One of the most effective strategies I have in running my small business is “clocking in” for things. I compartmentalize. Because I’m balancing writing with touring and coaching with casting and public speaking with producing, the ability to clock in for bursts of time on very specific tasks is not only a time-saver, it’s an empire-builder.

Let’s say I’m an actor who also wants to create content and who has a survival job slinging drinks at a club. Here’s how the clocking in thing plays out: It’s not just the hours you’re *at* the club that I’m talking about. Sometimes you’re obsessing over that thing your boss said or the tip that regular shorted you or that shift you thought you had covered but turns out you don’t. You’re “clocking in” for that survival job when it’s officially “run my actor business” time.

Stop that.

The monkey mind has its purpose, for sure. There are great ways to involve that chattery side of your brilliant brain in your creative career. But more often than not, you let stress over your survival job encroach upon your acting life. Or you may never get that script written (much less shot) because you’re fixated on that agent meeting that went poorly or the CD workshop refund you cannot get because some jayhole is breaking the law.

Whatever it is that’s showing up outside of its assigned time, there’s a way to train it back into its allocated energetic space: Clock in for it.

The words I actually use, when I’m working on the specifics of an upcoming speaking gig at a college and my brain wants to obsess about ANYTHING ELSE are these: “I’m not clocked in for that right now.”

I visualize an old-fashioned factory assembly-line punch-clock with timecards on a rack nearby. I specifically see myself grabbing a timecard, looking at it, noticing I’m not yet clocked in for whatever it is that’s grabbing my attention, and I put the card back in its slot so it can hang out there ’til it’s my time to clock in for it.

One of my glorious masterminders actually has a SIGN she places over her home office workspace. It’s one of those OPEN/CLOSED signs that hangs in a mom-and-pop shop window. White background, red lettering, on a string connected to a nail in the wall over her desk. One side says OPEN and the other side says CLOSED.

This brilliant woman will not let herself sit down at her computer, check email from a gadget as a workaround, clock in AT ALL for this profitable desk job she runs from her home until she has officially declared the business OPEN for the day.

Here’s the best part.

She decides on a “clock out” moment, every day. It varies, of course, because anyone who’s also running a thriving acting career knows that we can’t get über-specific about what our schedule looks like with too much predictability. But if on a day when she has declared 4pm as the “clock out” time for her at-home survival job so she can “clock in” for writing the scene she wants to shoot for her demo reel, it’s done.

The sign is flipped over to CLOSED, the email account is *logged out* (and never checked on the gadget), and she’s sitting somewhere else with her laptop (maybe even at a coffee shop) to bang out the pages for her scene.

Uh-oh… monkey mind starts up. It’s begging her to deal with an admin bit of nonsense that honestly could wait ’til tomorrow but it just won’t stop nagging. Won’t stop. Won’t stop. Won’t stop. She has tried the “I’m not clocked in for that right now” line and visualization but it’s just not working.

Okay, fine. She now must CHOOSE to go over to the sign, flip it to OPEN, officially clock back in for the work, then do it mindfully. Not by stealing time away from what she “should” be doing, not by sneaking a quick moment on a smartphone to answer just one email, not by doing anything that allows the monkey mind to say, “Ahhh… I know how to WIN!”

She says, “Okay. Let’s do this.” And she does it. And when she’s done, the sign flips back over and she is again clocked out.

I do this when my monkey mind wakes me up at night. It wants to write a column, to make a casting list, to work on a client’s pitch package for tomorrow’s coaching session, whatever. Clearly, it’s not gonna let me sleep. And when, “I’m not clocked in for that right now” doesn’t work, I physically get out of bed (I have a “no screens in the bedroom” policy, so there’s no way I pick up a phone and answer a quick email while horizontal), go to my desk, CLOCK IN, and get the job done.

Try this!

You will be amazed at how efficient such compartmentalization creates for you, whether you’re running a small business from home, working a survival job elsewhere, or building an empire for your creative career (or all of the above, at once). Clock in. Clock out. Stick to it. Ninja on!

Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

Originally published by Actors Access at Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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