Episode 227 — How to Get Things Done



This is for anyone who wants to get more done in their day or who deals with the frustrations of having a demanding job and family — and not having enough energy to get it all done. What happens when you have side projects, or if you’re working in a different industry and want to change to another career? Building a reel and looking for work takes time and energy; and a lot of the time, we don’t have any energy left by the end of the day.

This Podcast offers some hacks and techniques, to get more stuff done in your day! Allan takes a look at how you can plan your day, how to deal with failure — and offers some fail proof systems to have in place.



[04:55] Inspiration for this Podcast
[06:48] Becoming Aware of Your Biorythms
[11:49] Finding and Implementing Your Catalysts
[14:41] Making a Plan for Each Day
[17:25] Identifying What Could Go Wrong
[20:46] The Hardest Part of the Task — is Starting It
[25:52] Conclusion



Welcome to Episode 227! This is an open letter response to someone at Weta who emailed me about getting a lot more done in his day and the frustrations with having a demanding job and family — and not having enough energy to get it all done. Here is my response on how to get the bigger wins and to accomplish it all!

[02:09] Weta is one of those places that can be demanding in terms of time and level of output. It’s one of the top studios in the world and the quality of the work they do is amazing! But what happens when you want to do more: when you have other side projects you want to do or if you’re working in a different industry and want to change into something else. Building a reel and looking for work takes time and energy; and a lot of the time we don’t have any energy left by the end of the day. I want to talk about some of the hacks and techniques you could do — to get more done. I also want to take a look at how I plan my day and my outlook on things; how I deal with failure and some of the systems I have in place that have withstood the test of time. This is an Episode we all can find valuable.

[03:27] I recently met up with one of my students in LA who has been listening to this Podcast. He applied everything he learned in this Podcast to land his first job. I couldn’t be more proud! There are people who are actually applying what they learn here — and they’re succeeding. I wouldn’t have the success I have in my career if I didn’t apply what I’ve learned. So please share this Episode with others and join my Inner Circle List at www.allanmckay.com/inside/.

Let’s dive in!



[01:03] Have you ever sent in your reel and wondered why you didn’t get the callback or what the reason was you didn’t get the job? Over the past 20 years of working for studios like ILM, Blur Studio, Ubisoft, I’ve built hundreds of teams and hired hundreds of artists — and reviewed thousands of reels! That’s why I decided to write The Ultimate Demo Reel Guide from the perspective of someone who actually does the hiring. You can get this book for free right now at www.allanmckay.com/myreel!

[04:32] If you want the template for how I organize my day, check out my Inner Circle at: www.allanmckay.com/inside. It’s a free mailing list where I share a lot of resources and tutorials. The content is exclusive to only those who are in the Circle because I want to reward those who take action.

[29:07] One of the biggest problems we face as artists is figuring out how much we’re worth. I’ve put together a website. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com! This is a chance for you to put in your level of experience, your discipline, your location — and it will give you an accurate idea what you and everyone else in your discipline should be charging. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com!


[04:55] I got an email from a senior digital artist at Weta. One of the key things he’s been working for sometime is a course that he wants to put out online. He’s been listening to my Podcast and applying the information. But now, he wants to do more: He wants to publish the course and share the knowledge and experience he’s learned over the course of his career. The problem is — he works at Weta: A big studio that creates amazing stuff but has high expectations! Day to day, it will take a lot out of you. Not to mention, this artist has a family as well. It’s tricky to put all of that into a bucket: After working a 10-hour day, coming home to spend time with the family and only then sitting down to work on this project (while being completely drained).

[05:59] For a lot of us, this is a common thing. It happens quite a lot! We want to do so much! Or some of us may be looking for a different career and we need to build a demo reel before getting to that point. But how do you do that when you’re drained by the end of the day and all you want to do is just relax? I definitely get that way as well. It’s so rare that I can get anything done at the end of a long day.


[06:48] But I am very in tune with where my energy goes. The critical thing is that the things that are most important I tackle in the beginning of the day, before all the craziness happens: emails, calls, family. If I can do the one thing that’s most important to me in the beginning of the day — I’m going to feel fulfilled [for the rest of the day]. That way, I can give my attention to anyone else who needs it after I’m done with my task; and I can feel good about anything I want to do at the end of the day. [07:46] If you have big goals and there are things you want to do but you feel frustrated about not getting to them, it’s time to pay attention to WHY. It’s time to pay attention to where your energy levels are. Sometimes, it’s not in the beginning of the day or the middle of the day. There are times when you are in the zone. Sometimes, running around and answering people’s questions puts you into a forced scenario and you can leverage that. There are times, you need to take that lunch break to do something for yourself because you’re already in motion. Other times, you find out that you’re a night owl. I am definitely a morning person. I like the idea of getting everything done before anyone else starts. For me it’s always mornings: I get up at 5:00 a.m. when I don’t feel the pressure from anyone else. I stretch, go into my sauna, hop into an ice bath, do a small workout and then do some creative writing that I want to do before it’s time to switch into work mode. I am not allowing all the distractions happen.

