timer work

timer work

hey friends,

this morning I was getting my teeth cleaned and the cleaner lady (dental hygienist?) asked me whats new? I told her about finishing up CERTIFIED and UPDATING PAIGE (now on youtube) she asked, “you have a day job right?”

“yeah that’s right.”

“so you work all day, then go home and work for you?”


“well that’s what you have to do if you want to get ahead and stop working for someone else.”

I’m guessing I’m not the only person she sees that’s doing something similar…being Los Angeles and all. actually, if I remember correctly, her daughter is a struggling actress.

the reason that I work during the day, then spend my nights and weekends working shouldn’t be that surprising to anyone that reads my blog. I’m a filmmaker. I write and I direct, and I want to do that full time.

but how do I manage the finite amount of time between 6pm and sleep? how do I split that between chores, errands, relaxation, friends, reading, writing, editing, and all the other parts of filmmaking?

back in college I had my first serious test of time management. I was taking a pretty heavy load of classes and was determined to make it through my first year w/ a 4.0 GPA (spoiler alert…I did). to do this I had to read..a LOT.

now I don’t know about you, but after about 30 minutes of reading about psychology or The Federal Papers, my mind starts to go to mush. I’m still reading the words, but I’m not retaining any of it. it’s like when you are driving home from work and all of a sudden you’re there…and don’t remember any of the drive. but the whole point of reading an assigned book is to remember and comprehend – so when this happens there’s a problem.

my solution was to work on a project for 20 minutes, then switch to something else for 20 minutes, and so on. this allowed me to keep my comprehension level would stay high the entire time. it also made the volume of work less daunting. “only 20 minutes” sounds better than “60 pages.”

for 20 minutes I’d do schoolwork, then I’d take a break and do something else for 20 minutes, then back to school work and so on.

when I moved from freelance to full-time I had a similar time crunch. being gainfully employed was great… but I wasn’t trying to be an online editor for ever. I needed to keep working on my own projects if I wanted to continue advancing in my career.

I remembered the timer. and I started to use it again. 20 minutes chores, 20 minutes coverage and script submissions, 20 minutes video games, 20 minutes logging footage, 20 minutes dinner, 20 minutes emails…and so on.

but I found that I couldn’t really write CREATIVELY in 20 minutes. just as I was getting set up and had cleared my head – the timer would ring. the same was true for editing. I’d load up the project, watch it, think about it – start to make a few cuts and the timer would ring.

I’d found the breaking point where the system was no longer effective. modification was in order. I changed the way that I employed the timer, using it for little things: chores, emails, logging clips, reading coverage, etc. I’d work on these until ALL the little distractions were done. or at least, to the point of no longer being distracting. then I could spend an hour or two being focused creative work. sometimes it’s screen writing. sometimes it’s editing. sometimes I’m just brainstorming and writing notes.

this mode has been working pretty good for the last few years. I’m not sure how useful it will be when I no longer have a fixed 8am-6pm commitment, but for the time being I’m going to stick with it.

anyone else have productivity tricks they like to employ? carrots & sticks they use on themselves to meet goals?


  • josh forbes
    Posted at 15:57h, 31 March Reply

    Procrastination, self loathing and then bursts of slave-like brain barfing. Your system sounds better.

    • Luke
      Posted at 05:57h, 01 April Reply

      haha, well can’t say it produces better results…but it’s different at least =)

  • Liisa
    Posted at 05:48h, 02 April Reply

    I thought teaching was going to leave me with plenty of time for creativity (summers, at least, right?) but it turns out it is a huge brain-suck. Seven years in, I am trying to figure out how to harness my creativity again. Nights. For maybe half an hour at a time. Oh well.

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