By Paula Rizzo
We are all creatures of habit. Once we get used to doing something a certain way or using a particular product, it can be very difficult to change. Routine is good for our productivity, but it can be burden if you’ve latched onto some bad habits. Here’s how to get out of them quickly.
1. Don’t multitask.
Instead, try focusing on one thing at a time.
Multitasking can often make us feel as though we’re getting more done, which is what makes it so difficult to stop. In reality, though, when your focus is spread over so many activities, it's a lot harder to concentrate. You probably won’t save any time, and the quality of your work will be greatly diminished. I do recommend grouping like tasks together, such as paying bills, but try to focus on the individual task at hand until it's complete.
2. Don't procrastinate.
Instead, try creating fake deadlines and rewarding yourself for meeting them.
I’m a master procrastinator. It’s probably my worst habit. In fact, as I was writing this paragraph, I checked my email two times and took a few swipes through Facebook. To counteract my natural inclination to put things off, I give everything a deadline.
For bigger projects that already have a deadline. I break those down into smaller chunks, each with their own mini-deadline. I also like to give myself little rewards, like a snack or a call with a friend, to stay motivated.
3. Don't obsess over email.
Instead, try checking your email only once an hour.
Emails are a huge source of distraction in the workplace. Especially as we’ve created an almost compulsive need to check our inboxes every five minutes. (I just did it a few seconds ago!) Remember almost every email can wait — nothing is that urgent!
Set a timer to help you space out the time between emails and close out the window until it’s time to check. For more ways to get your inbox under control, check out my course Take Back Your Inbox: Stop Drowning in Unread Messages, Respond Quicker and Finally Achieve Inbox Zero.
4. Don’t stress yourself out.
Instead, try to give yourself time to work it out.
When the pressure is on, the obvious first move is to dive right in. However, you shouldn’t be afraid to take a moment and come up with a plan first. Rushing can lead to missing vital information and overlooking simpler methods or opportunities to outsource.
5. Don’t say yes automatically.
Instead, try to consider your options.
Saying yes is probably the easiest part of any task, but when you actually have to carry it out you might regret your eagerness to agree. Before you say yes to something, think about what the task entails. If you feel like you’re saying yes because you have to, you'll end up feeling overbooked and underappreciated.
6. Don't overdo it.
Instead, try being kind to yourself.
We all know someone who boasts about all the projects they currently have or how they only slept for three hours because they’re “so busy.” They may seem like they’re on their way to big things, but they’re going to burn out pretty quickly.
Don’t feel guilty for taking the occasional break, or sleeping your seven to eight hours. The way you treat yourself can have a huge impact on your work. I decided to take the entire month of December off from networking events because I couldn’t bear to introduce myself one more time! Try taking something off your plate — it feels so good to be nice to yourself.
""""One of the most mortifying moments I experienced in my theatrical career was when I was asked to bring the entirely African-American cast of a new musical we were workshopping, a new piece by an African-American librettist and composer, across the street to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and up into the plush boardroom so they could perform a song or two for the board of directors. I wanted to say something, but I didn't. For one thing, it would take an invaluable 45 minutes to an hour out of the creative team's limited time together. But... every year we had to do the same old song and dance for the board to remind them that yes, we did do new plays and musicals, so yes, it was sometimes a good idea to expose the board to new voices, to the vibrancy of an exciting work in progress.
You all know where this is going, don't you? I led the team in. The talent in that team! The writer/composer himself and the cast, lauded veterans of the stage and the most promising members of the next generation of acting giants. And there was our board. White, as white as can be, white white white white. And very comfortable. They'd just been served lunch, I believe. My theater spared no expense in pleasing our board and catering to their demands (oh my god, I'm feeling such rage right now! I'm pretty sure we had a staff member who was mostly dedicated to help our richest board members get house seats to shows on Broadway and the West End. But I digress...)
The only black face in the audience seated at the conference table? The only person of color? The head of our education department, of course. My heart went out to her.
The cast sang a song from the show. They did it. And they brought it. Because they were and are professionals. And the very pillars of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion reverberated down to the parking lot. It was breathtaking.
And I had just been complicit in the remaking of a scene for the millionth time: black bodies and voices entertaining white audiences, an institution raising money on the backs and voices of black bodies.
I was too mortified to apologize to our writer and to our cast, none of whom, I should add, expressed even an iota of discomfort. They were professionals, and they shone. And come to think of it, they'd probably all become accustomed to this scene. "It's just how theater works," they might have thought with a shrug of their shoulders. Or maybe they seethed inside, for the millionth time, when all they were trying to do is workshop a new musical.
Well, I apologize sincerely now to our writer and those actors. I wish I had had the courage to put my foot down. It is not how theater should work.
I quit the American theater on Valentine's Day 2016, so I've been out more than four years now. And honestly I don't plan to return, which is why I can write with such candor.
The heart of the problem, my friends, is with the non-profit structure, which is capitalism on steroids. Who are the bosses ultimately in an American institutional theater? The board of directors. Who are the board of directors? For the most part, those members of the community not with the strongest attachment to the art form but those with the deepest pockets. Often they're really not members of the community. They often just drop in. They are sometimes mere tourists.
It's no wonder that that board meeting was held in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The theater, like most American theaters, had built its board of directors on the old opera model: You get the richest folks together, offer them galas and house seats and receptions and private recitals and showings (for which artists often don't get paid extra, mind you), you pamper them and make them feel more special and entitled than they already do, and then they'll write you big checks to support the kind of art they like, the kind of art they can bring their kids and grandkids to. AND they--not the artists, not the community--get to hire the institution's leadership.
It is a rotten model. Rotten to the core. How can any artistic institution claim to be working for and in the community with that model?
It's got to be torn down. It's got to be reinvented. And I have no idea what the next model will be. I really don't. And no, honestly I don't think government is the solution frankly. Some of the most bloated, self-satisfied, decadent theater I've ever seen was in Germany, where it was almost fully government-funded. Lots of bells and whistles and provocations and completely soul-dead.
I see amazing and galvanizing lists of demands recently being made and posted by theater artists of color. These are vital demands. But they don't address the central issue. As long as the ultimate bosses of an artistic institution remain the community's deepest pockets, nothing will change. Nothing. You'll be putting band-aids on a gaping wound. Sorry, but it's true.
So please figure something else out. Maybe for a few years you just avoid the institutions. You've already started. In the pandemic, so many of you are making amazing art without an institution. Find those who truly adore your work and ask them to fund it. Screw non-profit. Form a corporation and value your art art-making as a resource that profits you, your viewers/audience and your community. I have no idea.
But please don't return to a new version of the old. After the virus, after he's out of office, after police reform and nationwide conversations about race, after, after, after, begin something new. I can't wait to see what it is!”
Words: Pier Carlo Talenti
Video: Griffin Matthews
April Yvette Thompson