Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Maintain your focus (and life/work balance)!

One of the perks of working in the voiceover industry is the flexibility to work from your home at the hours you wish. As gas prices climb, rush hour approaches and the rain (or snow, or hail) falls outside your window, you can sit back with a cup of tea and wish all of those commuters well! With that being said, it's very easy to end your day and wonder how you managed to squander away that much time. It's also very easy to realize that the sun has set hours ago and you're still sitting at your computer working! Thankfully, we've brought you our tips to ensure you make the most of your day (and still get to sleep at a reasonable hour).

Set up a designated work area: Office, closet, corner of a quiet room, etc. It's much easier to focus on work if you create a dedicated space for a home office that's free from distractions and provides you with all the tools of your trade close by and easily accessible. It's even suggested that you close the door (if you have one) to your working area. This indicates to anyone sharing your living space that you are unavailable and it also creates a more serious atmosphere for yourself. Think about it, how easy is it to get distracted by noises outside of your working area if the door is open? Before you know it you're venturing outside of the room and getting sidetracked! It is also a good way to separate your work and personal lives. That way, when you enter your designated work area, you know consciously what you’re there to do: go to work. It changes the state of mind from “I’m at home” to “I’m at my job”. It also makes it much easier to "wind down" from your day once you leave that designated space.

Set regular hours, and stick to a regular schedule (as much as possible): Obviously if you have a client that needs a project right away, you would divert away from this plan. However, in general, you should try to keep established hours for doing your normal daily tasks (marketing, networking, auditioning, etc.) and plan out your to-do list accordingly. This leads us to our next tip…

Make yourself a daily task list, and stick with it: Try to make three lists of threes. The first list contains three things that you WILL do today, the second list is three things that you WANT to get done today (but aren't essential), and the final list is three things that are long-term goals. Your long-term goals on your third daily list should be ones that you want to focus on that day, if you get through the first two lists. It's also a great idea to have an ongoing task list where you can pull ideas from to create your daily task list.

Reserve time at the end of your schedule to plan for the next day: 15 minutes should be plenty. In this time you'll want to make your daily task list for the next day, organize and file any paperwork you accumulated from your day, review your task list from the day and make sure you completed (at least) the three things in your "must do" category. Also, take the time to complete any other miscellaneous tasks to get your office/desk area organized for the next day (cleaning your desk falls into this category).

Find your best working hours: Does a train pass your house every day at the same time? Do you have jets flying overhead each morning? Is your toddler waking up at the same time every day? These are all things that are distractions and you should try to schedule your work day to be outside of these distractions. You should plan your day around your tasks accordingly. Make business calls during business hours, record auditions when your voice is at it's best, etc. You should fit in your other tasks (social media, blog writing, building your contact list, and more) around these time-centric tasks. Lastly, you also want to take your energy level into account. If you are an early riser, start your day early. Night owl? Go into the wee hours of the night. Whatever works best with your schedule!

Keep your desk and/or work area tidy: This helps keep your mind focused and on-task. With nobody around to hold you accountable for your tidiness, those piles of papers can quickly stack up until suddenly a client calls looking for a contract they asked you to sign and you can't find it. You tear apart the room finding the contract and before you know it your desk looks like the Tasmanian devil ripped through! Now you MUST clean your desk and it'll take you so much longer than it would have to just stay organized to begin with.

Be prepared to take notes as needed: Whether you choose a Word document or a good old fashioned paper and pencil, you need to be prepared to write things down as needed. Thoughts can enter your mind very sporadically throughout your day. For instance, you may get a great idea for a blog topic in the middle of editing an audition. You should be prepared to write down this idea (and any thoughts that go along with the main idea) for future reference without interrupting your train of thought on your current focus. These notes can be used to compile ideas for your third list of three (the "long-term goals" list) down the road! This can also be applied "after hours". If a great idea comes to you outside of your normal hours, write down a note and put it on your desk, do not go back to work once you've finished!

Give yourself breaks: Just because you work from the comforts of home doesn't mean you should be locked in a room all day long. For every 2-3 hours that you work, plan on taking a short 10-15 minute break. This gives your mind time to settle and refocus. It's a great way to improve the quality of your work!

Expect the unexpected: Inevitably, no matter how much planning one does, something can and will come up to put an unexpected dent in your productivity. The best you can do is to try to plan for these events by leaving yourself a small amount of leeway in your day. Worst case scenario is that you have zero distractions, in which case you can just tackle your long-term goals on list three.

Maximize your time (both professional and personal) by thinking outside the box: If you take an hour lunch break and are eating at home, you can easily do household chores (laundry, dishes, etc.) as you make your lunch. You can also (depending on your area) go to the local store to pick up anything you need for the day on your lunch break. Doctor's visits should be scheduled outside of your "working hours", as they can run over an expected time allotment. Alternatively, you should work your appointment into your day when planning out your schedule.

Don't lose your social skills: It's very easy when you are working isolated from the outside world to start to feel a bit secluded. Make sure you're getting plenty of social time so your work day doesn't feel so lonely. Go to the local coffee shop to work for a few hours, schedule a lunch date with a friend, participate in social networking events after hours, get in a quick workout on your lunch break, etc.

Although we look at working from home as a treat, it is still work. Use our guidelines to make the most of your workday and still have time to relax and enjoy your personal life without feeling guilty about having a less-than-productive day at "the office".

Written by:
Bethany Baker
Such A Voice Marketing Director

1 comment:

  1. hey this is a terrific post! lots of great advice.
    As voiceover becomes more and more an "at home" business, I find the to-do list, recreated fresh for each day at the end of the previous one, especially helpful. Also good to assign a time to each set of tasks if possible. Then hope for the best!
    Randye Kaye VO