I've entirely overhauled my working process and it's been transformative, but the major casualty has been this blog.
If you work in the arts - I'm sure it's true in other fields too - it's expected that you'll answer any email that comes in, day or night, more-or-less immediately. I've lost count of the number of times I've received something late morning asking for an URGENT response by 4pm the same day. This is usually a deadline that could have been predicted much further in advance. But because of these occasional alarms we've all learned to be tethered to our inboxes, just in case.
Having been in rehearsals is an acceptable excuse for leaving something a few days but no longer. Having been in Edinburgh for the Festival is tolerable only because everyone else is there failing to reply to email. Having a script to write or a show to imagine: absolutely not. It would be easy to forget that this last part is my actual job, not answering emails. At various times over the past few years I've become convinced that my real job is answering emails, and making art is a hobby I squeeze into the gaps.
Not any more. I've been in more-or-less full-time rehearsal since early September, and I have a show to write and a major project to design. I also have the kids all day Monday, and when Sarah's in full-time rehearsals, as she is now, all day Tuesday too. My working days are precious, and they're for making my work.
Here's a list of things I no longer do during the working day:
- answer emails
- write funding applications
- write copy
- update websites
- anything to do with budgets
- and you know, all that sort of thing
The kids are asleep by shortly after 7pm. I tidy up the mess from dinner, clear up the kitchen, and sit down for an hour or two to do admin.
I'm convinced it has made me more efficient with my time.
I can focus on 1-2 tasks maximum, plus a bit of inbox maintenance. I don't have time to so much as glance at twitter, and I don't want to, because as soon as I'm finished the task to my satisfaction, I can read a book. In the past couple of weeks I've got round to doing some things I've been putting off since June or July.
If I watch a show or have a phone call or something, it eats into this time. The week before last I was in tech, so it was gone entirely. But that's no different to usual when opening a show.
It's not for everyone. Some people simply don't want to work in the evening: I get it - until September this year I was one of you. And some people already work in the evening. And some people are unable to work in the evening. This is also get, again for similar reasons.
The key thing, though, is putting tasks in boxes that appear too small. Work expands to fill the time available. Even if you don't finish something, it's amazing how much headway you can make with it in two hours.
More to the point, my days are free to do my actual job.
Maybe at some point I'll migrate these evening sessions back into the daytime. Late afternoon maybe. A 3pm deadline for creative work in order to do the other stuff. But for the time being, there's just too much to do by day, and I'm enjoying it all the more for having a clear head.
Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will