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Working from home – a blessing and a curse,… isn’t it?

Guest blog post by Lisa Costello

I couldn’t have said this better… Voice Talent, Audio Engineer, and Mom, Lisa Costello, sheds light on the elephant in the room. We’ve already BEEN working from home for years and voice talent sure can tell you, how wonderful and how challenging it is… On one hand – sweat pants! On the other – distractions, noise or feelings of isolation.

The pandemic has turned what was once a luxury into a necessity. If you’re used to working at an office or on a team, this was a huge shift. But for some of us this was not a shock at all. As a professional voice actor (and mom), I’ve been working from home and balancing that lifestyle for over a decade. It’s been a while since most of us have had to start doing this. And I wonder how many of us have perfected the productive week. (eyeroll)… no one! We all struggle. Most notably with time management and focus.

After dropping off the kiddo at school, I used to wander the house – do laundry, dishes, water the garden. Anything but work. And before I knew it, school was out and I had to switch to mom mode. I wasn’t getting a lot done to say the least! But over the years, I’ve come up with a few tricks to make sure I actually get things done. After all, as a full time WFH voice actor, no one is following up with me, no meetings or reports. Just me, myself and I….and the bills, they have to get paid.

Not born with a lot of self discipline – I much rather play outside all day than stare at a computer or be in a booth. Don’t get me wrong, I dig what I do. I just love to get out and move. Like a lot of folks, I find time management and especially focus difficult; not impossible but a challenge.

Here are some great tactics that work for me:

Starting the day

Movement is key in the morning. I’ll start with light yoga and stretching. Three mornings a week I’m up with the roosters to get in a swim! You should try it – it’s a great way to start the day! Ha! Seriously, though, create a routine that feels relaxing and revitalizing to you. When establishing this, it’s helpful to attach a new habit to an existing habit. For example, brush your teeth then immediately go stretch, or meditate, write, dance…whatever you like to do that is calming and promotes focus.

I always put on ‘work’ clothes – basically it’s just a teeny step up from pajamas but I’m not in my pajamas! Then I warm up my voice and check my list for today’s tasks. I like to schedule voice work and do auditions in the morning. I tend to fade by mid afternoon, so I avoid it if I can.

Google Keep helps me stay organized. I have several lists – subcategories of goals to be reached. For example, Business Development, Coaching, Marketing and both of my accountability groups. I pull from those to form what I would like to do that day. This happens the evening before so I know exactly what I need to do – no time for putzing.

Set up a space

As VO, we need a great booth. But what about the other 80% of the time when you are editing or doing marketing or admin.? Get comfortable and hang up happy things! Pictures, plants, bobbleheads…whatever. Make the space yours. Or get out to a cafe or library to shake things up a bit sometimes.

Set hours

This is important. Having a work day or work hours requires discipline to stay within those boundaries. You are not fiddling about the house (like I have!) doing random household stuff.

Stay focused on work in those work hours; because you need time off! You need to recharge and not blur the line between work and the rest of your life. Maybe you have kids and need to work a split shift – some hours in the morning while they’re at school and some in the evening when they’re in bed. Whatever you gotta do. It gives structure and routine to the day.

Take breaks

Every hour or so, I get up. Sometimes I do a little stretch or exercise but mostly I walk outside and sit in the garden and stare. I just space out and practice being present – what sounds do I hear? What do I smell? Some days this is easier to do than others but always helpful.

If you can’t get out because it’s still cold out or you just don’t have outdoor space, I recommend finding a comfortable spot in a different room (hopefully there’s sun – so kick your cat out and sit there!) Or, if you have a bit more time, go for a walk!! DON’T go on social media!

Time your Social Media

Yes as freelancers we need social media to promote our business, stay relevant and informed and create a bit of community. However, I do have a 20 min. limit for certain apps. LinkedIn is the only one I will spend more time on as it helps build professional relationships and keeps me from watching old ‘Golden Girls’ clips. God, I love Rose…don’t you miss her?!?! ahh…ok… see?!? Distractions! ha!

And lastly….the most impactful by far….find an…

Accountability group!

This fulfills two needs – “peeps time” and motivation. I have two accountability groups – one for my VO business and one for creative projects. I can’t tell you how invaluable this has been. Not only am I reaching my goals but I have an amazing group of people I can rely on for resources, encouragement and laughs. None of this is happening at lightning speed but hey, slow and steady, right?! Both of these groups meet weekly – no excuses!

In the end, be kind to yourself. Working from home is not easy – and if you’re freelancing, even more so. Take each day as it comes and celebrate the small victories and wins. Some days you’ll rock it and others – meh. Such is life.

Lisa Costello – Voice Talent. Audio Engineer. Telling You Like It Is.

Lisa says…

✸ Milli,GenX
I’m someone who can appeal to those who remember analog, 45’s and getting up to change the channel…. and those who don’t. No matter the brand or product you have to build a relationship with your buyer or audience. You need a read that can speak to both of these sets of folks with confidence and conviction as well as a dose of playfulness and spark.

 Midwest raised, CA grown
My brain was fully formed by the time I left Chicago for California but, being here as long as I have, this incredible place has certainly become a part of my psyche. I give your script authenticity whether it’s serious or silly and I can add an edgy, laid-back touch to your story or brand.

✸ Voice Actor, Audio Engineer
With decades of experience in the studio and on stage, I can assure quality and reliability in recording and editing. I’m more comfortable behind a soldering iron than a curling iron and very often need to be dragged out of the record store.  My love of singing, the story of song, has helped shaped my sense of telling a concise and compelling story. I understand how the voice is a part of a larger picture. Audio can stand alone and create a rich visual texture in our imagination or it can support a visual on screen making it a more visceral experience.

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3 Comments

  1. Joshua Alexander

    All good counsel to stay focused and be productive. Thanks Lisa! I have to say I chuckled when you said “WFH Voice Actor”….I don’t know why but I accidentally read that as “WTF Voice Actor.” HA! 🙂 About sums it up as well…UNLESS we stay organized and focused, as you’ve counseled. Thanks for a great guest post!

    Reply
    • Lisa Costello

      Thanks, Joshua! That means lot coming from a blogging master! And yeah, well sometimes I DO feel like a WTF voice actor! haha!

      Reply
  2. Craig c Williams

    Great guest blog! And x10 on the social media time thing! It can become a real time suck if you don’t regulate it.

    Reply

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