Kids have this wonderful ability to live in the moment. As grown-ups, it can be a bit difficult to retain this superpower. However, with a little bit of daily work, we can show up fully present and accounted for.
While filming the classic movie E.T., screenwriter Melissa Mathison used a brilliant technique for helping director Steven Spielberg stay in a childlike state. Instead of the usual practice of providing the director with the entire script, he was given only one notecard. She told him, “Why don’t you leave your script at home and just focus on the day’s work?” So that’s what he did. Years later, when they reunited for the film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The BFG, they returned to this notecard method.
Maybe you’re like me. If I’m not careful, I can be swept away by the immensity of the work ahead of me. I’ll find myself living in my imagination, worried about things far ahead on the calendar. I’m trying to be more like Spielberg on the set of E.T. What can I fit on a 3 x 5 notecard and how can I just focus on the day’s work? Maybe it’ll result in seeing bicycles fly.
What Would Iron Man Do?
I was eating lunch with the brilliant Pamela Slim, an author and professional coach. Somehow we began talking about our morning routines, and I told her how most of my morning was spent just getting myself awake and my office whipped into the kind of shape where I could actually get work done. Then she asked me, “Have you seen Iron Man?”
Of course, I had. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you never see the heroes set up their offices or plug in dongles. No way. Instead, when the time comes, they step into their headquarters, wave their arms around a bit, and immediately get to the important work of saving the world.
Her encouragement to me was to end every single work day with setting up my workspace ahead of time. This way, I could immediately show up the next morning and pretend I’m Iron Man. So, maybe you too could benefit from a bit of make-believe. Set up your workspace, wave your arms around, and save the world.
The Peanuts Method
I once had the honor of visiting the former office of Charles M. Schulz. For more than 50 years, he showed up to his desk and filled in squares with iconic characters such as Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, and Snoopy. I was in awe of every little indention on that old desk but was especially struck by what was on it. His family had placed a piece of paper on it exactly like the one he had worked with daily. On this sheet of paper were four empty squares.
He could’ve filled those empty blocks with anything. I stared at that sheet of paper and thought of how for 50 years he filled those blanks daily with a warm and wise little community of kids. What will I do with the blank spaces in front of me? What will you do?
We all get little blocks of empty space to fill with what whatever we choose. May we choose wisely.