post-meeting review. Take a break from your To-Do Lists, or its mutant relative the bullet journal. It’s not as if the deliverables won’t be there. Those to-do list aren’t going anywhere. But when our organizational lives become all about deliverables, then something is deeply wrong. And I think we can agree that something is amiss.
The downside of deliverables may not be exactly clear. I mean their existence does help us focus and without them, some of the committee work that I am a part of, would not get done. I bullet journal and like it. But too often anymore, our entire life centers around and is driven by deliverables. Have I got that report ready to go? Are the kids’ schedules ready? Are they ready for school? Are they doing their homework? (Yes, I am a parent if you can't tell.) Have I got my tax documents aligned? Is that long-term project alive and well and proceeding to pace? Do I have the dish ready for the next party? Are there dishes still in the sink? And there is plenty of money being made on helping us do more and deliver more. If that’s the case, if that’s how you’re feeling, then you need a day off from deliverables. Preferably a couple and not just the weekend. But there’s a simple antidote to all this. There’s a way you can play your way around those deliverables: humor.
Surely the answer doesn’t surprise you. This is a blog from a person who is a bona fide humor apologist. And it’s not that I love humor because I was the class clown. I was. But what I learned from being a clown is that humor provides moments of levity, of non-deliverable aimed activity that makes those deliverables feel less stressful. Humor, laughter, mirth, and play all work together to help us see that there is more to life than our work goals. But they also make reaching those goals more enjoyable. And who can gripe about that?! Our work is there to help us survive and thrive and to bring meaning to our lives. I love talking to people about humor. I love teaching philosophy. I also love crossing off the last item on the To-Do List. But without moments of levity and laughter, all the attendant acts that go along with my job (I’m looking at you grading), become heavier. If you’re dropping that last deliverable without some feeling of accomplishment, and you’re more feeling relief with a worry as to what’s to come, then you need some humor and laughs. There are ways to fold humor into your life in more effective ways, I’ve posted on some them before. So before you get to writing “find some humor” on that to-do list, go out and find some laughs—enjoy some humor. You’ll like the way you laugh. I guarantee it.
So what are some of the easy things you can do to improve your levity quotient? One thing you could do is instead of writing that to-do list, you could write a “have-done” list. It’s nice to look back on what you’ve done and remind yourself just how far you’ve come. Keep some googly eyes handy and some other sort of “decoration” you can use that you find funny. But most important, set it as a to-do list item, to find some humor in the day. Use the tools of your deliverable oppressor against them and see what that gets you.