THE most important relationship to prioritize first (if you don’t want to burn out)

In Part 1 of “Unlocking Your Creative Potential” I shared with you three important questions to help you better understand how you can leverage a lifetime of your work experience, skills, and abilities to optimize your career path.

In Part 2 I shared with you a simple framework to structure your outreach such that you can build genuine relationships with new people (instead of bothering them), reconnect with existing connections, and optimize your network.

In Part 3 I revealed the biggest reason your résumé is probably disappearing into cyberspace (b/c you’re telling the wrong story) and how to reframe your mindset around all of your presentation materials and optimize your brand.

Unsure where to focus your energy & attention next?

👉 Click here to hop on a quick Zoom chat with me

I talk a lot about the importance of building genuine relationships, whether that’s surrounding yourself with “peers,” connecting with “experts” (who can become your mentors & advocates), or reaching out to “gatekeepers” to land dream opportunities.

But there’s a relationship far important than any of these, and until you prioritize strengthening this relationship, you’ll just keep spinning on the hamster wheel of life.

The most important relationship is your relationship with → Time.

Having appeared as a guest on a variety of different podcasts talking about my career as a film & tv editor, an entrepreneur, an American Ninja Warrior & Spartan Racer, and as a career strategist, I’m often asked different variations of the following question:

“How do you do it all?”

The one metaskill to rule them all that has made the biggest impact on my ability to integrate work & life (and avoid burnout) is my ability to manage my time.

Part 4: Optimizing Your Time (and Well-Being)

Since the early days of COVID our collective relationship with time has become a lot more complex. Up until March 2020 we were often too “busy” to recognize how broken our daily schedules really were. But once we were forced to hit the pause button and reflect upon our life choices, so many of use realized that what we considered “normal” was no longer working.

Fast-forward to 2024, and I would argue very little has changed. It’s COVID 2.0, and thanks to what many are calling a “Silent Recession,” we’ve once again been forced to reflect on our life choices. And what so many have discovered is not only have we defined our identities by the header on our résumés, our relationship with time is also broken.

For the last year there’s been endless discussion and countless words written about the costs of the silent recession and the industry strikes. And the metric used to measure these costs is always money.

But nobody is talking about the costs of this economic downturn when measured in terms of our time.

When most experts write about or teach traditional “time management” it’s always some variation of the same buzzwords:

  • The Pomodoro Technique (aka time blocking)
  • Creating fancy (read: overly complicated) to-do lists & bullet journals
  • Avoiding distractions
  • “Eating Your Frog”
  • Cold showers, Mushroom coffee, Reiki mats, forest bathing, and 100 other things you MUST add to your morning routine before 7am

Not to devalue any of the above because they are great ways to better manage your time & well-being (I live & die by the time blocks on my calendar), but none of the above will strengthen and improve your relationship with time.

There is one single thing above all that when you have it completely changes your relationship with time:


If you struggle with time-management…

If you struggle with procrastination…

If you feel you’re spinning your wheels all day long…

If you find yourself constantly asking, “What am I supposed to do next?”

If you find it nearly impossible to get into a state of “deep work”…

It’s most likely because you lack confidence that the next thing on your to-do list is the right thing.

But once you have:

  • Clear goals
  • A purpose behind those goals
  • A system to ensure you’re taking the right actions consistently

Your relationship with time will transform, and even amidst the massive uncertainty we’re all experiencing right now, you’ll sleep easy at night confident that how you are spending your time is in alignment with your most important values.

Don’t believe me?

Ask Optimizer Luke Brown.

Luke Brown – who up until recently was a longtime editor on multiple NCIS franchises – recently reached out to me via Slack sharing the following:

A fellow colleague reached out saying, “I’ve been so bored over the strike. I ran out of stuff to fix at my house long ago, and I’ve beaten the same 60-hour video game 3 times.”

I’ve felt a lot of feels over this strike, but at no point have I felt bored. When I looked at my list of goals to re-invent and further my career, I knew I had to be choosy. Efficient. Consistent. The One Thing. Every day.

While my colleague ran out the clock, I:

  • Reached out to and met 15 cold outreach candidates
  • Reached out to and rekindled important relationships with 20 warm outreach peeps
  • Wrote six different genre-specific versions of my resume
  • Wrote (and re-wrote many times) an emotionally resonant “About Me”
  • Learned WordPress. Made my personal/portfolio website from scratch
  • Learned Premiere Pro
  • Used Premiere Pro to cut new demo reels and sample clips
  • Began the research phase of a future finances YouTube channel
  • Spartan Training too

While the resulting sense of accomplishment has been wonderful, there’s been a much deeper value in it for me. These goals, born from the mindset you helped me build in your program, shielded me from the fear. I had work to do, and I didn’t have time for that shit.

If you think getting all of the above done during the strikes is crazy, here’s the craziest part…Luke voluntarily left NCIS (without burning any bridges) the week before the strikes started.

Wait…What? And Why?!?!

Because while he understand NCIS would be considered a dream job to many, Luke knew the passion was no longer there. And how he was spending his time was no longer in alignment with his goals or most important values.

Interested In Optimizing Your Time?

This semester we’re launching a brand new 8-week live class (via Zoom) to help you set clear goals (NOT resolutions) and build systems to achieve them. Rather than waiting for motivation or hoping to be inspired, instead you can build your own customized daily workflows to establish healthier, more productive habits and get the right things done.

You’ll walk away after 8 weeks better understanding how to:

  • Clarify your goals (both long term and short term)
  • Build more structure around your days to maximize your time
  • Understand and better manage the fears, doubts, and limiting beliefs that lead to imposter syndrome & procrastination
  • Prioritize everything you could be doing to only the essential things you should be doing in alignment with your values
  • Build systems (i.e. habits) around your daily behaviors
  • More consistently get into a state of “deep work” and get your most important creative projects done
  • Better integrate work & life

👉 Click here to learn more and/or schedule a Zoom chat

Tomorrow in Part 5 I’ll address the biggest elephant in the room of all – $$$ MONEY $$$ – and how you can both develop a better relationship with your money while also leveraging your existing experience & skills to make more of it.

Zack Arnold (ACE) is an award-winning Hollywood film editor & producer (Cobra Kai, Empire, Burn Notice, Unsolved, Glee), a documentary director, father of 2, an American Ninja Warrior, and the creator of Optimize Yourself. He believes we all deserve to love what we do for a living...but not at the expense of our health, our relationships, or our sanity. He provides the education, motivation, and inspiration to help ambitious creative professionals DO better and BE better. “Doing” better means learning how to more effectively manage your time and creative energy so you can produce higher quality work in less time. “Being” better means doing all of the above while still prioritizing the most important people and passions in your life…all without burning out in the process. Click to download Zack’s “Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Creativity (And Avoiding Burnout).”