How to Get Things Done (Even When You Really Just Want to Watch Game of Thrones)

No matter what business you’re in, no matter what stage of life you’re in, there will inevitably be moments when you need to get something done that you just don’t want to do. 

We’ve all been there. The inner dialogue usually goes something like this: “I should really go over that monologue for the open call auditions next month... but what is Daenerys Targaryen going to do next to claim her rightful place as queen!? I’ll just watch one episode and do the monologue review later...” (Side note: Game of Thrones is highly addictive, as you may or may not have discovered for yourself).

Yes, we all know what that is like. Extremely counter-productive and ultimately unhelpful in the pursuit of your dreams. That’s exactly why I’m excited to share the concept of Activation Energy. I wish I could take credit for this incredible idea that changed my approach to business, acting and productivity, but the truth is I first heard about it on Shawn Achor’s audio series, which I’ve posted below. 

Here’s the basic concept: Activation Energy is essentially the minimum amount of energy that needs to be exerted in order for a chemical reaction to start. Yes, I said ‘chemical reaction.’ This is your mini science lesson for the day.

Imagine that there is a rock sitting on top of a hill. Activation Energy is the energy it would take to push the rock just enough before it gains enough momentum to roll down the hill on its own. Yay, physics! 

How to Use Activation Energy in Your Own Life + Acting Business

Okay, so how does this relate to you? If you think of every task you accomplish as a chemical reaction and activation energy as the action steps you need to take just to get the ball rolling on the task, it makes sense. 

Here’s an example. Mike Dooley, author of Infinite Possibilities used the concept of Activation Energy when he trained for a marathon. As part of his preparation training to run 26.2 miles, he would wake up super early and run 15 miles a day. I don’t know about you, but the thought of setting my alarm to go off before the sun comes up so that I can run 15 miles alone in the dark sounds pretty awful! 

So, instead of setting his alarm for 4 am with the intention of putting on his jogging shoes and braving the crisp pre-dawn air, he told himself that he was just getting up to go to the bathroom. A much smaller commitment! Then, once he was awake, it was easy to pull on a sweatshirt and head out the door for his daily routine.

Practical Application for the Actor

As actors, we have to stay in shape. There’s no way to tell when an audition or opportunity is going to round the corner, and it’s our responsibility to make sure that we’re ready when those opportunities present themselves. It can be tough to exercise regularly, go to acting class consistently and continue stretching ourselves to be the best that we can be. But think about how easy it is to set a timer for 15 minutes – only 15 minutes! – and just sit down to read a new play. Or review that audition monologue, or research agents. 

Chances are, those 15 minutes will easily turn into 20 minutes... or 30 minutes... or an hour. Before you know it, your rock is rolling down the hill full speed and you’ve completed the task easily. And it all began thanks to the minimal Activation Energy you put forth to get that rock rolling.  

What actor-related activities do you put off? I invite you to embrace the concept of Activation Energy this week and get started on the tasks that you might normally put off.

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