It took me three weeks to finish this blog post, which opened my eyes to a reality in our lives. My initial intention was to illustrate how I had found a great way to stay focused during my workday. But along came work, and it took me totally off course. I wound up having to back burner planned tasks. Bookings are a great reason, but I put other things aside. Now that things have calmed down a bit, I can resume telling you about my new find.
As we know, being a Voice Actor also means you are a business owner, where the product is your voice. And running a small business is involved, ever consuming, and sometimes frustrating, as we handle all the tasks that go along with running a business. With no set hours, our email and phones handcuff us all day long. Add in all the constant media and connection bombardment, and suddenly, it’s easy to get distracted. You can be concentrating on one task, and then “ding” there goes your phone/computer/tablet, alerting you to something new. So out of curiosity, we react and then lose focus on our initial task.
Research shows that our brains have difficulty focusing on too many things at once. While some folks may be great at balancing several plates in the air, for me, it only creates additional stress, and then I lose valuable time where I could have been more productive.
I’ve tried many ways to get things done, from task lists like Todoist to a weekly goal planner in Trello, which would sync with my calendars. Nothing was helping me achieve all the goals I had set for myself. But in my latest search, I came across an old process called “Time Boxing, ” which has completely changed my work-life.
The premise of Time Boxing is simple. You plan out how much time you’d like to focus on a single task without interruption and create a box of time. You then place this box on your calendar or a spreadsheet to visually see your day ahead. You can move the boxes around if your day changes, but as long as you have the task laid out, there’s a better chance of getting it done with realistic time goals attached.
I always made lists for myself, and I loved using Todoist, but I would usually over-plan. Then I’d get busy with other things, and my list would never shorten. That was always disheartening. By planning as to which part of my day, I will focus on a task, I’ve become more productive. You can also label each box with a category to get a bird’s eye view of how you are spending your time. I use “Business Growth,” “Auditions,” “Monthly Clients,” and “Coaching” as a few of my labels. I also use Trello which syncs to my desktop calendar. Here’s an example of my days:
As a voice talent who is basically “on-call” for clients, Time Boxing has served me well during a day with less on-demand bookings. The client comes first, and all the planning in the world won’t change that. But at least, the rest of my days are filled with greater productivity to continue building my business. I hope it can help you too. -Linda