I took an unheard-of 3 weeks off for a North American and Chinese tour in March and cut back my hours to about 30 per week from 85. And the office was closed over Easter and the two British Bank Holidays in May. And then there was Cannes too. Strange what those days and even weeks of downtime have done to my outlook. Being offline for hours and even an entire day at a time has made me realise how few emails are important.
As New Year’s Day approaches I thought I would share my resolutions. This year it isn’t going to be a list of What To Do, it’s going to be 6 Things Filmmakers Should Stop Doing. My plan is to stop doing each of these cold turkey come the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve.
1. Stop Checking My Emails Every Few Minutes
Every productivity expert in the world will tell you to check your emails every 90 minutes rather than do what I do: refresh, refresh, refresh. Problem is, it takes me ages to get anything done because I am always checking my emails. And then answering them.
While I was away in November I would go 2 or even 3 whole days in between emails – and it is really amazing how few emails needed answering immediately. Well, none actually.
Is there really anyone who emails you who can’t e-wait 90 minutes to hear from you? Think of all the extra work you can get done if you restrict yourself to as few as 6 email downloads per day!
2. Breaking Mindless Traditions
A good friend I hadn’t seen in ages emailed me a ‘hello’ a couple weeks ago and asked if I had time for a catch-up coffee or drink. I suggested we meet up at the Raindance Boozin’ N’ Schmoozin’ – our monthly informal networking event. “Damn” he replied, “I’m in the middle of sending out my Christmas cards.”
I’m reflecting on this now and wondering if anyone anywhere in th e world has ever advanced their professional career by sending off a load of expensive Christmas cards. Surely there has to be a better way of letting your professional contacts know you are around and available. How about choosing another holiday for a greeting card? Or better yet, calling up and saying hi, or dropping in for a quick coffee?
These and other business traditions should be re-evaluated to see if they are really bringing in the results you expect them to.
3. Stopping Annoying Subscriptions
I’m a pack rat by nature – literary wise. I’m the easiest mark for any ‘cool’ looking newsletter, magazine or video channel. But while I was away travelling I realised how little time I actually spent reading all this stuff. Worse yet, I realised I had only subscribed in the first place so I wouldn’t miss out on any new trend or topic. And in so doing, was losing the confidence to rely on what I thought would be new or interesting. The stress was causing me to burn out.
I returned from my time away and reduced my subscriptions to the bare essentials. Can you get rid of any?
4. Underpricing Myself
When I started Raindance I pretty much worked for free for the first seven years. I justified this to my family using Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Theory. The problem is, on my recent travels I realised that I have consistently undervalued my time and effort.
I’m not talking about the resources the Raindance team and I give on a daily basis – this is part of the Raindance work and mission. And I am not talking about the generosity of spirit either.
I’m talking about making sure that I get a decent and fair reward for anything I do, be it financial or personal. These days I am turning down any engagement be it private or public unless I think it is worth my time and effort.
5. Overcomplicating The Simple
A colleague I met on my recent travels convinced me that we could work on an iPad app for filmmakers. He suggested that we check in twice a week on Skype to compare notes and ideas and the estimate was that in 8 months we would have an app.
I just hung up after my first Skype call in which I asked 2 very simple questions: have you developed an app before? and, have you any idea what types of apps are selling right now?
The answer to each question was no. To which I asked: ‘You need to find out what types of apps are selling before you make one. There surely must be a way to test the market to see if there is any demand (or not). From this research, it should be relatively easy to see what kind of app to develop.
I reckon I have saved myself at leat 30 hours of pointless Skype conversations by insisting that my partner makes sure we had a realistic chance of success before we each invested all this time into the project.
I guess it’s a basic rule of business: find out what people want, then build it.
Are there any projects you should research and evaluate before you have gone too far?
6.Stop Waiting for Finance
Oh my God! There are so many things I’d like to do if only…
If only I had the finance I would build a new Raindance website, resurrect my visual art career, move to better and bigger premises, produce that script I optioned 3 years ago. Oh my God! The list is endless. And the conversations with my mates about their and my own projects usually degenerate into a lot of chest-beating about how the government agencies won’t finance us.
My self-imposed exile to North America and China forced me to rethink a lot of projects I have been dreaming of, and usually, have put off because I have been blaming a lack of finance.
Not anymore! I am going to pick something in each area that I have been seeking finance for, and I am somehow going to make it happen, money or no money!
Have you such a project?
Getting rid of these 6 things should give me a whole lot more time for the rest of this year. Now the fun part starts. How am I going to spend this extra time? Am I ready to make the move from hobbyist to professional?