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Colleenby Colleen Wainwright | The Communicatrix

10 new things you can do with a few spare minutes

Everyone gets a little lazy come summertime. Here’s a handful of ways you can stay tuned up while the weather is screaming “hiatus!”.

1 minute reviewing the prime directives

Everyone has goals. (If you don’t, stop right now and clear some time on your calendar to come up with some, then read this and this.) Not everyone has their goals readily available for review, and fewer people than that actually review them. I take a few minutes every night to review my own “prime directives”, but I also have sticky notes strategically placed around my home, which I change up every once in a while. Bringing your conscious attention to what it is that you want can help you do the things you must to achieve them. Occasionally, it can also halt the downward spiral into less productive activities.

3 minutes re-recording your outgoing voicemail message

Because it’s the first way many people encounter you. Because it’s 2012 andmost people are still recording messages like it’s the first time anyone ever encountered one. Because from my highly unscientific research, 99.999% of messages are too long, too boring, or contain unnecessary directives to me on what sort of day I should have. Here’s what people want when they call: to know they’ve gotten the right number. Everything else is superfluous.

5 minutes taking a break

If you teach yoga on the side or are highly evolved, never mind: you’re probably already doing this. If not, get up from your chair right now, breathe deeply three times and stretch. If you’re already standing, breathe deeply three times, then bend and stretch. If you finish those things, feel free to get yourself a glass of water or relieve yourself of last hour’s glass of water or whatever. This is one of those foundational things like “take a brief, brisk walk around the block” that I’m usually blowing off, and that I always feel better when I do. In fact, I just did it: BOOM. Feel much better.

9 minutes throwing out 9 things

In life, as in acting, hanging onto stuff is death. To be fully available in the scene, we have to be able to let go, to be free to experience what’s actually happening right now. Letting go of anything is practice, but since it’s harder to release old notions and prejudices than it is broken salad spinners and orphan socks, start with physical objects. Or digital ones. Bonus-extra: a cleaner house/hard drive! This and this are my two favorite books on decluttering. Here’s an even bigger list, along with other recommendations for good/useful/fun books (I read far more books than I review and recommend.)

10 minutes playing an instrument 

Music is a great sneaky-sideways, read-a-book-about-kayaking way to get better at acting. You’re practicing all of the things you have to do when you act—focusing, letting go, patience, persistence, listening, etc.—but since you’re not engaging in your primary goal, all that attendant crazy doesn’t get in the way quite as much. If you don’t play an instrument and don’t feel like starting, try singing along to or just listening to music with your full attention for 10 minutes. Art moves through us in more ways than one!

15 minutes equipping your smart phone

You kids with your iPhones and Androids have no idea what it was like back in the Stone Ages of Thomas Guides and AAA maps. Set up your smartphone to do things that are actually smart, like: setting up standing timers in various configurations for parking meters (I love the Due app for iPhone); making note of the parking regulations at the casting offices you visit most frequently; loading podcasts, lectures, and other “talky” stuff to listen to while you’re getting to appointments; loading a playlist of meditation files or whatever else puts you in a relaxed and ready state before auditions; and so on. (And if you’ve come up with any good phone hacks, please let me know!)

18 minutes brain dumping

A brain full of cruft is an artistically-impaired brain. This exercise from The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron’s venerable manual on excavating your inner artist, helps clear out space. Done regularly over time, it facilitates almost miraculous creative growth and self-understanding. And on wide-rule paper, three handwritten pages done as recommended—stream-of-consciousness style, without stopping—need not take longer than six or so minutes per page.

20 minutes napping

If you had told me 10 years ago that I would ever put “napping” on any list of Productive Things to Do, I’d have laughed for 20 minutes. Age has done what the fine efforts of others could not; I am a convert. 20 minutes napping gives me hours more of usable time. And “napping” can also mean “resting”, “resting with magazine”, lying down and listening to music, or, I’m guessing, meditating. (I am not quite there yet.)

25 minutes coming up with better questions.

Chances are, you’re attending screenings with cast and/or crew Q&As afterward. Even if you’re not, life regularly throws you in the path of people who know more than you do about something, and whom you’re in a position to ask questions of. So have good ones prepared. If you know you’re going to some shindig that some interesting person is attending, start reading up on them. Research previous interviews with them to see what they have and haven’t been asked. Find out what their interests are. Read up on interviewing in general, so you know what constitutes a good question.

30 minutes doing any of the items from previous issues.

No, seriously—there are another 30 things you can do, gathered herehere, and here.

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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.