Deadline Lessons from Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live (SNL) producer Lorne Michaels once said, “I say it every week: We don’t go on because we’re ready. We go on because it’s 11:30.” He went on to say that being “ready” is a state of mind, one you can condition yourself to overcome with regular deadlines.
SNL is a long-running late-night live television sketch comedy created by Lorne Michaels. The live aspect of the show requires an absolute commitment to being ready to go on air at 11:30 eastern time every Saturday. It’s a hard deadline. No excuses can be accepted or tolerated. The show begins with a topical sketch, at the end of which someone breaks from the skit and shouts: “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!”
But before the show airs each Saturday night, an entire week’s worth of preparation has gone into making that episode a reality. Monday starts with a production meeting where ideas for the following week’s skits are pitched. On Tuesday, the ideas chosen are turned into skits, and on Wednesday they’re reviewed to pick the best ones to move forward.
On Thursday, the skits are tweaked and adjusted as needed. The winning skits are rehearsed on Friday and then once more before a live audience on Saturday at 8 PM before the actual live performance at 11:30.
Whatever project you’re creating — whether large and elaborate or small and simple — you likely follow a similar process. Your ideas are put on paper, the best survive, an action plan to move forward is chosen, and deadlines are given. Everything is ready, so then why do some ideas and projects never get done?
Over-thinking, doubt, procrastination, and perfectionism are the enemies of deadlines. Each one can play the role of devil’s advocate in your head to delay and destroy deadlines.
The cure might be to learn from SNL and Lorne Michaels. Take imperfect action when necessary. When you delay, nothing can move forward. You can always correct course and improvise as you move toward your goals, but nothing can happen unless you make that leap of faith to take the first steps.
SNL has aired some 730 episodes since its debut and began its 38th season this year, making it one of the longest-running network television programs in the United States. It has produced countless stars, created immense wealth for the creators, and entertained several generations of audiences over the years. The live aspect of the show creates a certain drama that most other shows lack. Some of the jokes fall flat, and there are unexpected surprises in many shows that had not been rehearsed. But the actors improvise as needed, and the show always goes on.
SNL doesn’t go on air at 11:30 every Saturday evening because they are ready. It goes on because it’s 11:30. You may never be “ready” enough if you don’t commit to a deadline to go live. Set aside your fears and worries. Time is wasting, and you may never get another chance to go live again.