An Actor's Guide To Procrastination: How To Make The Most Of Your Time
Ah, hello 7.30am! You came around a bit too quickly for my liking, you little rascal you. Spring out of bed. Pop on Chris Evans on Radio 2. (Aaaand I’ve turned into my Dad.) Jump in the shower. Make some porridge. My Friday morning is already looking as fresh as an Activia advert. Grab my laptop and head to my local coffee shop for 9a.m. That way, I feel like a proper 9 to 5er. (Even though I won’t stay until 5. I’m not a masochist.) Open my laptop, ready to write an “An Actor’s Guide to Procrastination…”
…That was two hours ago and I’ve written absolutely nothing, but at least I know what everyone has been doing thanks to Instagram.
It’s ironic that I’m writing a blog post about how to avoid procrastinating, because I am the absolute queen of it. If I dedicated as much time to reading that book I got in 2011 on Stanislavski as I did to stalking Holly Willoughby and what she wore at The NTA’s, Emma Stone would be quaking in her La La Land boots. But Em, relax love. Looks like I won’t be overtaking you just yet.
So, do you think you have what it takes to qualify as a true procrastinator?
- Do you make to-do-lists so long, they’ll make you want to cry?
- Do you run out of time despite having had an entire day off?
- Do you have a ‘cheeky scroll’ on social media whenever you get the chance?
If you answered yes, read on. If you answered no, call me. I need you.
Lately, I have been drastically trying to improve my time management skills to avoid this awful procrastination habit I’ve found myself in, and actually, the little changes I’ve been making are proving to have quite a positive effect. So, I wanted to share them with my fellow team mates. Use as you wish.
Plan the week ahead
My partner (who is not an actor) is such a planner. The other day he asked me what I was doing the third weekend in May. MAY. Mate, I don’t even know what I’m doing this weekend, let alone in bloody May. As we all know, in this industry, it’s rather tricky to plan certain things, as we never know what’s around the corner. However, there are little things we can do to try and keep on top of our unreliable-all-over-the-place-shit-what-day-is-it schedules.
According to scientific studies - well, TED Talks - the best time to be proactive and plan your week ahead is on a Friday afternoon. So, make a to-do list of 3 things you want to do the following week. Only 3 things, kids! Don’t even think about writing any more, because before you know it, you’ll be breaking out in a self-employed sweat, wondering how you’re going to begin your brand new sparkly life, in just one week. Be realistic.
Make the most of your journeys
When I think of all the time I’ve spent on public transport, I shudder to think what I could have accomplished by now. I could have learnt a language. I could have read novel after novel. Oh well. At least I know how everyone on Facebook is getting on.
What I should do on public transport.
- Listen to Podcasts: One of my favourites is Honest Actors. Each episode features an established actor being interviewed and being…well, brutally honest. A personal favourite of mine is an interview with Denise Gough. Listening to it was like a hug.
- The Brain Training Podcast: A daily test takes just 5 minutes and without sounding too much like an 85-year-old, they’re just little memory games to keep things ticking over. It’s easy to feel out of the habit of learning if you’ve not had any lines to remember for a while.
- Listen to a Radio Drama: Use your imagination. Get your creative juices flowing. Who ever knew you could find yourself in a bank robbery in Shanghai whilst travelling through Clapham Junction?
What I actually do on public transport.
Quickly reply to my BFF WhatsApp thread. Oh, good, 104 messages. I’ll just scroll through and see what I’ve missed…oh, Marie’s boyfriend Casper just got a role in Silent Witness. Wonderful. Oh, and there’s a dog playing a guitar. That reminds me of Jen. I’ll just have a quick look at her Instagram and see how she’s getting on…Oh, Jen’s in Australia. There she is, on a beach. With the caption: #Mondays. Well, I instantly feel a bit depressed. Clearly using a Juno filter. The sea can’t be that blue. We’re not idiots Jen, I mean - Oh, we’re here. The 22-minute commute is over. Ah well. At least I know that a dog can skilfully play a guitar. And that Jen’s enjoying Mondays in Australia. And I’m not in Australia. Or Silent Witness.
