Act Smart! Good Tools for a Great Career: Two things I’m taking into 2016

bloggy_2016-01-goodreads-2015-1024x430Back in December, I was privileged to give a seminar for Casting Networks at the SAG Conservatory. I say “privileged” because not only is being asked to share my experience always an honor, but because the surest way to really learn something is to teach it to someone else. I won’t give a recap (I think Lindsay has that covered), but in the spirit of passing things on, I do want to share the essence of what I talked about in the context of what I took from 2015, and what I’m taking forward into 2016.

1. Doing more of what works

In my talk, I shared 12 things that helped me stay on track over the past 12 months:

  1. Make bed daily
  2. Get to bed early
  3. Measure what matters
  4. Write down every penny
  5. Create more time awareness
  6. Thing-a-day projects
  7. Committing to 10 minutes per day for dreaded tasks/new habits
  8. Decluttering
  9. Saying “yes” to excursions with friends
  10. Dressing up
  11. Meditating
  12. Getting support around changes

Some were things I’ve been doing for some time (making my bed every day, measuring my steps with a Fitbit, decluttering); a few were brand new to me that year (getting to bed early, dressing up for work, writing down every penny I spend). When I adopt new habits one at a time, it’s easier for me to see what’s really working for me. And over time, they add up, and build on each other.

Most of these are pretty basic practices, applicable to all sorts of more meaningful and specific goals. Hopefully, it’s easy to see how the same list of practices would apply to performing-related goals as they do the non-performing-related ones I’m currently focused on. Committing to a thing-a-day project, doing so in small increments, and surrounding yourself with needed support will work just as well to help you get a webseries launched or a musical made. The list of 12 things is a list of actions and activities designed to support spiritually determined and aligned goals. In the parlance of Your Best Year Yet, they are the some of the actions that will help carry you toward’s your heart’s desire (unless your heart’s desire is a made bed, in which case, BOOM, you’re done!)

2. Doing less of what doesn’t

I did not share the tankers of 2015 in my talk, but one of my chief disappointments of last year was that my reading dropped off quite a bit. For the first time in five years, I finished fewer books than I’d set out to read in the beginning of the year. (This may not be a Thing for you, but for a woman who loves books, who hopes to write books, and mainly, who gets great pleasure as well as growth from reading books, this is a serious Thing.)

However, rather than getting too fixated on how far behind or ahead I was getting with my book count, I tried to pay attention to what was happening as I was reading: was I enjoying it? Was I getting something out of it—recreation, information, inspiration—or was I just checking boxes? As one who has checked a LOT of boxes in her day, I know I have a tendency to go on autopilot with these things. Then, at the end of the year, I find myself with a list of books, most of which I didn’t really care about or enjoy, but was reading to finish.

The result is that this year, I may not have hit my 52-mark, but I have come to the unshakeable realization that my reading slows to a crawl (or stop) if I’m reading stuff that doesn’t interest me (or pay me). That means that in 2016, I will not only finish fewer books I dislike, but I will discard them sooner—immediately, even! (It also means that I may need to look at my binge-watching patterns, which, between Netflix and Amazon Prime, have slowly crept out of control. But that is a topic for another column.)

While it’s great to learn what is and isn’t working, it’s even better to learn it in a way that empowers me, rather than making me feel worse about myself. By learning to “just” look, I sidestep the kind of harsh self-judgment that can yield powerful short-term results, but with far-reaching damage.

If you have uncovered any knowledge that you’re taking forward into the new year, please let me know. And regardless, here’s hoping that 2016 turns out to be YOUR best year yet!

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BOOK OF THE MONTH: Speaking of reading more great books, I’m (way) late to this party, but if you’re even later, pick up a copy of The Fault In Our Stars immediately. (Promise? Okay, how about if I promise to binge-watch the movie and give a recap on how it measures up against the book?) Beautiful character delineation and wonderful story aside, I think it cannot help but inspire and inform to see how such potentially awful subject matter (not-really-a-spoiler-alert: CANCER BOOK!) manages to entertain, uplift, and move you without ever becoming maudlin. As someone who too often played the “idea” of a character rather than the essential truth of her, I was blown away. Heck, as a writer and a human I was blown away.