Planting Seeds

Copyright 2006 Mike Pniewski

I was having coffee with a director friend of mine and we were talking about how business was going. He has been very busy with a good stream of projects coming his way. I told him that things were a little slow for me but I was using that time to try some new ideas to spread the news about my speaking business. To that he responded, “Oh, so you’re just planting seeds right now.” “Yes,” I said, “I’m planting seeds.”

That assessment of my current pursuit really stuck with me after we left. I had been harvesting a lot in recent months while I was taking full advantage of work that had come my way. But once things slow down, we all can forget that our “crops” need to be replanted in order to reap another great harvest.

In the acting world, it typically gets slow from late April until after the fourth of July due to most TV production being on hiatus, which was the time period of our meeting. This also means commercial production slows down because they want to wait and produce new commercials for use during the new fall TV shows. Feature films have no real “seasons”, but the TV slowdown means there are fewer opportunities out there for actors to stay busy.

I have always tried to make good use of these times in my career, and I’m sure many of you have them too, when the phone gets quiet and you find yourself in a dry spot “between jobs.” Many people tend to worry and even panic during these periods instead of using them to refocus their energies on creating new avenues for success. Updating your business materials, websites, equipment upgrades, renew your marketing strategy—can all be great uses of these breaks in the flow of work.

As with many things, it really is a matter of how you choose to see it. Do you look at these times as an obstacle or an opportunity? Do you see a door or a window? These slowdowns are often due to circumstances beyond our control, like seasons in anyone’s business, so isn’t it better to prepare to use them to our advantage instead of dreading their arrival?

The key to coping with and even maximizing your productivity at these times is planning. Whether you know these slowdowns are coming or not, you should always keep a list of things you can accomplish when there are fewer demands on your time. In the midst of juggling your projects while you’re in demand, make a habit of noting things you see along the way that should be dealt with when time allows. New brochures, pictures, résumé’s—so that you can easily move from harvesting to seeding. And not only is it important to get these things done for the sake of your business, you need to stay busy in some form during slow times so you don’t just wait and stress over the lack of work. That can do great damage not only to your business but also to your own psyche—and that’s not good for business either.

Part of your downtime planning must include some time for you to recharge yourself by taking some time off, or to reengage yourself with a class or workshop. Either way, you plant your own seeds that enable you to be in a better position to maximize the opportunities that come your way. Rest has always been a great way to recharge the spirit, especially if you’ve spent several weeks working long, intense hours. I spent much of the first five months of this year on the road working so I really enjoyed that part of my slow time that allowed me to catch up on some rest.

But once I had sufficiently rested, I took on a big and very unique project here at my house replacing all our windows. Never done anything like that before in my life, but the fact of having this new, manual labor task was very invigorating for me. I’ve always enjoyed fixing things around the house but to do it on this scale was thrilling and engaging in ways I don’t use very often in my work. Once that was done, I found myself very inspired to jump back into my work to begin a new cycle of planting and harvesting.

No farmer can harvest what he doesn’t plant. In our case, we must plant not only in the fields of our business but within ourselves. Invest in good seeds that will enable you to grow your business as well as yourself.