[10:44] It’s about having those horse blinkers: Ways to focus on just what’s important for you and not for anyone else. It doesn’t always have to do with distractions. It has to do with energy. So look at where your energy goes. If you’re overwhelmed at the end of the day, put your energy in the beginning of the day. You put so much focus on that thing [that you need to do] that it’s going to be in the back of your mind. That way, anytime you’re doing something, that thing is still going to resonate with you. Everything will start tying back to that. It’s an easy answer, in a way. But it’s about paying attention to where your biorhythms are; where your energies are throughout the day.


[11:49] And sometimes, you need those catalysts. You need those things that allow other things to work. I’ve mentioned that I do a stretch, a sauna and an ice bath in the morning. What if it’s the reverse? What if I want to have a cold shower every day but it’s too cold. Currently I’m in the Pacific Northwest. It’s a lot colder here than in LA. By having a tub outside in that cold, I know I can’t just walk out there and hop in. It’s too damn cold! That’s why I have a sauna. I will go through the heat process first and then it’s easy to jump into the ice bath and do a 10-15 minute submersion. Sometimes, there are other steps that will allow you to do the other thing. For me, an investment in a sauna allowed me to resume my ice baths. The ice baths circulate blood flow, make me feel better and give me the energy to get the other things done throughout the day.

[14:01] It is about finding that one domino, that one thing / that catalyst that will make it all work. I had back-to-back meetings in LA last month. I came in a 7:30 a.m. and I didn’t leave that area until the end of the day. That meant that everyone came to me while I avoided. That was my way of cramming multiple days of meetings into one.


[14:41] Understanding the hurdles and the things that will get your way allows you to make a better plan. I’m always looking at what my resistance is. I make a plan the night before:

  • I write down the 3 things that must get done the next day (even if nothing else gets done). But I would be satisfied if just those 3 things got accomplished.
  • I then write down all the tasks that need to get done that day. It’s more for the purpose of emptying my braining. Productivity Expert David Allen who’s been on my Podcast (www.allanmckay.com/182/ and www.allanmckay.com/94/) talks about your braining making thoughts — not storing them. That’s something I’ve been practicing all my life, like taking notes. Doing that brain dump makes me at peace because I don’t have to keep thinking about these to-do things. By having those things written down, I can start to see if it’s all achievable.

[17:25] I mention all this and it might sound like a lot of work, but it actually takes just a few minutes at night. That way I don’t have to think about it in the morning. But one of the key things I do is write down: What are the things that could go wrong today? That sounds trivial but it’s the most important thing I can do. But writing it all down, I can identify it later on. Let’s say there is person that usually stops by my desk and gets chatty. I can become more conscious of it and that way when it happens, I can catch it. When that person stops by my desk to chat, I can identify [the possible waste of time], excuse myself politely and get back to work. This sounds trivial but that’s the domino that may prevent me from getting things done.

[19:17] I use One Note (www.onenote.com) to map out Week 1, Week 2, etc. I have a template that I copy it into every week. I also have a journal built into it. It’s all categorized. When I plan the next day, I also write down the report for what got done the day before. That’s important because I’ll look at that and reflect on it. It’s important to be present and pay attention to what goes on in your day. It sounds pretty obvious but so many of us don’t do it, I promise. It takes a couple of minutes to do.


[20:46] For some of us, maybe it’s not energy. Maybe it’s an attention thing. I believe this is called the Kaizen Technique. (If I’m wrong about it, please email me and correct me.) The concept is to spend one minute doing something. It’s about getting started. We build [an excuse] in our head that we don’t have time. It’s about sitting down and just doing one minute. Bit by bit, you will put in more and more time. The hardest part — is starting it. One a micro level, it’s about building that course or going to the gym, etc. But on the macro level, this is the problem that most of us have. We never get started because we talk ourselves out of it. One minute is just a start. That’s all that it takes and bit by bit, you will get that momentum. Until it become a habit! Forming habits is the thing down the line, but it all starts — with getting started.

[22:58] I do a lot of weird hacks throughout the day. Feel free to experiment. Part of my routine is planning the day, the night before. It’s all about getting the wins. There are so many apps for accountability out there. The wins alone are going to be worth it. You need to get past the pain point. So start with that minute and you can reward yourself for getting the wins. There are limitless things you can do to better yourself. Sometimes, it’s about social skills. I used to make myself go to a bar and talk to other people I didn’t know (instead of texting my friends on my phone). It’s a skill that affected my whole life, but it started with leaning into that uncomfortable thing.


[25:52] These are the core things we fail at:

  • Being present;
  • Being accountable;
  • Setting up goals that get the momentum going — and eventually getting the wins.

These things roll into each other and build a lifelong skill. I would love to hear back from you: What are the things that are holding you back? What are you not satisfied in your life? It’s close to the end of 2019 and I’m adamant about 2020 being my year and there is a lot of things I need to do before the end of the year happens. Everything is about setting goals and getting those wins again and again, and again!

I hope you enjoyed this Episode and got a lot from it! Sign up for my Inner Circle list: www.allanmckay.com/inside/. I hope to publish my template and send it out to that list. The list is entirely free and it’s meant for those who want to take action. Feel free to reach out to me and tell me with your wins.

Next Episode, I will be talking to Cinesite. Also coming up is an Episode with one of the VFX Sups at Mr. X in Toronto; another Podcast with YouTube content creator Matti Haapoja. So many great Episodes coming up!

Until next week —

Rock on!


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