Secrets of SA’s most productive people: Jonathan Sidego – Award-winning filmmaker; founder, head of productions, SDGO

Having dropped out of an astrophysics programme at university, Jonathan Sidego went off to pursue his passion in filmmaking at AFDA, the South African School of Motion Picture Medium and Live Performance. Last year he won first prize in the MOFILM video contest at Cannes for his LUX advertisement, “She Who Dares”. As a means to combine his loves of filmmaking, entrepreneurship and technology, Sidego formed his own production house and agency, SDGO, in January this year in Silicon Valley, where he assists tech startups in creating effective visual communication. Word-of-mouth references have resulted in great demand for his unique storytelling abilities and creative edge. His advice to young South African creatives: “Read a lot. Watch a lot. Make a lot.”
The meaning of productivity
“To me, productivity looks like someone who gets done with what they need to do, then find the time to learn new skills and have the creativity to conceive new pursuits. I keep a note on my phone, called ‘Things to learn’, where I add a growing list of interests I intend diving into deeper. This mindset has given me a multidisciplinary approach, which I think has offered me an edge in many circumstances, including in working with clients from all sorts of backgrounds.”

Sleep schedule
“I never wake at the same time. But at the moment, I don’t have very thick curtains, so whenever the sun’s up! The last thing I do at night is read on my Kindle: web articles or catching up with the latest happenings on the information superhighway.”

Morning routine
“I make coffee with milk or MCT oil, and walk to work listening to podcasts, audiobooks or music.”

Most productive space
“Definitely somewhere alone. Working late at night or early in the morning helps with that. Listening to loud metal also helps me put up a thick wall between me and the world.”

Mail matters 
“I use my inbox as my to-do list, marking emails as ‘unread’ if I haven’t dealt with them, and archiving them once I’m done. Those red notifications on my phone annoy me enough to make sure I deal with what I have to do.”

Tidy desk, tidy mind?
“I’m very messy at home and at the office! I get tunnel vision when I’m busy with something and barely notice my surroundings, and let things pile up. My mother’s been telling me for years that my room looks like a bombsite (laughs). My parents raised me to dress well and neatly, though, so very few people would suspect me of being as messy as I am.”

Decompression method
“My Apple Watch has been reminding me to take short, mindful breathing breaks every few hours, which has been good. Sometimes you get caught up in an unproductive frenzy, where you lose focus and flail around. It’s great in letting you step back and rethink your approach.”

Nutrition
“Nutrition is an area of my wellness I’d like to take more seriously by learning more about. What’s working for me at the moment is skipping breakfast and making lunch my first meal, and keeping sugary things for later in the day or evening. This way I’ve managed to dodge unproductive afternoon slumps in energy and focus.” 

Favourite app
“Notes. I make lots and lots of notes, keeping a store of ideas and thoughts when they occur to me. It’s extremely useful when I’m working on a project later and reach a dead end creatively and need some inspiration. It’s nice knowing [the notes] are backed up in the cloud and accessible from anywhere. I’ve been adding to some specific notes for many years now.”

Go-to motivator
“I’m practically always spinning a Bic Cristal pen between my fingers, and buy them by the bag. I feel strange when I don’t have a pen to spin, and think it most certainly helps me think and relax. But it really annoys people sometimes, and gets ink on my hands!”

Area for improvement
“Getting distracted. I get very carried away reading or thinking about something, and forget what day it is. That’s the downside of curiosity. I’ve started light meditation in an effort to curb this and increase my focus.”

Downtime
“I have a ton of long-form articles bookmarked on my phone, so when I’m sitting in an Uber or waiting for a meeting, I’ll dive into one and have the best time.” 

Great advice
“Always be learning, and don’t do what isn’t fun. I really enjoy the work I do, and it often feels like I’m playing.”

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