Monday, June 18, 2007
Getting Through The Down Time
The unique lifestyle that we have as professional photographers can be challenging when the work isn't flowing in
Time Management For The Bohemian
Pretending to be busy is easy. As freelancers, we can take each and every single action of the day and assign some sort of “work” value to it. Trust me, it's true. I've managed to see entire weeks disappear from my life without accomplishing a thing, but still feel like I did so much.
Brooks Ferguson is a consultant who specializes in maximizing the creative time and efforts of writers in the entertainment industry. Her current client is a small boutique studio called Sony Pictures. She was kind enough to give me some of her time-management insight for our industry.
The first step for time management during slow work periods is understanding your intellectual efficiency. Everyone is different, so I experimented on myself for the sake of this article. The key here is honesty. In answering the questions below, there are no right or wrong answers. There's just the reality of who you are and how you operate.
When is your up time?
When is your down time?
When is your creative time?
My up time is from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. I have that first cup of coffee, I'm well rested and my mind is sharp. This is a fantastic time to take care of things like follow-ups, cold calls, anything that requires quick thinking and efficiency. You'll find that because your mind is moving quickly, you tend to get the stuff you hate done quickly. As you get things done, you feel better and it begins to cascade you into a sense of confidence in getting more mundane crap done. Also, if you're feeling sharp, your wit tends to be funnier, a good time to try and call people you need to schmooze.
My down time tends to be from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.; this is a time to do the mindless stuff—run errands, go to the lab, drop off your dry cleaning. What you're doing is taking a time that would be next to useless behind the camera or in front of the computer and getting out and giving yourself some external stimulation. Remember, you don't work in an office, so there's not a lot going on around you when you're not in production. This is also a great time to hit the gym and work out. If your higher functions are going to abandon you, do something that doesn't require too much thought and gets you in shape. Physical activity greatly aids the creative process, and it has the added benefit of making you feel good.
My creative time is after 4 p.m. I don't know why, but this is when the visual ideas start happening. It's a great time to shoot for my portfolio or postproduce work I've already shot—anything that's creative and enjoyable. Also defined as sacred time, this is when you shouldn't be distracted by e-mail or phone, if you can.
The Dreaded To-Do List
Miss Ferguson defines the to-do list as “achievable goals.” When you make a to-do list, you should be able to cross everything off that day, so don't put too many things on the list. It's far more effective to put four items on the list and complete them as opposed to an ambitious 10 things and finishing only two. Carrying over a list of things to do from day to day has a negative effect on the psyche, so make lists that can be accomplished easily. Also, don't put stupid things on the list like “pick up laundry.” We all know we need to get our clothes washed. This isn't a career-enhancing goal, but a necessity that we've been aware of since childhood.
Syncing Our Lifestyles With The Rest Of The World
Everyone's up and down times are different. The most important thing here is to recognize when they occur and apply your tasks accordingly. The major anxiety for freelancers like us is that we aren't in sync with the 9 to 5 world. We never will be. As soon as you accept this fact, it gives your mind permission to get things done when it's optimum for you. I have friends who sleep until 10 or 11 a.m. during down days and work until 1 or 2 in the morning. They operate in a highly effective and successful manner.
We have a great lifestyle as photographers, but if you think that we have it easier than the rest of the clock-watching work force, think again. Yes, we have the freedom to define our own hours, but we don't. We delude ourselves into thinking that we're busy because we can't figure out what we need to do next to forward our careers. This is the tough part. No one is telling us what to do, and coming up with our own strategy is difficult because we have nothing to compare the strategy to. My best advice here is, if you think it will work, try it. The worst thing that can happen is that your plan fails and you take a day off to recover.
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