Daylight savings time is upon us. Not the fun 'bonus hour of sleep' daylight savings, but the 'where did that hour go?' daylight savings. After the promise of resolutions and new beginnings that come with the first few months of the year, here we are in March and it's easy to find ourselves running into creative blocks and falling into old patterns. Here are some small changes that I've found made a big difference in my creative output.
Use the morning to focus on the creative
Since coming across this article on Lifehacker, I started to take inventory of how I schedule my creative time. There seems to be a lot of evidence to support the theory that the most productive time for creative work is first thing in the morning since creative activity is highest immediately after sleep. Beyond the obvious positives of focusing on creative work while we are most creative, we also have the strongest will power at the start of the day, a resource that depletes slowly as the day goes on. Setting aside a large block of uninterrupted creative time first thing may help you push through any creative blocks, possibly even resulting in knocking out a disproportionally large part of your workload.
Place markers in your session to delineate your daily goals
Whether it be an episode of television, a short film or a month-long feature gig, every project has a deadline. Divide the total project run time by the number of days you have until completion to figure out just how much editorial you need to knock out on a daily basis. The key here is to place markers in your session for every day's completion point, giving you a concrete finish line. Without these markers, a day's work can very quickly become nebulous, causing you to fall behind. It's always better to end the day knowing you are on track (or even ahead of schedule) than to discover with only a few days left that you are devastatingly behind.
Allow yourself to take breaks
Have you ever worked for an hour or two only to find you've basically accomplished nothing? I firmly believe that without taking breaks, the mind finds ways to compensate by simply faking it for a while. Creative work is extremely demanding and we need to give ourselves a moment to recharge in between heavier sections of our workload. For some, the discipline to take a break without being thrown completely off track comes easy, but for those who need a little boost, there are regiments like the Pomodoro Technique (named after a tomato shaped kitchen timer) to help us stay on track while treating ourselves to those essential breaks.
Create a visual reward system for yourself
With some effects-heavy projects, making our way through a 30 second chunk of work can truly be a big accomplishment. It helps to see those results. Glancing at a pro tools timeline, it's often hard to grasp how much work is truly finished. I like to use the guide track I import with the video as a visual representation of my progress throughout the day. I'll start by breaking up the region into heavy and lighter sections of my daily workflow and as I complete a section, I will mute that chunk of the region. Similar to the concept of using markers to budget my time on an overall project, this not only lets me know if I'm on track for the day, it also gives me a little pat on the back to see each of these regions go dark as I move toward my daily goal.
Take a nap
Hitting a wall? Take a nap. Resting breaks are just for those who work from home. Even in-house sound editors are lucky in that most jobs require individual offices to accommodate the racket we all make. I have found that just a 20 minute power nap makes a world of a difference and I'm certainly not alone. A quick google search shows that it's apparently all the rage. It certainly beats falling asleep at your desk or staring blankly at your computer screen for an hour. If you're not comfortable napping in the workplace, I suggest making meditation a part of your daily work routine. It's something you can do in your car away from your coworkers and even short intervals can be enough to help energize and hyper-focus the latter part of your day.
Staring at an empty Pro Tools timeline can be intimidating. It is the post audio equivalent of a blank page; just you, staring down the cursor as it waits impatiently for you to impart your creative brilliance. In television animation we typically post an episode every two weeks, so this isn't a rare challenge. New episode, new picture, new blank slate. If you're like me and need that extra boost now and then, try some of these solutions to help you push through the daylight savings funk to keep your creativity on track.
What methods do you use to help you stay on track and creative throughout the work day? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.
Feature image by Imanuel Pasaka