Can you guess? I won’t make you wait long for the answer…
Lorne Michaels, creator of Saturday Night Live, one of the longest running shows in tv history, once said this…
“How do we know we’re ready? It’s 11:30.”
For over 40 years, the cast and crew of SNL spend hours each week during the season, rehearsing, writing, re-writing, editing, designing, and rehearsing again. No matter how they’re feeling about the show, no matter what emergencies occurred, no matter what fell off the rails, at 11:30 pm on Saturday night, SNL airs.
So what does SNL have in common with my plan?
The answer is black and white rules. Perhaps SNL doesn’t refer to going live on Saturday as a black and white rule. But it is. It is predictable and consistent. They don’t go on at 11:29 or 11:40, they go on at 11:30. It doesn’t matter whether the cast feels like they are ready, or whether the paint has dried on the set, or someone’s wardrobe malfunctions or whether someone got sick that week and didn’t get enough rehearsal. They go on. They start the show. No matter what. It’s 11:30.
So is Lorne and his amazing team of producers and talent just unbelievably lucky? Is every waking minute during the week running according to plan? Having done a few live programs in my life, the answer is a resounding NO. So how do they manage to execute this every week time and time again? How is it they can be so hardcore with this rule and pull it off every single time?
The answer is they have a plan. In fact, they have several plans: Plan A, Plan B, and probably several 911 plans after that. They have to anticipate that not everything will go according to Plan A. And not everything will go according to Plan B or C. They may be launching the show that night by the seat of their pants. They may have exhausted their back up plan, and launch into an emergency, “when all else fails” plan that will somehow still allow them to go live at 11:30. It may not always be perfect, but the show always hits the deadline.
When you are faced with things not going according to plan, do you have a Plan B? If all else fails, and all of your best laid plans fly out the window, how will you insure that you’ll stick with your rules and stay on point?
One of the biggest reasons many don’t follow through, is that when things go south, they feel the failure, think it’s hopeless, and bail. Sticking with the requires one big component. And it’s exactly the same for SNL: PLANNING.
Planning is what will make or break reaching any goal or meeting any deadline. We all know this, right? You want to create an event? Lots of planning. Big project at work with a hard deadline…you get it. Planning.
Never Plan on Plan A
I never liked meal planning. To be honest I didn’t like that rigid idea that as a working mom I needed to do a spreadsheet just to have everything laid out. I was never a big scheduler either. The big stuff, sure, but what to eat? I left that to the moment, or to whatever happened to be in the fridge, or how much time I had to prepare something. And even now, I like some flexibility around dinner, with some significant differences. I make sure I have several options. Usually two of them are in the freezer – meals I made previously and portioned out for the days when I come home later and dinner isn’t made. I know me, and I know that if I don’t have a go-to contingency, that I will hit my breaking point and I might plow into whatever happens to be in the fridge. Mind you, most of the food in the pantry and fridge these days is definitely good whole food. It’s just too easy for me to bail on portion control or to mindlessly grab something. And remember, the worst time to be solution-oriented is when you’re in the throes of hunger.
So here are a couple of ideas when it comes to Plans A & B, and the worst case scenario, 911. Here are some situations where things don’t go according to plan and suggestions on how to handle them:
Plan A: I’ve already set up dinner, ready to cook the minute I get home, or made sure someone else had it going. No problem. Dinner is served. Advance preparation can be done in the morning before heading off for your day or on the weekend. In fact, I usually reserve time on Sundays to do a lot of chopping, and preparing vegetables I’ll use during the week.
Plan B: I have easy to thaw frozen meals like chili or soup or the makings of cauliflower pizza, ready to heat and eat. I get home and nothing is made because husband or my grown kids didn’t have time to prepare the meal. No problem. I pop a frozen entree into the microwave and make a salad. Dinner is served within minutes.
911: I waited too long to eat or got home from work later than expected. Do I skip a meal? No. On the way home, (stuck in traffic), I dig into my bag of unsalted raw almonds and grab a handful (about 1oz). Then, I call home OR have Siri dial one of my go to take out places that I already know have good food I can eat. If it’s really late and restaurants are closed (and this has happened), even 7-Eleven stores have some healthy options. It may not be as sexy but you can find SOMETHING that will work and still keep you within your lines.
Plan A: I made dinner plans with a friend and chose the restaurant after checking out their menu online. The menu looks good, but a few of the items give me pause. When I call to make a reservation, I ask about some of my choices. Are the choice entrees prepared with flour and sugar? Reservations are made, and I already have a plan on what to order. The evening goes as planned.
Plan B: I had a crazy day, and forgot to make reservations, so my friend booked it, and I didn’t have time to look at the menu. I arrive, order my sparkling water while she orders a cocktail. Then I quickly peruse the menu, order a large salad, and choose a protein option and ask for extra veggies, leave off the starch please.
911: My day got even crazier and I had to cancel my dinner plans. I am on a deadline and have another couple of hours of screening to do in order to deliver a show on time. I cancel my plans, but then take 5 minutes to select some take out from a restaurant I know will have solid options OR I run out to a local deli where I select some quick take out options, a couple of cooked vegetables and some roast chicken to go. Back to the office, I take a few minutes to eat, then go back to screening.
Got A Plan?
The biggest gift you can give yourself is peace of mind. Preparation and planning will insure your success. The more you practice setting your food up in advance, the easier it will get over time. And no matter what the situation may be, there is always a choice. Do the best you can. And always remember, it’s not about perfection, it’s about determination.