Productivity and Time Management for Actors

Updated: Jan 6


Actors typically live very hectic lives. They're often juggling auditions, rehearsals, and performances along with a day job. They also have to set aside time for submissions and self-promotion. All of this can become overwhelming. Especially in our current day and age where we are bombarded with distractions, it can be difficult to know how to manage time wisely.


Here are some tips to help you focus and stay on track to reach your career goals.


1. The Pomodoro Technique

Are you having trouble focusing and carving out the time to practice for auditions or memorize your lines? (Or any other important task, for that matter?) Are you often feeling the pull to procrastinate? Try the Pomodoro Technique. The technique is named "pomodoro" because the word means tomato in Italian, and the creator Francesco Cirillo originally used the technique with a timer shaped like a tomato.


It's quite simple. Here's how it works:

  1. Decide on a single task you want to work on. Set a timer for 25 minutes. Do the task you set for yourself for that 25 minutes. This 25 minute session is called a "pomodoro."

  2. When the timer goes off, take a 5 minute break.

  3. Do 3 more "pomodoros" with 5 minute breaks in between, and after the 4th pomodoro, take a longer break of 15-30 minutes.

  4. If you so wish, repeat steps 1-3.

Yes, this technique seems almost stupidly simple, but it really works! It helps you get over the barrier of procrastination by making your commitment to a task concrete. Once you get over that initial resistance and get started, it's much easier to keep going and do what you need to do.


A few tips to improve your pomodoro sessions:

  • Guard the pomodoro from interruptions and distractions. (I'll talk more about this in a bit.) Turn off any alerts or notifications. Put your phone on "do not disturb" mode.

  • Always use an actual timer. If you just say you'll watch the clock, you'll be less psychologically committed to the task and more prone to distractions.

  • Have a piece of paper on hand. If any distractions or interruptions come up, if you're tempted to check Twitter or something like that, write it down and save it for later. This helps you externalize your distractions so you can set them aside and regain your focus.

  • Experiment with different session lengths. There's nothing magical about the 25 minute session. If you get to the end of the 25 minute session and you're chugging along just fine, you can skip the break and start a new pomodoro. Or on the other hand, if you still feel a strong resistance to a 25 minute session, just shorten it; try 15 minutes instead. You can build up your "focus muscle" over time.

Want to learn more about the Pomodoro Technique? Check out the this helpful video:


2. Put tempting distractions 20 seconds away from you.

You know best what tends to lead you astray and puts you into procrastination mode. Be proactive and move these distractions at least 20 seconds away from you. What does that mean exactly? This can be a matter of putting the items out of sight or in another room. You can impose additional impediments. Turn off your wifi router. Maybe you put the item (your phone, a game controller, the remote control, etc.) in a box with a padlock on it. If you're tempted to browse on your computer, shut it down. This makes it so if you want to use it, you have to wait for it to boot up.


To cut down on the time you waste on social media or mindless internet browsing, consider installing this Chrome extension, called Crackbook Revival. It discourages the use of various websites by delaying your access to them. Just set the delay to 20 seconds. You can program it yourself to block specific domains at certain times.


This "20 Second Rule" can be used to encourage positive, productive behaviors as well. Make the behaviors and tasks you want to do more often easily accessible. Put the book or play you want to read right on the coffee table. Have your script available and close at hand. You can see how you can get creative about this.


To learn more about The 20 Second Rule, check out this video:


3. Use the Rule of 3.

The Rule of 3 is another technique that is very simple, but effective. At the beginning of each day or the night before, decide on the 3 main tasks you want to accomplish that day. As you go about your day, occasionally check in and see if you're on track to complete those three things. You can also pick three things you wan to accomplish for every week.


Your 3 things might be:

  • Finding a new monologue.

  • Submitting yourself for an audition or agent.

  • Memorizing your lines for a scene study class.

Doing this is especially helpful for people that perhaps aren't in school, where they have less structure to keep them in check.


4. Set artificial deadlines.

Deadlines are helpful for keeping us focused and efficient. When we have no choice but to get something done by a certain date or time, we'll make it happen somehow. But sometimes we have goals we want to accomplish, but there is no real deadline for it. Without that deadline, there is no urgency, and we can end up putting off the goal indefinitely. To prevent that from happening, set an artificial deadline and stick to it. Write it down! If the goal involves multiple steps, break it down and set deadlines for each step.


5. Make a "maintenance list."

All of us have everyday life tasks we have to attend to: cooking, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, going to the bank, paying your bills, etc. These mundane tasks can often seem like they're taking up so much of our time, they get in the way of the real things we'd like to accomplish.


Yes, these things must be done, but you can do them more efficiently. Gather all of these to-dos on a "maintenance list" then do them all together on a single "maintenance day." This clears the rest of your days for the tasks you find more valuable and fulfilling. Bundle similar tasks together. This saves time and energy. This goes for any type of task.


Looking for more productivity tips and hacks? Check out the book The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey.


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