If you couldn’t tell, I’ve been on a bit of an education kick lately. Between reflecting on my recent coaching sessions, enjoying a free trial of MasterClass the past several days, and preparing to dive into a couple more online workshops, I’ve been taking in a LOT of good information—I mean, really good, quality, game-changing content. But you know that old adage about there being too much of a good thing? I think the bits of my brain melting out of my ears are trying to tell me that there’s some truth to that.
When I start something new, I’m the kind of person that wants to come at it as prepared as possible so that I can do it well. I like to allow myself time and space to lay a firm foundation of understanding so that, as I progress, I don’t develop bad habits that need to be unlearned and I can be knowledgeable and professional about what I’m doing. This has been particularly helpful in my transition into voiceover.
At the same time, however, becoming an independent voiceover artist requires that I wear numerous different hats, fulfilling a variety of roles, most of which I previously had little to no experience in. There’s a lot to learn. Working with VO coaches, researching acting techniques, studying improv, and developing a range of voices and delivery styles take a lot of time and effort, but that only covers the performance aspect of what I do. There’s also all the technical stuff like learning how to use recording equipment and editing software, building a website, and establishing a basic understanding of acoustics and sound treatment. And on top of that, there’s still the business angle that needs to be addressed: marketing, finances, goal-setting, strategic planning and implementation, and on and on and on. I could essentially work more than a full-time job just learning the various aspects of what I need to succeed in the VO industry—and I’d still only scratch the surface.
Education is good. Learning ought to be a lifelong endeavor. (You hear that, self? You don’t need to cram everything in all at once!) But, as I learned at multiple points throughout grade school and college, and as I’m re-learning again right now, there are ways to go about educating yourself that are effective and healthy and there are ways to do it that will leave you in a puddle on the floor spouting off random, incoherent facts. Why is it always the most important life lessons are the ones we need to rediscover time and time again?
Anyway, if you also ever encounter a bad case of encumbered intellect, here are a few thoughts on how to find relief and move forward in a more sustainable fashion.
· Take breaks — Research shows that taking periodic breaks actually helps you study smarter. Purposeful breaks refresh your brain and body and allow your energy, productivity, and ability to focus to increase. Whether these are short breaks within a single study session or larger periods of rest over longer stretches of time (think weekends and vacations), give yourself permission to step away and think about something else for a while.
· Forget multitasking — Believe me, I get it! We’re all super busy. Our to-do lists are often so long they could stymie the best long-distance runner. Who has time to just focus on one thing at a time? Well, if your goal is just to check things off your list, then multitask away. If you actually want the time you spend learning to be an investment, though, give it your full attention. Research is showing that multitaskers typically cannot focus, recall information, or move from one task to another as well as others who stick to one task at a time. It may mean sacrificing getting a few other things done right now, but in the long run, your time is better spent and you’ll have something to show for it.
· Kick cramming to the curb — In addition to not stuffing all your learning into one session, also be mindful of when you’re learning. If you need to learn something for a specific task or project, give yourself plenty of time. Trying to cram everything in the night before is not only ineffective, but it also does a disservice to your holistic health. Your brain is more capable of retaining information when it’s well rested and when it’s given time to fully process that information adequately.
· Outsource — If you’re feeling overwhelmed trying to learn something new and you have the means, delegate that task to someone else. The fact of the matter is, we can’t be good at everything. Each of us is gifted in unique ways, and they don’t encompass the full spectrum of everything there is to possibly know and do. Don’t try to be a know-it-all. Don’t pretend you’re an expert at everything. Let your guard down and allow someone with true expertise to help you where they can. There’s no shame in that. Besides, it leaves you more time to do the things you’re actually good at and enjoy doing.
· Just breathe — “But if I don’t learn all of this right now, I’ll fall behind all of the other people in this competitive industry and I’ll never be successful and I’ll be forced to do something boring and mind-numbing for the rest of my sad, sorry existence!” You good now? Feel better getting that off your chest? Okay, now just chill. Your journey is just that: your journey. It’s not going to look exactly like his, hers, or anyone else’s, and that’s a good thing because you’re not him, her, or anyone else! You’re you! Uniquely and beautifully you! Yes, there are wrong ways to do something, but you know what? There are also many right ways to do something, too. Absolutely learn from other people’s successes and failures, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking they have it all figured out either. Ditch the comparison game and find what works for you.
· You’ve got your whole life ahead of you — The human brain has a pretty wild storage capacity—the equivalent of 2.5 million gigabytes digital memory! You’ve got plenty of space in that head of yours to handle a lifetime’s supply of information. Remember, learning is a lifelong habit; you don’t need to try to take everything in in one sitting. In fact, it’s probably a good time to jump back to the top of this list and take a break!
As with so many things in life, learning effectively is an exercise in finding balance. Too little and we remain stagnant, never progressing to the next level of our education, business, or personal development. Too much, though, and those warning klaxons start going off in our brains, signaling a potential full system shut down. In either case, we’re stuck in a place that we don’t want to be in. It’s a matter of applying the Goldilocks principle and finding that sweet spot that is just right for our individual personalities.
Do you ever find yourself in a situation of information overload? How do you keep from being inundated with data? Do you practice any of the ideas I listed above? How do they play out for you personally? I’d love to hear from you so we can grow together and encourage one another in becoming successful lifelong learners.
Until next time, friends, keep telling stories.
Voiceover Artist | Storyteller