THE DEADLINE PARTY – an experiment in getting things done

They say the only deadline you should worry about in life is death. But “they” didn’t know about my party.

A few weeks ago, I had a party. It became known as “The Deadline Party” because the night of the party itself was the deadline for which each person invited had to have completed some personal project that they’d been wanting to complete for some time, but – due to work or the general time-sapping minutiae of life – hadn’t gotten around to doing. The impetus for the party was Rachmaninov – the Russian composer with the big hands – whose Prelude in D Major I have been trying to learn and finish for the last ten years of my life but have never had the occasion or motivation to do so.

So, I decided – why not invite a bunch of friends around to my house specifically for the purpose of performing this piece? Maybe then I will actually learn it. And why not make everyone else endure the same nerve-wracking build up to the ‘deadline’ that I would inevitably experience? And so, the Deadline Party was born…


The invitation, which was sent three months before the party date, explained it as such:

“They say the only deadline you should worry about in life is death. But ‘they’ didn’t know about my party.

This July, on Saturday the 3rd, you have another deadline to add to your list of comparatively insignificant deadlines. This is the date when that project you’ve been procrastinating on for longer than you can remember must be completed. Whether it’s to write a Great Australian Novel, hold a conversation in French or to finally be able to spin a basketball on your fingertip – this is the night you must perform/present the fruits of your long overdue labour.”

Certain terms and conditions were outlined, including penalties (a nudie run) for changing one’s goal midterm (the whole idea was to set a goal and stick to it…). And the preparation began.

After a few weeks, most people had decided on their goal. My friend Chelsey announced she’d give up drinking alcohol until the deadline; Carla swore she’d be able to do 100 push-ups by the date with the help of an iPhone app; Rhianna began training for a half marathon; and Andy set to work on making a short film. My sister Ally, who was pregnant at the time, decided to make a video diary of her final months before giving birth.
Some people kept their goals a secret; others didn’t set goals at all. It was ‘each to their own’. For most of us, the party provided a good kick up the butt to get something done. And the kick hurt.

I found myself getting up at 6am to practise the piano before work and said goodbye to the TV (MasterChef excepted). I also had to overcome phobia of performing, and booked two piano lessons with a Russian piano teacher one month out to force myself in front of an audience and help fine tune my playing. Mrs Bulatova – a small, highly-strung woman who sang when she played – instructed me to undo everything I’d taught myself and start from the beginning. My tempo was too erratic; my pressure, too loud; my wrists, too stiff. I needed to teach my fingers to “flow like a river”.

Around Sydney, fellow ‘Dead Heads’ were encountering their own obstacles. Carla had fallen behind in her iPhone app training. Her web developer boyfriend Tim had taken a tangent from his original goal and was at square one with a new web project only a few weeks out. My boyfriend Pete – who had set himself the task of writing a theme song to the party – ran out of time to get it finished.

But for all the lead-up stress, the night itself was pretty damn incredible. I do admit I have a pretty talented bunch of friends and family, but the best thing about it was getting to see and appreciate that other side of people’s lives that means a lot to them but is often hidden behind a wall of work.

The whole process also revealed some interesting things about life and stuff:
• That working towards and completing a project for no reason other than to feel personal satisfaction is a hard thing to do these days when achieving anything is usually driven by financial reward or expectations of bosses/work colleagues. But the feeling of completing it could easily beat that from any of the stuff we do related to work or money.
• No matter how busy you are (or think you are), making time to work towards a personal goal is hard but doable. If you want to do it, you can make time for it. And if that means you have to get up at 6am and overcome phobias, so be it.
• Everyone who I – and the others – talked to about the party idea, loved it. Hopefully next year if (or when) we do it again, we’ll spread the word and get lots of little Deadline Parties going around town (or, if Ellen or Oprah or someone reads this post and sees the world-changing potential of the party idea, around the universe…). Maybe we’ll even have a forum online where people can post their deadlines, progress and final products. If you’re keen to host one yourself, a tip: You kind of need to have everyone on board from the very beginning to pull it off. But that’s pretty easy with such an open-ended ‘theme’ – because everyone can do something that’s meaningful to them. You might find a few people questioning – “what’s the point of putting in all this effort just for a party?” But you’ve got to convince them that the point is to do it for yourself – then bask in the limelight of your own long lost mojo at the party.

