the work lessons of actress Natali Broods

A creative person shares his secrets and tips to stay productive and innovative. Actress Natali Broods (46) combines long days on set with study sessions at the dining table and taking care of her two sons. Yet she finds silence in the chaos. “Sometimes I drop the kids off at school and then go to bed for an hour afterwards.”

Sophie Pyke

Find guidance in small rituals

“I am quite conservative in my rituals. If something worked before, I’ll do it again in the same way. I also have it with restaurant menus. If I liked something, I will order it again on my next visit. At home I prefer to work at the table in the dining room, on the same chair, with Radio 1 at the same volume. I need sound around me, but I don’t want to hear what is being said.”

Turn your back on the mess

“When I work, I prefer to have as little stuff as possible in my field of vision. But with small children in the house, even an empty work table is a rare sight. Before I start, I try to bring order to the chaos. But often I lose myself in that tidying up process: is this Lego or Playmobil? I search for the perfect triage process, but never find it. It drives me crazy myself. (laughs) The best solution is to turn your back on the mess. My desk is separated from the living room by a wall. Nowadays I just try to keep that bit orderly. Just enough to give me peace of mind.”

Sports for mental health

“There is always a lot of people on a set, but if it goes well, you are not constantly chatting and everyone sticks to their job. Serenity is necessary to work well. If I talk too much between takes, my attention lapses. Then the stress piles up in my body and I come home overstimulated. I pull that stress out of my body on the rowing machine in the garage. Pilates is also recommended: the reformer looks like a torture device, but afterwards you at least feel that you have worked out. I mainly exercise for my mental health. Better endurance is an added bonus.”

Invest in noise-canceling headphones

“I have always been a worrier. Overstimulation is also not strange to me. On a busy set, that can be a disadvantage. When I want to find peace at home, but the children are arguing, I take them to the indoor playground. Sounds very contradictory, but not if you have headphones with noise canceling. Sounds sound less sharp. The outside world is muted. The children are having fun and I process my emails or repeat my texts.”

Write in notebooks

“My inefficiency is a thing. I have a hard time getting things planned and my focus is never in one place. I am already studying French texts for next year. The more I do now, the smoother the rehearsals will go. But such a study process is often a dance with myself. I force myself to study at least a few pages in French and then I get to learn or read something else. It is often chaos in my head, but that chaos usually works. Same with ideas or things I can’t forget. I once started writing in three notebooks at the same time. Now I have an intuitive note-taking system that shifts between writing and typing. I don’t always feel like looking at a screen.”

Find deep sleep

“I function best when I have slept eight hours. Or even better: nine hours. The exhausting thing about working and being a mother is that fragmented focus. My husband is a sound engineer on film sets. There are times when he is completely absent from home, like now. I’ve been running the household alone for weeks. I can only work during school hours. But if we’re both on a movie set, we need to have a watertight schedule for the kids.

“During the recording of Déjà vu we hired someone to temporarily take over the care of the children. Due to the high workload, I was still sleep deprived, but because I could only focus on filming, I coped well with that fatigue. Deep sleep is my best friend. Sometimes I drop the kids off at school and then crawl into bed for an hour afterwards. Then I get more done than when I try to bridge that lousy twilight zone. I’m only really productive from 10 am anyway. But you can also be productively tired. The problem is that you never know in advance what kind of day it will be.”

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