Complete Your Operation in Seconds

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Updated November 3, 2022

You’re reading an excerpt of Creative Doing, by Herbert Lui. 75 practical techniques to unlock creative potential in your work, hobby, or next career. Purchase now for instant, lifetime access to the book.

Social scientist B.J. Fogg’s Behavioral Model tells us that the more ability a task requires, the more motivation it will also require. That idea can certainly apply to creative work, which is why these prompts require minimal ability and time. This insight is key to creating habits and tapping into your discipline.

Vin Verma, who goes by the name Internetvin, has made music and written code every day for a year. One of his techniques is to find a way to create music or code in 20 seconds (writing just a single line of code on the days he didn’t have time or felt tired).

If you’re making music, your tactic could be to record a 10-second voice note of a new melody, or to write one bad line of a song lyric.

If you’re working in photography, take a still life of an object within arm’s reach.

If you’re writing, write one bad sentence.

The goal here is to simplify your creative operation, moving the starting point to the finish point much closer together—mere seconds apart.

While 20 seconds is an aspirational goal, realistically it may take at least a minute to complete the simplest version of your creative operation. If you’re writing every day, let it take a minute to write a sentence. Or if you’re drawing daily, then a minute enables you to quickly sketch something simple.

This prompt can also stack up well with setting a 10-day quota. For example, I wrote a constrained comic for ten days, which consisted of one drawing and four panels. On the first day, I spent no more than an hour drawing the character and duplicating it across four panels. The next nine days, I simply copied the panels and changed the dialogue. Here’s what one of them looks like:

Mike Winkelmann, known as Beeple, has made an original illustration every day for over a decade. He ordinarily spends a couple of hours each day, but he still spent a few minutes on the days he had food poisoning and even on the day his child was born.

Life gets busy sometimes. The trick is to find ways to keep the habit going in a matter of seconds or minutes. On days where you have little time to spare, this short, small, variation will make sure you keep progressing.

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