How to keep going when the ceiling comes down on you

Last Thursday at 6 a.m., I awoke to the sound of a building-wide fire alarm. After the fire department came, did their inspection, and turned off the fire alarm, we went back upstairs to the cozy, warm condo we’d left only a half hour before to find water pouring from the ceiling into the walls and floors right outside our unit—and inevitably inside our condo, too.


I took this video an hour after the water started coming down outside our unit. The water kept coming down like this for several hours, and yes, the ceiling eventually gave out.

After the indoor-raining stopped many hours later, the final take was that the damage to our condo wasn’t too serious. But having the quiet and safety of my home, my space, ruined so unexpectedly was very upsetting, to say nothing of the needed administrative and maintenance work that followed.

Fate is never convenient of course, and this condo flood was no exception. I was in the thick of several important assignments at work, and those deadlines could only hold off so long.

I admit that I had a hard time getting my head back in “work mode” when I sat in my chair the following Monday. We’ve all been there, days where your mind is a million miles away. I needed the proverbial kick in the butt to get my mind going, especially since I had so many deadlines looming.

If you’re in similar straits (though I hope your home is safe and dry), these are the productivity tenets I followed to get me back on track:

  1. Get started. Dive in. I liked Copyblogger’s post on GOYA as inspiration for not holding myself back. Not only that, but I liked the the acronym GOYA so much that I put a sticky note on my computer that simply said “GOYA.” I’m sure my coworkers were wondering why I needed the reminder to buy Latino groceries, but I knew what it meant.
  2. Get going. Once you’ve started, manage time effectively. I’ve always been a big fan of the classic 4D paradigm (do it, delegate it, defer it, drop it), but there are many different variants of this philosophy. Just whatever you do, don’t waffle.
  3. Get it done. I love the Cult of Done Manifesto – it may seem a little brash for some folks, but it’s a handy reminder to not get in your own way (we all do it sometimes).

That’s it. Nothing terribly complex: Get started, get going, get it done. But it’s easy to forget, especially when the walls (or ceiling) seem to be coming down around you.

How about you—what do you do to get yourself going when you’re up against a deadline?