1) Scheduling time

This sounds obvious but putting important tasks into your calendar and making your peers (and partner) aware of those commitments is important. I maintain a calendar for the project and it’s visible on my personal devices as well as the teams website. I put in there any meetings I have with team members, and the odd milestone. I probably should schedule key tasks too but I must admit I still tend to respond to priorities so it’s just a window of time that I know I’ll be working on what ever is at the top of my list. Often that means I don’t get what I needed done. That’s one problem… but at least I never miss a meeting, or a social event with my wife, and so on. But beyond that I can look at my calendar on multiple devices and get a clear picture of how much time I have to work on the film.

2) Talk to peers

Its cathartic to talk to other peers, particularly the ones working with similar problems. In my case animated filmmakers working on indie short films online. It’s a niche… and that’s important… we understand each other’s challenges. Sometimes we can help each other out with tips, sometimes it’s just good to vent and realize you’re not the only one struggling with certain issues.

3) Feedback from peers

Getting feedback is key, but choosing when to get it and from whom is an art in itself. It takes years to get a good circle of talent you feel good about getting feedback from, then you have to make sure that when you ask you have given them room to do their thing… too early and they might break your project with a bad note, too late and they might not be able to see a way to help you without causing you too much work. Of course some people will not know when to say what type of feedback, the worst offenders are actually people outside of the industry as they don’t know what it takes and often misjudge what level of feedback to give. In early stages you often want someone with a strong critical eye and plenty of experience you can trust to give you the right level of feedback… and that’s really hard to find. Later on, as the film becomes clearer and settles into a solid path, you can ask for feedback from less experienced people that are more like an audience member and they might spot something you haven’t but it’s up to you to interpret the note.

4) Take a walk

Sometimes I realize I’m not being productive, usually late afternoon. It’s easy to get distracted and if you’re trying to be purely creative everything that comes out is mush. It’s fine if you’re already in your flow, working on something that’s already had the main creative elements laid down and you’re just following the blue-print. The trouble is in many work environments it’s not easy to get away from your screen, but try… it is well worth it. I try to get out for a walk if I can, and whether I’m thinking about something completely different on that walk, or considering solutions for what I’m working on, the result is very often a sharper mind with less pent up frustration. What ever time I spent on the walk is more than made up for with more productivity on the task after that walk.

5) Closing the door on the cat

Sorry kitty, but my keyboard is not a good place to sit. She loves to sit by the ALT key waiting to claw or bite me. That can be an extra challenge in Maya!

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