Seize the Day

January 21, 2008

We are all well aware of Carpe Diem. We can translate the Latin phrase without pause, but understanding and applying it in context is much different. Some interpret it as an excuse to let go of all our fears and live each day to its fullest potential. People then jump out of air planes with a board strapped to their feet, or scale 1,000 foot cliff faces without safety harnesses.

In the workforce, however, Carpe Diem has nothing to do with living on the edge. In the workforce, Carpe Diem requires forsight and discipline. You don't close your eyes and jump. You focus and proceed diligently.
'Carpe' means 'Gather'

How might Carpe Diem help to reach your deadlines and maximize your work day? It starts by simply setting a goal for the day. Forget about the scope of the project. Forget about the deadline and time budgeted. You have the majority of 8 hours on your side today. What are you going to do with it?

I came into the office yesterday, a Monday, with an overwhelming sense that this day was important and full of potential. The excitement of building a recently approved design had my mind on a full sprint to the finish line, but all of those hurdles suddenly came into focus. The first hurdle was to translate a rich, texture-heavy, grid-breaking design into pixel perfect XHTML and CSS. Next came the task of setting up the necessary Drupal components (menus, cck, views, custom modules, etc), and all of the bug-squashing and feature requests that needed to be accommodated crawled in closely behind. Before I could really see the finish line, the track became slippery with timelines and burdened by budgets.

I had to stop and gather myself, to carpe myself. Before the gun fired, I stopped and told myself, almost aloud, "Before you leave today, the site will look just like the comp and navigation will be fully configured and functioning."

As easily as that, the day was mine. Five busy hours later, I had already moved on to tackling the Drupal hurdle and its unique challenges.
'Diem' means 'Day'

It is common sense that is easily forgotten: If you sprint toward the project's finish line, you're going to stumble over every hurdle while slipping on the budget, and you'll find yourself crawling through the tape, scraped and bruised. If you set your goals eight meters in front of you, you will burst through the tape with plenty 'a proud breath to spare and a final result worthy of showing off.

If you worry about where you're going to be in the next month, in the next year, in the next decade, you will always find yourself worried about next month, next year, next decade.

Today is short. Today is easy. Take it.