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Gael Garcia Bernal
I was in Berlin a couple of weeks ago for a series of lectures from some the world’s most exciting and challenging film makers. Here is a small piece of advice from a celebrated actor.

You may know Gael Garcia Bernal as playing Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara in The Motorcycle Diaries or perhaps as the headstrong nephew in the mexican portion of this year’s Oscar nominated film Babel.

Gael talked about rehearsal. He is a world class actor. He is good at what he does. But he never just walks onto the film set and acts. How can he? He always rehearses. But this doesn’t mean his thinking becomes rigid or locked down. Rehearsal, he says, builds up a musculature memory. That means you do can a lot of things automatically, without conscious effort or thinking. This frees your mind to live in the moment and react to an ever changing and dynamic scene.

But how often do we rehearse? How often do we practice until we cannot get it wrong? How often do we build that musculature memory?

Or do we walk onto the set and hope we can just do it.

Of course it is easy to say that actor’s just find time to rehearse. But they don’t have to. Gael finds the time, he makes the time. Its built into his work method, into his business model if you like.

And that self-rehearsal time is what makes him successful.

Image taken from the official talent campus site. You can read their account of the interview here.

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OscarThere’s usually a bit of a buzz around the office at this time of year what with both the BAFTAs and the Oscars being so close to each other. This is partly due to our roots being so closely linked to the entertainment business, but also because some of us have been there ourselves.

Not many people know that we have a BAFTA nominated scriptwriter on our team in the form of Tim Clague for his film Eight and even yours truly has been honored twice in the form of best film at The Landcrab Film Festival (Seeing Red and A Right Royal Roast).

Anyway I’m not posting here today to blow our own trumpets (well, not just that anyway!), what I wanted to make a point about is that no matter who you are everybody loves to get an award. Hey even Martin Scorcese managed it this year!  Check out the full Oscar winners list here.

One of our most successful workshops is “The 100 Second Film-Makers Challenge”. In the workshop myself and Tim give groups of people an overview of film making basics. The groups are then given a breif from their company around which they make a 100 second long film – simple concepts like “Going from good to great”, or “Being the best”. Each group then gets a camera, a few hours, and a whole load of help from us should they need it in order to achieve their vision.

The best part of the day for everybody is the glitzy awards ceremony in the evening where all the films get shown and trophies are awarded to the best.

People really love it, not only are they getting a chance to do something creatively different they’re also making themselves heard. Companies also love it too as it’s a very different way of spreading a new initiative or just plain and simple rewarding success.

Of course you don’t have to be a film-maker to win awards. An annual tradition for Marton House is to have an awards ceremony at our annual dinner where everybody gets an award for something specific to their abilities.

It’s always nice to be recognised for your achievements.

Question Mark SparkMy single biggest problem when it comes to work-life balance is what I call my “daily creativity drive”.

It’s the time of day when my brain appears to be at it’s most creative, and a surge of ideas and new thinking streams out. Unfortunately this usually occurs around 11pm most nights.

First of all why does this happen, as most people are ready to sleep at that time?

Just relating to something Tim said in a comment the other day, my work and hobbies have many cross-overs. I’m a trained cameraman and editor, I love video and film, all things technology, blogging, new ideas, web 2.0, business thinking – the line for my work-life balance can easily be blurred. So when I get a bit of time to myself, at 10pm when Kate (my other half) is watching ER or something, I do my daily Internet catch-up with all things new. For me this could be a simple thing like reading the news, it doesn’t take much to kick my brain into gear after a relaxing evening in front of the TV and then I can’t sleep because I’m buzzing.

So what can I do about this? The best thing would be to try and shift my surfing activities to the opposite end of the day. This actually wouldn’t be a problem for me as I like getting up early and doing things before work, and heck if it kicks my brain into gear first thing then that can’t be bad.

I’ll try it and let you know the results.

The only problem is what do I now do with my time during ER?

Hmmmm….

Pope Benedict XVIDuring his summer break last August Pope Benedict XVI revealed his feelings about the dangers of working too hard.

Quoting the 12th century musings of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, he said “watch out for the dangers of an excessive activity, whatever… the job that you hold, because many jobs often lead to the ‘hardening of the heart’, as well as ’suffering of the spirit, loss of intelligence”.
“This warning is valid for every kind of occupation, even those involving the governance of the church,” the Pope re-iterated.

So there you go!

Home

Type in “work from home” into Google and you’ll find hundreds of sites telling us how great it is to work from home.

Many of them say things like:

  • “I get up around 10am, get a coffee, do a bit of work, watch some TV”
  • “I work at my own pace”
  • “I have no distractions”
  • “I’m my own boss, I don’t answer to anybody”
  • “Life couldn’t be better/easier”

If you’ve ever worked from home you’ll know this is far-fetched and in reality if you work from home you’re more likely to say things like:

  • “I get up because my phone’s ringing, way before office hours”
  • “I can’t concentrate on business because my son’s home ill”
  • “There’s a pile of washing up in the sink”
  • “The house is a mess”
  • “I have no team to work with”
  • “I’m constantly distracted by anything other than work”
  • “I have trouble differentiating between work and home”
  • “I can’t work at my own pace, as I find it very difficult to plan ahead”

Working from home is usually far from the perfect dream that many people have, this is usually due to 1 major factor – focus.

When we go to work most of us find it easy to stay focused. It’s a daily routine, we know what our jobs involve and how best to perform them and aside from any work-based distractions that come along we remain focused enough to get the job done.