Take full advantage of your journeys. Use them as escapism, or as a way to learn something new, rather than comparing yourself to everyone’s else’s (filtered) lives.
Have a routine
This sounds simple, but it’s not. Especially when you’re freelance. This sort of thing takes months/years of practice to accomplish. And this, my friends, is where your inner Miss Trunchbull needs to be unleashed. Accept that things will crop up and change your plans/routine, because that’s just what happens in this industry, but be strict when you can by sticking to the following when possible:
- Getting up at a certain (early) time every day
- Don’t stay in your PJs (Sounds simple but when you don’t need to leave the house, it’s easily done)
- Use alarms to help you stick to tasks
- Only check your phone in breaks
- Get outside more (in terms of going for a walk/run. I’m not having a pop at your social life!)
It’s normal to feel lost without a routine. When you wake up and haven’t got a reason to be in an office for 9a.m., why can’t you just have a lie in? It’s so easy to feel like nothing’s happening and everyone’s much busier than you, but you’re not going to feel any better by lying in bed. Get up, get yourself into a routine and take some control. #ToughLove
Do the last thing you want to do, first
My to-do-list is a joke. I’ve got “shower” on there. Not because I need reminding, but because it’s guaranteed to be quickly ticked off. Think about what you’ve got to do next week and prioritise.
- Which one of those tasks will push you forward the most?
- Which one can wait until the following week?
- Which one is going to make you feel instantly productive?
Write to that director to tell them how much you enjoyed their show. The one you were meant to contact two years ago and never got round to doing so. They won’t mind. Book into that acting class that you intended to go to last month. You’ll feel good just for booking it. Sometimes, it’s just the action of doing these things that benefit us, never mind the outcome of them.
The things that I put off are very often the most important tasks. But if you get them done first, then nothing else will seem quite as bad. Grit your teeth, dig deep and just do it. Delaying it will just prolong the torture. When I had to do my tax return, I polished my blinds. MY BLINDS. I mean, who does that? People who need to do their tax return, that’s who.
I’m really good at this one. Make time to treat yourself during your working day. Just like you would if you had a normal scheduled lunch break. I’m not talking a bottle of Prosecco with lunch (well, whatever floats your boat but a flat white usually does me). In this time, do whatever your heart desires. Scroll social media, people watch, reply to your WhatsApp threads. Procrastinate as much as you bleedin’ well want.
Being your own boss can be brilliant. But like anything, it has its disadvantages too. We don’t have a boss to give us a verbal warning if we’re not pulling our socks up or to simply tell us “good job” when we’ve worked hard. And sometimes, that’s all we need to hear. Because even though we might not have anything to physically show for what we’ve been doing, we have had the mental strength to keep pursuing something that can sometimes feel like more hassle than it’s worth. If you can grasp the art of being that anchor of encouragement for yourself, you can call upon it whenever you need to. So, you reward you. Don’t go mad, we’re trying to sort our lives out here but even just an hour a day can keep the bad vibes away.
I was meant to post this a few days ago but life just gets in the way. And by life, I mean I took a photo of my laptop next to my flat white for Twitter, you know, just to show everyone that I’m busy, but then couldn’t think of a witty enough caption, so abandoned that mission. And then my wardrobe needed organising. And then the bathroom needed cleaning. And then I had to write down all of my 8 song choices for Desert Island Discs, just in case Kirsty Young ever feels like asking me.
Happy March, Team.
Katie Redford is an actress & writer originally from Nottingham, now based in London. She recently won BBC Comedy Writersroom and has also just joined the cast of Radio 4's The Archers. When she's not in work, you can find her in the soft play centre in Epsom where she takes the children she nannies for, so she doesn't have to do any actual work.