Help for Actors: How to Get Things Done and Stay Organized

Tuesday, 14 October 2014 13:21

By Rhonda Musak, acting coach

Dear Organizing Guru,
Help, I'm an actor! Which means that between auditions, rehearsals, shoots, performances, classes and coachings – along with the actual running of my acting business – I am out of breath constantly as I try to stay on top of everything. Oh, and let me not fail to mention that I also work a support job (or two) and I have a family and friends with whom I love to spend time...and then there's laundry and grocery shopping and working out and...and...and... Please send help!
Chaotically yours,
Desperately Disorganized in Dramaland

PS Did I say I also write and create my own work?

If you could've written the above, then take a deep breath because this is for you.

I certainly could've written something like it a couple of months ago. In the world of acting, the ability to stay organized around a gargantuan amount of things has always been required. In addition, an actor has to be adept at navigating a myriad of acting business trends that are in constant flux.

I started noticing that the organizing methods that I had depended on for so long were not getting the job done anymore. Each day, time would run out before I was able to handle all my critical open items. My projects were in the process of screeching to a standstill. And I noticed that I had less time and energy to do things that required deep focus and flow (like writing articles for this blog).

I was incredibly frustrated. I wasn't sure what was going on, but I definitely was not having the proverbial "fun" on the journey. I have always considered myself responsible and dependable and yet small things were falling through the cracks—and some big and important ones, too. That's when I decided to check out David Allen's book Getting Things Done.

Getting Things Done or GTD is much more than just a book filled with useful tips and tricks, it is a map and a treasure chest rolled up into one. It's also the first book I've read on the topic of organizing that stresses that a simple to-do list no longer gets it done. (Thank you!) Through technology as well as personal and societal expectations, life keeps getting more and more complicated and Mr. Allen teaches a system that addresses life in all of its complexities.

One of the key concepts that I have begun to apply is the idea and practice of capturing in writing all of my thoughts. Have you ever walked down the street and thought that you needed to make an appointment at the dentist? Two hours later you're pouring yourself a cup of coffee and again this thought occurs to you. The next day you have the very same thought.

Mr. Allen points out that using our brain as a low-level reminder system is an extremely poor use of such a high level piece of equipment.

So in practical use, as soon as I hear the thought "I need to make an appointment with the dentist," I will write it down in the form of – and this is key, too – the very next action I need to take. For example, I may very well need to make an appointment at the dentist, but I want to go to my friend's dentist and I don't have her dentist's phone number. So the action that goes on my list is to call my friend for the number.

The same goes for creative ideas. As soon as I have an idea for, let's say, an app I'd like to create for Art & Soul Acting, I will write the idea down on an open projects list. But then on a separate list, I will write down the very next action I need to take. I know nothing about creating apps, but suppose an acquaintance does. My very next action then would be to make an appointment to talk to my acquaintance about everything that will go into creating an app.

Creating an app is overwhelming, but the very next step, making an appointment, is very easily accomplished. And it's also something that I can do when I'm out and about and find that I have a few spare minutes to...get things done.

Our sophisticated brain works best when there is "nothing" going on in it. It becomes much more creative when it's not busy remembering an endless list of things to do. But if we don't take the time to create a system that we can trust in (such as the capturing and action defining described above), our brain will take the job back of being a low-level reminder system. It is much better to use our brain as the creative and complex thinking tool that it is.

I have just started implementing the GTD system and I am already experiencing a huge difference in the flow of my days. Through this methodology I know where I stand at any given moment on all of my projects and I know the very next steps that I need to take on each of them. And this is only a small part of GTD. As I implement more of this phenomenal system, I will look forward to sharing my progress.

I invite you to join me on this journey! Read Getting Things Done by David Allen and keep me posted on your implementation. I'd love to report on your progress as well.


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