WMM Life Hack: Color Coded Life
Jan 12, 2021
We are a simple google search away from being able to access libraries of information about any topic. Filmmakers looking to discover the latest gadget to accompany their smartphone camera, find a DIY method to achieve a high end look for their film, or simply brush up on a technique via a tutorial, need look no further than industry-centric sites like ours. Yet, when it comes to the simple question of how to have a productive day (when not on set), creative professionals commonly struggle with how to manage their schedules, succeed with maximum efficiency, and strike that evasive life-work balance. In an industry where multi-hyphenates have become the norm, this struggle is reeeeal.
The more hats a creative multi-hyphenate wears, the more complex the schedules, priorities, obligations, and workflows seem to become. For a certain elite pack, a personal assistant can curb some of this stress, but at the end of the day, the day can only be lived by the person living it. So where do we even begin with how to structure a day?
I say, with color.
When I have so much to do that I'm overcome with analysis paralysis, nothing solves this problem better than color coding my calendar. I like to be able to see everything at a glance, and if all my tasks, appointments, and other engagements are a monotone beast staring back at me, it all becomes a blur and I can neither focus, nor track what I have done or need to do.
I'll begin by admitting I am a list-maker. I have a list for every type of activity, endeavor, or thought about a thought. While that is a necessary exercise for me in itself, and scratching things off my list gives me a modicum of satisfaction, lists don't solely help me accomplish what needs to be done. To be more productive, I need to know exactly what I am accomplishing throughout the day. By color coding my calendar, I automatically categorize the various aspects of my day, and more importantly, am able to see how much time I have put in on any given area.
My system is based on assigning colors to each of my pursuits and their given tasks. I use red for anything relating to my primary focus, acting. This includes auditions (and these days, when self-tapes are due by), callbacks, rehearsals, performances, and shoots. Sky blue is assigned to music (meetings, rehearsals, composition, lyric writing, music video prep). Dark green is for all my meetings and tasks relating to producing, whether it's my personal project or something I am doing for hire. Light green is for all my adulting tasks, like paying bills, doing laundry, or running errands. Yellow is for health and wellness, so my workouts, beach time, food prep, doctor's appointments and self-care get a sunny block on my calendar. Orange is for any "day job" responsibilities, gray is for all things We Make Movies
, and purple is for personal, social, and family time.
When I look at my digital calendar, there are bright blocks of color reminding me what's next in my day and what I have coming up. I can also quantify how much time I spent on any one given area of my life. Generally, when I am overwhelmed, I notice that there is very little yellow (attendance to my health) or purple (fun) on my calendar. When there is a lot of red (acting) or blue (music) on my calendar, it's safe to say it was a fulfilling week.
While this system is gratifying and is the best way to sync up my life across all my devices, I do also enjoy a tactile experience, which is why I also have a master list of all my pursuits with the tasks and subtasks under those categories. I use colorful sticky notes and tabs that I write on and create a large poster board sized list where I can see the big picture. Not only do I create a flamboyant, living patchwork of my life, but as the tasks get completed, I relish ripping the stickies off and crumpling them up.
Color coding is personal, so there is no one way to do it. Some people prefer to color code based on urgency, so anything that must get done that day is in red, anything lower on the totem pole is pink, and so on. Some people swear by color psychology and the feelings felt while experiencing a particular color, so blue is for breaks (relaxing, calm, easy), gray is for "penciled-in" items (transitional), purple is for creative tasks (soothing, sensual, exotic)...
The main takeaway is that creative professionals are still professionals, who have to uphold a certain level of functionality, structure, and accountability, to create and be taken seriously in the world. The misinformed stereotype of artists as lazy, feral, haphazard creatures without discipline or systems, is outdated and simply not true. To create consistently requires time management and a system of tracking productivity. Color coding your calendar is one such way to stay the course.
Sapna Gandhi is an actor, singer-songwriter, and content creator. In addition to TV credits such as BOSCH, SHAMELESS and SCANDAL, she has appeared in numerous shorts, features, and series, including festival darlings IN ABSENTIA (Raindance) and THUMPER (Tribeca). Gandhi has produced several series and films under the umbrella of her production company Elegant Grotesque (most recently SCRAP, starring Anthony Rapp and Vivian Kerr, and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ STRANDED ON THE EARTH, directed by Mike Bruce). She is also 1/2 of the musical duo, VATAVARAN, was born in England, raised all over the states, studied English and Women’s Studies, and trained at the American Conservatory Theatre in SF.