The “Should I?” Matrix

Once one’s goals are defined, it’s time to take action. But what if you’re already in the middle of something like a project or a day job? When an actor is faced with a tough choice about accepting a role, there are a couple guiding questions that coaches ask.

Due to recent events, I’ve begun my quest to cull the unhelpful and/or harmful activities. Sounds good, right? Except… I need some standard of measurement. So I’ve adapted the actor’s guidelines into a more general daily guide of where I should spend my energy.

Here’s what my current matrix looks like:

Obviously, a zero is completely unhelpful and/or harmful. A five though, that’s the sweet spot, the best place to be.

As for the categories, here’s a bit about what each category means:

Grow, Learn, Develop? — Does the work challenge you? Do you get to expand your skills into something new you’ve never done before? How can you benefit from the experience? Is it going to be fun as well as rewarding? Is the atmosphere a good one to be in?

Work With Career Builders? — Are you working with industry leaders you admire? Will you have the chance to learn from someone very talented and/or respected actors? Will the mentors and colleagues act to help better your future? Will the experience move your career forward if you surround yourself with successful and accomplished people who ensure a better quality of work?

Does Compensation Make Up For Above? — Maybe the task is less than brilliant and the people have no interest in your personal growth or well-being, but does it offer good money? We all have bills to pay… will the work bring monetary profit? Sometimes if an endeavor offers you good money, it’s possible they may hire other great people to make it succeed or other talented professionals to bring the project up to speed.

As I applied these questions to the primary activities in my life, the answers came quickly and easily. I felt like I should have known all along. That’s easy to say but harder to grasp when you’re going about your day. Once I finished graphing the tasks out it seemed obvious where I should spend my energy.

But that was only the “reward” part of the picture. Luckily the desire to graph had a hold on me, so I plugged the hours dedicated to each task into the following Energy Expended Weekly graph:

Yes… I work a 50-hour work week. Though some of it is in that amazing sweet spot where I’m being challenged and love it.

16 hrs/week: Voice acting? LOVE IT. It’s tough work sometimes, and pretty physically demanding. It’s also lonely – but there’s a great V.O. community that I’m discovering. And yeah, it’s been a steady (if slow) growing income.

5 hrs/week: Podcasting? LOVE IT. Huge potential for working with experts and amazing people. The behind-the-scenes work is lonely and sometimes really kind of a slog… but I’m not giving it up. If anything, recent attacks on the media has made it feel more important. Even if I’m currently back down to one podcast and the admin work to keep it moving.

4 hrs/week: Writing? LOVE IT! To be fair, writing is probably my first love. I’ve shifted genre-focus for a project, but that’s been a great challenge in entirely new ways. Conversely, it’s been a low-income generator and I’ve had to prioritize other things first. Which makes my spirit cry. A lot.

25 hrs/week: “Day Job.” This truth hurt to admit because I knew it was coming and feel like I should have known better. This “job” no longer teaches me new skills. It is uncaring about my own personal goals or betterment. And… it’s not financially rewarding. I’d challenge it to be the best job it could be, but even upper-level management called it a “sinking ship that’s not going to get better.” So its days are numbered.

Thankfully, I’m almost over my bronchial infection. I can actually make it an hour without coughing. Which means it’s time to get back on the mic as much as possible… and I find that very, very exciting!

Now… There’s one last thing to do lest this whole post becomes a pointless “Paralysis by Analysis” …

Set Goals

The best goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-Oriented, and Trackable (I first learned about SMART goals here

So… Goal #1: Voice Acting as Primary Income by Mid-summer

Let’s break it down:

  • Specific: “Voice Acting as Primary Income” pretty much says it.
  • Measurable: I ask you, what’s more measurable than your monthly income?  (Billionaires need not answer that.)
  • Attainable: Not only am I already doing the work, the income bar has been set pretty darned low by my “Day Job.” So in voice-acting, a combination of royalty-share plus pay-up-front contracts will replace that income.
  • Reasonable: The challenge I have presented myself is utterly reasonable. Again, the bar’s set pretty low.
  • Trackable: Weekly check-ins between Monday, March 20 and Tuesday, June 20. Or if you’re following my druidic studies – that’s weekly check-ins from the vernal equinox to summer solstice.

I have a couple mini-goals to complete before I officially start this challenge, so yes I’m allowing myself a bit of an early start. But I’m committed to weekly updates. Maybe not here – I’m not sure who’d care – but I’ve set up a tracking board in my home studio. It’s time for improvements.

Well what do you know? I’ve come to a conclusion about what “I Should” vs. “I Shouldn’t”  And I say… “Game on!”