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Colleenby Colleen Wainwright | The Communicatrix

Few things feel better than hitting the ground running. Use a little of your holiday time wisely, and you’ll be the one ho-ho-ho-ing come January 1st.

While I’m on a March-1st start to my own new year, I understand that most normal humans like to use the turn of the actual calendar year to set their goals, resolutions, and good intentions for the next 12 months. (Strength in numbers, maybe.)

Here are a few ways you can use this quiet time in the Industry to help ensure a more fantastic new year ahead.

Line up group support now
If I could pick just one thing moving forward that I knew would keep me moving forward, it would be my master mind group. There’s something about working through your goals with a small, carefully selected panel of like-minded peers that’s intensely motivating. Part of it is the power of those three or four extra perspectives; part of it, sadly, is the accountability factor. We’re just less willing to fail in front of others than we are to fail ourselves. But having been in a group for a few years now, I think there’s also an element of magic to it. The members of my own master mind group all work hard, but the level of achievement each of us has made as part of the group has vastly outstripped what we believed possible even with hard work.

The original “instructions” for putting together a master mind group are outlined in Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, available as a free PDF download, but as the language is somewhat archaic and the instructions rather sparse and opaque, you may have better luck finding something via Google. Another way to go is to use Barbara Sher’s Wishcraft (also available as a free PDF download, although I liked her book enough to buy a hard copy). She calls her version “Success Team,” which is arguably even cornier, but she provides excellent, detailed instructions both on coming up with good goals and selecting a good group.

Buy three calendars
Yes, you heard me: three. Or if you can bear up under the ugly, get one of those massive, dry-erase production-style wall calendars that let you see a bunch of months at a glance.

This does not replace having a good paper or electronic calendar to actually hold your appointments and map out things like vacations, shoots, birthdays, and recurring events (I like Google Calendars for this); having three calendars in your regular workspace keeps you very grounded in actual time and space. One tells you where you are, and the other two, on either side, give you context. I’m such a maniac/convert to this that two years ago, I convinced my favorite calendar artist and store to create a three-pack, and then wrote a post about it. (I make zero dollars from this, but gain infinite happiness.)

Gather your 2011 paperwork (and refine the system for 2012)
Sure, taxes aren’t due until April 15 of next year. But gathering what you can in at least a semi-organized fashion now will help you to get everything filed in a timely fashion.

At the end of each calendar year, I label individual manila envelopes for holding various categories of tax necessities: reimbursable expenses, check stubs (with agent info attached), cash receipts, credit card statements, etc. The general rule follows Einstein’s directive to keep things as simple as possible, but no simpler. My excellent tax preparers, whom I’ve been using for over 10 years now, have a handy, comprehensive list of stuff to gather, along with a worksheet outlining actor-related expenses. I’d rather be boiled in oil than do my own taxes, but even if you don’t hire a pro, their lists will help you do your own. (And if you do want to use a pro, I can’t recommend David Rogers and his team highly enough—tell ’em Colleen sent you!)

Oh—and about those goals…
I’ve done so many columns about goal-setting, I’m not going to rehash details here. Instead, I’ll (yet again) plug my very favorite book on the topic, Your Best Year Yet—seriously, if raising over $60,000 in 50 days doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will—and point you toward the past several years’ worth of installments.

Have a safe and happy holiday season, and I’ll see you on the other side!

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BOOK(s) OF THE MONTH: With multiple demands on your attention (not to mention the stress of family gatherings, crowded stores, and Mass Holiday Fever), this time of the year can be tricky for reading. My suggestion is not to stop, but to adapt: enjoy a collection of engrossing (no pun intended!) interviews with actors and other artists; pick up a  book of short stories; or re-read an old inspiring or engrossing favorite you haven’t picked up in a while. Just don’t give up—reading makes you smarter and keeps you saner!

Want more ideas? Sign up for my (free) newsletter! Almost every month I send out useful (and specific, and nice) information about how to promote yourself without being a tool, and connect with people in a way that makes them love you. It’s not about acting explicitly, but since you’re a smart actor, that shouldn’t scare you.

Colleen Wainwright is a writerspeaker-layabout who started calling herself “the communicatrix” when she hit three hyphens. She spent a decade writing commercials and another decade acting in them for cash money. Now she uses her powers for good instead of evil by helping creatives learn how to strut their stuff in a way that makes the world fall madly in love with them.