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Overbooked and Overwhelmed: How to Prioritize

June 21, 2013

Is there any peace to be found in the world of show business? When you’re not getting work, you’re miserable. You start to question every life decision, from choosing the right agent to not saving enough money during your last show. You feel inadequate, dissatisfied, and conflicted as you become consumed with finding any suitable work.

Conversely, when it rains…it pours…it blizzards….it tsunamis! You get finally get one gig and then the work comes crashing in all at once! As successful as you may feel, the fact of the matter is that you may be in an equally distressing position. Say you’ve got a decent job that pays the bills and gives you constant work, but then you’re cast in a fantastic show that you could really use on your resume. Problem is it conflicts with your job that pays the bill. Lucky you, you’re landing gigs left and right, but suddenly becoming double or triple booked. What do you give up? How do you bow out without ruining your rep or causing damage to your career? Is it possible to take on all the opportunities while still finding time to eat, sleep, AND maintain your vital relationships?

I don’t know the answer to any of these questions.

If I did, I wouldn’t be chewing my nails and pulling out my hair as I write this subtle cry for help. I mean, life’s ok. I just returned from my contract abroad with the hopes of getting busily back to work in LA again. Unfortunately, after applying and auditioning everywhere…I got everything. I know what you may be thinking. Poor you, you have too many jobs?! But this has been more detrimental than it sounds. In the first weeks of my new jobs when I’m trying to make a good impression, I’m already taking time off to work my other jobs, making me look irresponsible. I’ve been forced to quit a job I’ve sought after for quite some time because I simply can’t fit it into my schedule. I’m showing up to work (and home) stressed out and desperate for some peace of mind, which is never very flattering in any situation.

So in an attempt to preserve these great new opportunities (and also to preserve my sanity), I’ve come up with a list of five things to consider when you’re overbooked before deciding what to give up….if anything. No promises that I’m going to make the right decision when it comes to taking my own advice, but here’s hoping I’ll still have some hair left when I write my next entry.

1.) Income: I can talk till I’m blue in the face about loving my career enough to sacrifice having money, but at the end of the day I need a job that allows me to keep my apartment and my car. This is a pretty obvious factor in job decisions, but it bears mentioning as you need to have a job (or jobs) that will keep you living comfortably and debt free if you want to be in the right mindset to land more work.

2.) Sustainability: How long is this job going to support you? I’d love to give up a boring day job to do a fantastic show, but if that show runs only two weekends and leaves me jobless and income-less at its conclusion, I’m SOL. It may be tough, but ultimately you need to prioritize with the job that is most practical and can keep you working for a long period of time.

3.) It Fits With Your Life: As actors, we are constantly finding gigs and auditions that we must attend to better our career, if you’re stuck with a job that isn’t flexible with time of, shift switches, or the occasional coming in late, it’s going to make career progression near impossible. Stick with the jobs that are understanding about the way your life functions and supportive of your dreams. If you’re job is constantly leaving you burned out or upset, this also falls under the category of not “fitting into your life”.

4.) Its Enjoyable and it Makes you Proud: Maybe you’re doing a show that pays alright and its sticking around for a while, but you don’t dare invite any family or friends to it because the quality is appalling or your character is embarrassing. There’s no shame in taking on a job that pays the bills for a while, but when another opportunity comes along that will make you proud of your work and happy with your life, there’s a decision that must be made. Of course not all jobs are pure enjoyment, but let the fun factor weigh heavily into your decision about which jobs to keep. It’s important to have fun and live life the way you want to now, in this moment. Don’t force yourself to work with no reward simply because you’re at an early stage in your career.

5.) Its bettering your career: Maybe you’re scoring all lead roles in every production at your local community theatre and you’re having a blast. But this isn’t furthering your career in any way, it’s not boosting your resume and it’s not expanding your contacts. It may be time to branch out and move on to bigger or better things, even if it means taking on some miniscule roles at a union theatres to gradually build union status or doing some free work with a fantastic director to get noticed.

Of course the difficulty with this list is that many of these factors conflict. You need to measure which are most important to you at this stage of your life and come up with a decision that best suits you’re personal situation. Congratulate yourself on your recent successes, prepare yourself for some possible regret or anxiety from your decision, and then let it all go and focus on rocking the jobs you have left on your plate.

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