May 6, 2021 / CPOVs
A Producer’s Path to Productivity
Lauren Lukacsko, Broadcast Producer and Creative Services Manager
Working from home, from a confined space without distraction forces you to take a serious look at not only what you do but how you do it.
When I’m surrounded by people in an office, or at a cafe or even bar my normal working spaces⏤I know I have my quirks. I like sitting on the floor. I like working at kitchen and bar tables when everyone else is done and socializing for the evening. I like listening to music through my headphones and I like taking coffee walks, a lot of coffee walks.
These are things I like and that is all I thought they were, until all the other distractions⏤people working around me, meetings to go to, life’s white noise⏤stopped.
At the beginning of the quarantine I actually felt relief. All of a sudden projects that before were blowing up dwindled to mere blips. I had needed a break and this was it. Thank heaven.
But when you are a person who likes being busy, needs to be busy, the break gets old. Work was slowly building back up – productions needed bids, our editors were getting busier; with the burgeoning of some normalcy on the work front I thought my productivity would follow suit.
It did not.
I tried waking up, making my coffee, reading a bit…. Doing all those things I used to do to prep for the day before quarantine, just this time instead of heading to an external workspace I plopped myself on my couch or kitchen table.
I’m normally a fast and motivated worker. I love work. So when an estimate that would take me maybe thirty minutes to pull together took me two hours; when timesheets were taking me double the time; when I simply did not care about anything I worked on… I was frustrated to say the least. Not unlike plenty of my coworkers during this time, I found myself sitting staring at my computer for over twelve hours “working” with limited efficiency and outputting maybe half of what I used to accomplish in half a day.
Twyla Tharp, a renowned choreography, wrote a book called the Creative Habit where she outlined how to deal with creative roadblocks: determine the problem, determine the assumptions about the problem, challenge the assumptions, act on that challenge.
When I read this book months before I read it as an artist⏤which is my side gig. In my head this thinking did not apply to my work as a producer. Sure I’m a creative thinker and sure I work at a creative agency with creative people, but I wasn’t a “creative”⏤who was I to have the luxury of a creative process?
But when I looked harder at my “problem”⏤my inability to get to work with my usual rigger⏤it hit me that the denial of being someone with a creative process was the assumption I needed to challenge. And maybe all those things I called quirks⏤working around noise and people, sitting on the floor, all my coffee breaks, my music⏤were not just things I enjoyed doing but necessary parts of my productivity.
And like someone craving sweets who realizes that endulging actually helped them get past the craving, I let myself do what my gut wanted.
I can take upwards of twenty minutes to find the right album, the right song. A distraction, an avoidance of getting to work⏤I thought. But no. When I allowed myself to “find the vibe” I realized it was like taking extra time to make sure your shoes are tied just right⏤you’ll run faster in the long run. All of a sudden my mood began to improve.
It’s a common understanding that you should not watch tv or movies while you work. And yet since high school I have found that if I put on a movie while working on a paper or my math homework, I actually was able to work better. As I moved through college and then into the real world⏤this moved from movies to real life scenes: cafe’s, bars, a noisy office. I need the distraction to distract me from over thinking⏤I need to feel productive when some other type of “life” was going on. I needed something to drown out. And so when the music stopped working I turned on a movie and amazingly was able to get through whatever it was I couldn’t quite figure out. I found this only works with movies though. TV shows are too distracting unless I’ve seen them a 1000 times.
Changing the Environment
I’ve always liked working in a variety of places depending on what I was doing. At work no one knows where my desk is because I never sit there, or at least not for long. At home this isn’t much different – Im constantly shifting from working on the floor, to the bed, the couch, the kitchen table, kitchen counter, etc. This Ive always known and never thought much of. But when you are stuck in a single space and have a need to be in different spaces, the only logical solution is to change the space. I would be in the middle of sorting through production needs on an upcoming job and get stuck. Even though my notes were due the next morning, I found that stopping and re-arranging my apartment, doing my dishes, sorting through my closet… and all of sudden with a place that looked different, I would see different problems with my production prep and my notes become stronger.
I’m a procrastinator. Always have been. In college I’d start a research paper the night before it was due. I would also do very well on the paper, so no need to change my process (although the stress I could probably do without). And of course⏤we are told we are not supposed to procrastinate. But during quarantine, I found that I would naturally pool my work and do only what I needed to do when I needed to do it⏤often waiting until I had enough work to truly keep me busy. I figured there must be something about this stress I not only liked but needed in order to work. Now the trick is to procrastinate earlier to avoid this stress boiling over which unfortunately happens far too often. But first step is acceptance right?
Bottom line, the way I work is a process and now I’ve accepted it as a creative process no matter what the output is. And it is these quirks that may often seem unrelated or even counter intuitive to productivity that often make us the strongest, that are often essential to good work.