Act Smart!: 8 Things You Can Do in 8 Minutes or Less

While Columns of Substance have their place, I also love me some handy tips. And given the response from previous columns like this over the years, I’m not alone. So for the crazy-eight month of August, here are eight things you can do in eight minutes(-ish) or less, that will make a small but cumulatively substantial difference in your life.

1. Call an accountability buddy. I used to get hung up (no pun intended) on phone calls, dreading them for the timesuck they threatened. Fortunately, it finally hit me that (a), neither I nor anyone I’m calling is in junior high anymore, so none of us want to make long (or any!) calls, and (b), most calls you can knock off in fewer than 8 minutes, anyway. In fact, most calls can be made so short, you can fit two of them into those 8 minutes, allowing you to “bookend” with a pal about some heinous task you need to get done. (Bookending = Call before to say you’re going to do the thing; Do the thing; Call back to say you did the thing.) If you don’t have an accountability buddy…

2. Call someone about being your accountability buddy. Or your temporary one. Or spend 8 minutes jotting down names of potential candidates. But seriously: ACCOUNTABILITY BUDDY.

3. Wash and chop one bag of veggies you bought at the grocery store. See also: fruits, large cuts of meat that need reportioning, batch of eggs to be hard-boiled, etc. The money you save in reduced spoilage is my gift to you. Plus you will eat, snack, and rest easier.

4. Transcribe a scene for 8 minutes. There is something about writing things down that burns them into the brain more efficiently than mere reading, watching, or speaking aloud. When I really need to get off book on a difficult passage, I will write it out. And writers are known to copy whole passages of other writers they admire, in order to get the feel of their idol’s writing in their bones. (For more on that, see this piece on copywork.) Writing out the work of a great screenplay, film, TV episodic, webisode, or play will help attune you to the rhythms of great dialogue.

5. Memorize your lines. I used to be able to cram all kinds of lines in my head, all at once. Or at least, I think I did. Whether that’s true or not for then, it’s not true now. However, I have found that I can get the lines for my webseries down if I do it in small chunks, rather than one big-mama session.

6. Meditate for 8 minutes. First, I got all hung up on not knowing how to meditate, so I never started. Then, after getting trained in a formal (but practical) type of mediation, I got hung up on doing it perfectly, which meant 20 minutes, twice daily…which eventually meant “never.” Now, I give myself 10 minutes or even less to meditate. And just doing this little bit of slowing down once daily makes a difference. (I can tell because after months of doing it regularly, I’ve missed two days in a row, and have been noticeably off-kilter.) You can set a timer, close your eyes, and just follow your breath for 8 minutes, or you can find a nice guided meditation on YouTube or an app like Insight Timer. (Bonus with the latter: you will usually be meditating along with a worldwide “community” of meditators—somehow, this helps!)

7. ¡DANCE BREAK! I’ve recently acquired a dancing buddy, a platonic male friend who loves nothing more than getting out to hear live music at venues where cutting a rug is also encouraged. While moving to live music with other live humans is awesome, taking a break in my own little flat and rocking out to a short playlist is an incredible boost to my spirits. And as a performer, doing anything that reminds me I’m not just Brain-on-a-Stick is a good idea.

8. Spend 8 minutes ordering yourself the Book of the Month: The Book of Qualities is J. Ruth Gendler’s deceptively simple masterpiece on the human condition. Through a series of descriptive “personality profiles” of basic human tendencies, Gendler gets at the truth of what makes us tick. If you are an actor who wants to understand your own emotions, what better way than to have them come to life as actual (albeit imagined) human beings with their own foibles, quirks, and curious outlooks? All that, and delightful illustrations, too!