Which is exactly what we did!

Here’s a list of the deadlines:

Chelsey: No alcohol for three months. Result? A renewed appreciation for experiencing entire weekends, and the realisation that more is not always more.

Rhianna: Running a half marathon. In celebration of her success, party guests were given a guided tour through an exhibition of her experience of the 22km race.

Pete: Getting to level 15 on the beep test, making MasterChef’s homage to the Golden Gaytime, and learning and playing Phillip Glass’s Mad Rush on the piano. Amazing.

Cam: Learning to complete the Rubick’s cube. Cam treated us to a 20-to-1 of useless Rubick’s Cube trivia as he twisted the squares into place in front of our eyes.

Mark: A round-up of all the deadlines he’s working towards at the moment as a theatre director.

Andrew: Directing and producing a short film (Professor Kellog and the Colombian Bookshop Crack Adventure), which he intends to enter in a slew of short film competitions. Gobsmackingly good. Watch the trailer here.

Ally: To make a video diary during her pregnancy and birth of Isidore Ireland. Not a dry eye in the house.

Lauren: To swim the English Channel. And she did… or so her beautiful photo montage led us to believe…

Mel: Cocktail waitress extraordinaire, Mel whipped up batches of her own ravishingly red cocktail creation – the “True Blood”.

Carla: To redesign her website www.carlahackettdesign.com. Concepts were delivered via an impressive Powerpoint presentation. We also got a token 30-or-so push ups!

Tim: A Powerpoint presentation on the forthcoming redesign of his business’s website. With the help of some mind-boggling coding, Agency Rainford (www.agencyrainford.com) will soon feature (in rather layman’s terms) a revolving globe and a jumping man. Complex.

Suz (my mum): To find a sewing pattern and make a funky high-waisted skirt. A renowned sewing genius, Suz whipped up this creation (part pattern-based and part her own vision) two nights before deadline.

Me: Learning and playing Rachmaninov’s Prelude in D Major.

Tick!

So what do you think of the idea? Would you have a deadline party? What would your deadline be? And all of you Dead Head originals – did you like it, and what would you do next time?

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6 thoughts on “THE DEADLINE PARTY – an experiment in getting things done

  1. Gabby August 24, 2010 / 6:55 am

    This is absolutely fantastic. Lady, I am so inspired by this. It’s got me mulling over what deadlines I’d love to meet…. Gx

    • Jodie McLeod August 24, 2010 / 7:42 am

      I know – me too! I’ve already set my sights on another deadline, but will probably need a party again to get it done… Next time, you’re in.

      • Gabby August 25, 2010 / 6:13 am

        Unreal. Count me in!

  2. Fiona Claire October 23, 2012 / 3:03 am

    Hi Jodie, not sure if you will get this considering I am writing more than two years after the event, but this is an amazing post. I came across it after googling you when I read your article on Flying Solo. I like how this idea leaves room for both the over achievers (Rachmaninov!) and the more fun oriented (cocktail), but I agree with you that giving ourselves time and encouragement to complete goals and then celebrating them fully can be very fulfilling and also empowering. Are you writing or blogging your own stuff at the moment? I really like the way you think.

    • Jodie McLeod October 23, 2012 / 3:21 am

      Hi Fiona,

      Thanks so much for the comment! You’re right – that’s what the Deadline Party is all about – doing something that’s meaningful to you – whether it’s a massive thing or just something small. You should consider hosting one if you have some friends who’d be keen!

      I have taken a hiatus from this blog for a few years (I can’t believe it’s been that long!) because of work commitments but I’m keen to start it back up again, which has serendipitously coincided with the second Deadline Party – held just two weeks ago. Stay tuned for a post soon! Also keep an eye out for Friday’s Flying Solo enews where I’ll be posting a video on the Deadline Party idea.

      Thanks again Fiona,

      Jodie

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