Eventually, my newfound freedom turned into a prison of its own. Since I spent all of my free time at the beginning of the semester, I developed my first backlog, always playing catch-up at the last second to complete projects and papers. Keith Cating, my mentor at the time, told me, “In order to be successful as a college student, you have to treat your studies like it's a 9-to-5 job.”
In the same way, as business owners, we must treat our studios as if they are a 9-to-5 job. I know, that must really sound like a drag. After all, one of the reasons that many of us started our businesses was to escape corporate structure. We wanted to fire our bosses, set our own hours, and pursue something we were passionate about.
However, when we become our own boss, we tend to let ourselves get away with actions that our old bosses would not allow. We regress into the habits that we developed when we first tasted the freedom of the college life. The result is the same—backlog—except there is no finish line, no final exam, and no graduation to usher us onto the next stage.
The corporate model remains successful for many reasons, so it behooves us to refrain from throwing the baby out with the bath water. While we may be willing to clock in beyond the requisite amount of time to be successful, we need to look past that one aspect of the corporate culture to other norms that we must also incorporate into our new workplace.
Furthermore, since there is no visible chieftain glaring over our shoulder, we must become the boss and insist on conducting ourselves with higher standards. If we do not, then backlog can rear its ugly head and take up an almost permanent residence in our studios.
For those of you who edit at home, the temptation is to wake up, roll out of bed, grab a piece of fruit, and start responding to emails. Sometime before lunch, you might brush your teeth, and sometime thereafter, you may decide to put on something more than your pajamas. Can you imagine how a corporate boss would evaluate your performance? Can you conceive of how a potential client would regard you if they could see how you present yourself while working?
Their judgments would be accurate. The less we dress for success and the less professional we see ourselves, the less we work like professionals. However, if we maintain the habits of showering, brushing our teeth, and dressing decently—the routine we once performed regularly before quitting the daily grind—then we tend to perceive ourselves as professionals, and subsequently, we act like professionals.
Once you get yourself properly groomed, then the temptation becomes to adopt a relaxed posture at the editing station while cutting your feature. If your legs are kicked out to the side, if you are leaning back in your chair, or if you are using one hand to edit when your other hand could be making a contribution, then chances are that you are not intensely engaged with your project, and you are causing your edit to take longer than necessary.
Instead, be intentional about sitting in your chair with your back straight, knees facing forward, and both hands on the mouse and the keyboard, just as you would if your old boss were around the corner. When your body demonstrates that you are at full attention to the edit, you become fully attentive to the edit. When you become fully attentive to the edit, your backlog melts away faster.
Once you train your body to be properly composed, you might then be affected by the third distraction—the clutter on your desk. Every item sitting before you vies for your attention, and your mind naturally gravitates toward distraction. The best way to rein in your brain is to clear off everything other than your editing hardware and to shut down all the programs that you are not using. Remove family photos from your desk—you will see your family at the end of the day, and you will be able to focus on them all the more because you did not let them distract you during working hours.
There are more ways to treat your business like a 9-to-5 job, but if you start with these three suggestions, you will find your editing efficiency ramping up by a noticeable percentage. Next month, I will spend the entire article preaching about the most difficult distraction to eliminate, but it’s also the most important to conquer. If adopting these habits proves too much for you, then tap into your inner boss, fire the you that rebels, and hire a new you that is ready to tackle these disciplines. Your Andy Dufresne moment awaits!
Chris P. Jones (jones at masonjarfilms.com), an Austin, Texas-based EventDV 25 All-Star, has been shooting weddings for nearly a decade and is a co-founder of the wedding filmmaking educational gathering IN[FOCUS].