Separation is a major problem for the home worker. A bit like yesterdays mental dressing for the role post, there has to be some kind of obvious separation for the home worker to get over these barriers.

If you have the space in your house the best thing to do is dedicate a room to your work. This is your office and when you are in it you are at work.

Close the door. If your home phone rings, ignore it – you’re not at home. Get yourself another line for your office or use your mobile. When you are out of your office ignore this phone.

Take regular breaks and get away from your office but allocate only a limited amount of time to those breaks. When break time is over, go back in your office and close the door.

Get a separate door bell with your office clearly labelled on it. This bell should sound different so you can immediately identify an office caller.

Have a lunch break. Remember though, a benefit to working at home is potentially flexible working hours so a shorter lunch break could mean more time at the end of the day for “home” reasons such as picking the kids up from school.

Another big problem with working at home is the feeling of isolation. This feeling of loneliness can hamper productivity. If your company has a base there are many ways to stay in contact with them, from the traditional phone to more modern alternatives like Skype and MSN Messenger. Again don’t take it too far though as things like MSN can be addictive and have the opposite effect for productivity.  Regular communication is a must and there may be things that your team would be happy to do for you to help out.

A great benefit to home working is that the daily commute is very short! Think about this and use the time it would normally take to get to work within your working hours – if it takes 1 hour each way to get to the office, that’s a potential saving of 2 hours every day that would potentially be wasted.

There are some obvious distractions that nobody can avoid, things like children being off school sick or on holiday and demanding attention.  Try to tackle one thing at a time though and like I said earlier if you are part of a team seek help with some of your workload from others.

Working from home isn’t for everybody and it really is all about self-control and focus, master those and you’ll have a winner.

You know who you are! You’re the person who takes home a portion of workload and sits in the car on the driveway making calls and catching up.

This is not a good place to be in.

You feel guilty because you’re hiding your workload from your loved ones, you rush through your calls because you don’t want to get caught and more often than not you’ll miss something out or forget that all important call because a message got lost in the bottom of your briefcase.

Of course the really bad thing is it’s not just your loved ones you are hiding your work from, it’s also your boss.

Sometimes our workloads are just too much and we try to hide the fact that we are struggling from just about everybody because we don’t want to reveal our weaknesses. Well here’s a newsflash – the longer you leave it the worse it will get.

In today’s world performance is key and we are constantly being encouraged to do “more business” and “find new customers”, often for little reward. A portion of many people’s salaries are now performance based too and as a result we are having to work longer hours just to cover the basics.

The thing is bottling it all up isn’t going to help and we’ll just burn ourselves out eventually.

Keeping secrets is not the answer.

Make your challenges more visible. Talk to your loved ones. Talk to your colleagues, you’ll soon find out you’re not alone.

hotlineIn today’s world of mass-communication many people seem to have both a mobile phone and a home phone.  The temptation in business is to give both numbers out, just in case your potential customer can’t reach you on one of them.

This can be a fatal mistake and end up causing complete invasion into your private space and time.

My pension agent made this same error and more often than not when I would call him on his mobile he’d ask me to call him back on his home number as the reception was bad on his mobile network.  My advice to him was to change networks.

As a customer I’d feel bad calling him not only at home but also out of hours, after all the kind of stuff I wanted to know would always wait until office hours.  However not all customers are as thoughtful as myself and many wouldn’t bat an eyelid when it came to calling out of hours.

This can be a real killer on your home life and can bring stress to many relationships, as it did to my agent and his then wife.

The trick is to limit your business contacts to just the one port of communication, and have a cut-off time for that number when you can switch it to answerphone.  Here you should have a personalised message stating whatever hours you are available between and if they should want to leave a message you will get back to them at the first opportunity.

You can still receive personal calls on it too if you use your phone for dual-purposes, just screen the calls.

malcolm.jpg

Dress for the role.

Some companies now have a relaxed attitude towards with the intention of making employees feel more at home in their working environment. This is great but it can have a different impact on the mental attitude of each employee.

We filmed an interview a while back with a successful telesales agent within a very large organisation. This company had also recently relaxed their dress codes for telesales staff and whilst it had improved the atmosphere in the office, sales were down.

It’s all about freedom of choice and this particular young man whilst enjoying the ethics behind the decision had decided after a few weeks it wasn’t working for him. He decided to dress smartly again as it made him feel more confident and more successful the moment he got dressed in the mornings. It worked for him too, within a month he was the top sales person on his floor and also put forward for us to interview.

Obviously it’s a state of mind and you’ve got to discover what works for you.

The point is this:

If you dress the same for work as you do for home, how can you expect to mentally (subconsciously or otherwise), differentiate between them?

It seems to work for me.

LemonHow do you define the line between work and home life?

It’s a both a mental and a physical challenge. They have a knock-on effect psychologicaly which can disrupt your activities on either side.

How does it feel when you’re taking the kids to school and one of them spills their drink over the back seat of your car and into your briefcase?

What’s the impact when you are sat at home in your lounge watching a movie you’ve been dying to watch for ages and the phone rings with a business call?

Obviously accidents happen and certain things can’t be helped but there are little things that we all could do every day that can improve our work-home separation.

Today we’ll look at a few different angles on this.

PancakesWell it’s Shrove Tuesday here in the UK and that means a celebration with pancakes for dinner tonight.

Step away from the stress of work and serve up some comfort food for your loved one.

Our blog isn’t usually a place where you can find a food recipe but we’re all about breaking down those boundaries.

Here’s a link to a wonderful, simple to make recipe for chicken pancakes with whisky sauce – try it out, it’s really rather tasty.

Happy Pancake Day!

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