Multitasking is Not the Answer: Productivity Hacks For Busy Actors
It’s time for me to come clean.
The rumors you’ve heard are true.
I am a double dipper.
Now before you uninvite me to your birthday party, let me explain.
I am not some kind of monster who returns a tortilla chip into the communal salsa after taking a bite. The double dipping I’m referring to is in regards to my time-management style.
Hip millennial that I am, I spent most of my weekend arranging Post-it notes around my room in a series of goal setting exercises. I set up a giant makeshift calendar on the floor so I could set about the task of scheduling my weekly routine. (You can tell I’m quite a hit at parties.)
It’s a back-to-school ritual of mine that has stayed with me long after graduation day. The problem I was trying to solve this year was the same one I’ve been dealing with most of my adult life:
There aren’t enough hours in the day.
It’s a platitude that used to drive me crazy. Over the years I’ve dealt with this truth with denial, bargaining, and anger, but never acceptance. Because, let’s face it, scarcity is scary.
But as I fell asleep last night, amidst the wreckage of washable markers and note cards, I realized that my relationship with time has shifted subtly but crucially over the past year.
And that shift began when I accepted that multitasking isn’t the answer.
(Stay with me, multitaskers! I know you’re probably doing Pilates while reading this blog, but capsize your boat pose for a minute and focus in with me.)
If you asked me a year ago, I would have proudly self-identified as an EXCELLENT multitasker.
I loved multitasking.
It felt like I’d discovered Hermione’s time-turner the first time I realized I could eat lunch and answer emails at the same time.
Suddenly there were 32 hours in each day!
I’d done it! I’d cracked the code!
Except…I slowly realized that the benefits and enjoyment of each activity were greatly diminished by the multitasking. Watching a movie with my boyfriend while updating my website didn’t really count as “quality time with boyfriend” and the work on my website took twice as long since I was distracted.
As a multitasker I saved very little time. I didn’t add more hours to my day—I just made the hours I actually had less enjoyable.
Worst time-turner ever.
Then, I discovered the joys of double dipping.
On the surface, double dipping looks a lot like multitasking. It involves looking at your list of goals, and seeing which you can combine.
The difference is:
You’re only allowed to combine complimentary activities.
Allow me to illustrate with an example from this past weekend.
After my goal setting blitz on Saturday, I took a look at some of my wellness goals for this fall.
Among those goals were:
Spend more time outside
Move body daily
I thought about how I could get that done on Sunday.
10:00-10:30 Subway to gym
11:30-12:00 Shower and take subway to restaurant
12:00-1:30 Lunch with friends
1:30-1:45 Walk to park
1:45-2:30 Sit on park bench and answer emails
2:30-3:15 Subway home
Time spent outside: 1 hr
Time spent nurturing friendships: 1.5 hrs
Time moving body: 1.25 hrs
Time spent on subway: 1.5 hrs
Then, there was option 2.
10:00-10:30 Subway to meet friends at Central Park
10:30-12:30 Go for walk and catch up
12:30-1:00 Stop for picnic lunch
1:00-2:00 Walk some more. (Possibly skip.)
2:00-2:45 Subway home
2:45-3:00 Answer emails
Time spent outside: 3.5 hrs
Time spent nurturing friendships: 3.5 hrs
Time spent moving body: 3 hrs
Time spent on subway: 1.25 hrs
Option 2 was more satisfying, cheaper, and left me 15 extra minutes to start writing this blog.
Now, how is this different from multitasking again?
Double dipping is a strategy where you combine activities that enhance each other rather than distract from each other.
Watching a movie with my boyfriend is not improved by attempting to simultaneously update my website.
Going for a walk in the park, however, is vastly improved by the company of good friends.
So, where in your life can you double dip?
Really think about it, because it may require some creativity.
Multitasking is a hack. In 2018, it’s often habitual and unconscious. Double dipping is a strategy, and, as such, it requires a bit more conscious thought.
The biggest double dip of my life was starting my rep coaching business, Audition Rep Matchmaker back in 2013.
(Let me give you the briefest of origin stories for context.)
Like all great love-stories (from 1990s romantic-comedies) my romance with audition rep started with a bet…
In 2013, I made a New Year’s resolution to read a new play or listen to a new musical every day for a year. Knowing that public accountability is a powerful motivator, I decided to post my discovery on Facebook each day.
I never anticipated the following that began to grow around my daily posts. What started as an actor’s personal-improvement project, quickly turned into a promising business opportunity as other actors began approaching me for rep recommendations.
That’s when it struck me that the hours that I was already spending reading plays and listening to musicals could actually help me pay the rent between acting jobs.
Suddenly, the 40 hrs a week I spent waitressing/temping/babysitting were off the big Post-it note calendar. And each hour spent researching rep for my clients was an hour spent researching rep for myself. My artistic and financial goals complemented each other for the first time.
Best time-turner ever.
Now, I’m not saying you have to quit your job. But I’m certain there are smaller ways you can flip the script and get your double dip on.
Want to listen to more musicals and cook more? Make a Broadway cooking playlist on Spotify.
Want to build your special skills list and exercise more? Skip the treadmill and try a tap class.
Want to spend more time with friends and read more plays? Start a living room play-reading series.
Life is too short.
Put that metaphorical tortilla chip back into the black bean dip of life and enjoy.
Sara Glancy is an NYC actor and the founder of Audition Rep Matchmaker, a service that helps match actors with the audition materials that will book them jobs. She last wrote for Onstage Blog about how not to be a jerk in the audition holding room.
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