Thursday, September 26, 2013

Improve your concentration

I have a major scene involving some research and new characters to add to a manuscript thanks to an editor's suggestion.  Ideas and approaches have been churning in the back of my mind, but it's time to get this scene written and the revised manuscript off to the editor.  

I'm a morning person, and think better and faster before dinner.  So I like to work 9 to 5 ish, in big blocks of time.  I don't do as well with 15 minutes here or there, unlike some writer friends who can produce an entire scene in their SUVs while waiting to pick up their kids from soccer or ballet.

Others may find their minds work better in the evening, but social and family plans may keep pushing projects off. 

Some prefer to work in total and uninterrupted silence (me), others find certain kinds of music help them focus.  There are times I can get a lot done in a Starbucks.  Other times, the music, chatter and even noise from the cappuccino machines and blenders are disruptive. 

I need to get in and stay in the zone.  Once I'm distracted by, say, a phone call, it's harder to return to quality concentration. 

How can you make the most of your most productive hours?  First, you need to know when they are.  Second, list things that keep you from doing your best work.  I don't like little projects--emails I need to return, auditions that are due soon--hanging over my head.  So I clean my desk before tackling larger projects...though some experts advise the opposite.  Exercising and eating a good, healthy meal vs. a heavy one help me feel on top of my game.  Consider working with a friend to reinforce each other's goals and help keep your noses to the grindstone.

Some days it's easy.  Others, like the beautiful fall days we're having in Chicago or when a friend wants to go to breakfast or lunch, it's more of a challenge to put in what I consider to be enough hours.


Foods for Better Concentration

Huffington Post: 13 Ways to Improve Concentration on the Job 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Juggling & plate spinning

Some weeks being a feelancer is akin in certain respects to being a juggler and a plate spinner.  Not only do I have to keep my eye and focus on many balls in the air, I have to run down the line to make sure my plates are still spinning.  If I drop a ball or a plate falls, I could lose income and disappoint a client/agent/casting director and myself.

I want to juggle more balls, spin more plates... but what's the tipping point?  I can't know when another ball will get thrown at me.  Work and auditions seem to have a shorter lead time than they used to, and we're asked to keep more days open when we audition...   For example, a project I'm auditioning for this week needs two weeks of availability in October.  And tomorrow was open on my calendar.  I'd planned to take care of assorted details and finish judging a writing contest.

I just got called by a client who may want me to work tomorrow for a couple of hours in a location TBA. Great!  It's not confirmed, however, and I don't know when it will be.  And I was just asked to be on a call this afternoon.  Ok.  Now I need to juggle and spin faster so I can still get the work done I'd allocated to those times. 

Then again, sometimes I can't do it all, even if I want to.  Sometimes I have to say no, though I'd like to do another job or help out this or that committee or organization.  I was asked to do a film Saturday in Milwaukee, but wouldn't have been done in time to be back in Chicago for a previous commitment.   

Having so many balls and plates is exciting.  I have to focus on that, and let any stress go.


Friday, September 13, 2013

Priorities, priorities

Everyone needs to prioritize daily, weekly, and monthly tasks.  Some do it well, while others rationalize and justify poor choices.  Many sites offer advice, such as making a to do list, then ordering tasks by importance.  Or ways to break down large projects so we can meet our deadlines.

Do we let our emotions, heart or mind rule our time management?  Do we ask for extensions and still scramble to finish because we've let, say, social or online activities trump work? 

Some days, projects just take longer than we anticipate, through no fault of our own.  Doctor appointments, meetings, film shoots then leave fewer hours in a day we can work.  For an actor, fitting in a haircut before a big audition or after a shoot (couldn't get it cut before because it had to be the same as at the callback) can take a chunk out of a day.  Or jobs or auditions can pop up or are rescheduled, taking priority over other things we'd planned.

Occasionally pressure to get stuff done competes with sleep or necessitates canceling or postponing social events.  I woke up before 4:00am this morning, mind already filled with time-sensitive tasks.  The satisfaction of checking many items off of my list before 9:00am tastes as good as morning coffee.  Perhaps I'll need more caffeine to stay awake to enjoy my evening...
Time Management Guide
Mind Tools

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Playing catch up vs. making progress

Many feelancers and Gainfully Employed have to do lists a mile long.  Checking items off can be very satisfying.  But how much of what we do in a given day, week or even month is playing catch up, and how much is making actual progress toward our goals?  Do you even have goals?

Catch up tasks are often very specific, and thus may be easier to accomplish, from emails we need to respond to to learning lines for today's on-camera auditions or gathering wardrobe for tomorrow's fitting.  I like to get these out of the way and out of my mind so I can delve into bigger projects.

I had an article due this week on an assigned topic.  I'm not a procrastinator, so I'd been working on it off and on.  This morning I put on the finishing touches, and sent it to the editor.  But does the article qualify as making progress toward my main goals, such as getting more on-camera acting work?  Not unless someone who reads it sees my website in the "about the author" section and decides to hire me, which is unlikely given the audience for this particular publication.  But I said I'd write it, so I did. 

Suggestion: every time you say yes to a task, ask yourself if it's just for fun, to help someone else out, or if it pertains to your core business goals.  Often we respond to emotion instead of logic, and commit to things we don't really need or want to do.  For example, I agreed to judge another writing contest because I know the coordinator and she asked me.  I'll probably enjoy critiquing the entries, but my time could be put to better use.

Career goals are often more amorphous, and need to be broken down into concrete, discrete steps.  To some, that task itself is overwhelming.  There are so many possibilities.  Where do I start?  Start at the beginning.  As Nora Roberts (the multiple NYT bestselling author) says, "You can't edit a blank page."  What are three things you can do today that will bring you closer to achieving your goals?