I sent out a survey last week, asking for feedback about the types of issues musicians are struggling with in terms of getting their music licensed and moving forward with their careers. To my surprise, the issue that musicians brought up, more than any other issue, that they said they needed help with, was help or advice on how to manage their time.
With so many things to do as indie musicians, it can be overwhelming trying to juggle so many different tasks. How do you know what areas you should be focusing on or prioritizing? How do you find the time to do so many different things? How can you best manage your time on a daily basis, so you’re both moving forward, but also enjoying your life and avoiding burn out?
These are the issues I’m going to be addressing in today’s post. As someone who both runs a business and is simultaneously working as a professional musician, both gigging and recording/licensing music, I’ve learned a few things about how to manage my time effectively over the years. I can’t say that I have all the answers, and every situation is different, but allow me to share some of my best practices for managing time, staying organized and moving ahead, without losing it in the process.
I believe in both the value and power of hard work. There’s something about the feeling that I get at the end of day, where I know I gave it my all, that I find incredibly satisfying. It’s one of the things that has allowed me forge ahead and not give up in both business and music, both things that require an incredible amount of dedication. With that said, I also enjoy “down time” and other aspects of life that don’t revolve around work. Things like relationships, friends, family and just good old rest and relaxation, I find incredibly important and so I do my best to make time for these things as well.
I’ve been really getting into going to the gym lately and I find the extra energy I get from working out, as well as the changes in my physique and health, well worth the effort I put in. However, as anyone who works out knows, or should know, there is a point of diminishing returns with exercise. You can work out too much and actually get worse results than you would have had you allowed time for your body to rest. Or, worst case scenario, you can actually cause damage and injury to your body if you overdo it too much. Your body needs periods of rest to recuperate and repair itself from the stress and tension working out puts on your body. Without these periods of rest, you won’t get optimal results from your workouts.
I like to think of work in a similar way. You need to put in “the work” to get results in anything, whether it’s a business you’re starting, or a new CD you’re releasing. Obviously, you have to put in effort to get results. But I think any conversation about time management should take into consideration that you also need to factor in periods of rest and relaxation, in order to get the most out of your periods of hard work. Like Jack Nicholson’s character famously said in the movie The Shining, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”.
So, with that said, let’s talk about ways to effectively manage your time so you can get the best results, achieve your goals and kick ass in 2018.
Define What Your Goals Actually Are
Before you can effectively organize and manage your time, you need to know what it is you’re actually trying to accomplish with your time. The more clear you can get about what your goals are and what it is you’re trying to do, the more effectively you’ll be able to break down the steps you need to take to get there.
I like to think both in terms of long term goals and short-term goals. In other words, where I want to be, and the steps I need to take to get there. I have a document that I’ve created, that I go over daily, where I break down my overall “life vision” and then break down things to do on a weekly basis in several different categories, including business, music, health, finances and so on. I find that by breaking things down into different categories, I get a real clear picture of where I need to be focusing my time as it relates to my most important goals.
Here’s an example of what that looks like from the actual document I use. I start with my “Life Vision” because I think it makes the most sense to start with an overall vision that I’m trying to realize and then break it down into smaller steps.
Thriving Member site that delivers tremendous value to musicians
thriving indie Music career with lots of placements,
play shows regularly (minimum weekly)
10 K monthly from music and business combined
Nice place that I love living in with a
Podcast / Recording Studio
Three rooms – studio/office, bedroom, guest room
Plenty of money in bank at all times – grow savings
In great shape
amazing primary relationship that I feel great about, trust, love, connection, support
great relationships/friends that I love
Live in area that I love
Travel and connect more
Life that flows with ease and love and peace
Ability to travel several months a year to cool places
As you can see, The Life Vision part of my goal setting is fairly broad and relates to several key categories of my life; business, music, relationships, health and money. In other words, the areas of my life that have the biggest impact on my quality of life.
After I’ve established my overall life vision and the kind of life I’m trying to create and bring to fruition, I then start to break down each area that I want to focus on, and figure out the things I need to focus on in each category. Here’s the Music category as an example:
Music To Do This Week
- Finish NCIS Song And Record New Cue”
-One guitar jam recording or video weekly
-Upload music and artwork for new EP, Chill
-And new Vocal EP
-One Youtube video weekly
-Post to reddit (Weekly)
-Facebook ad (weekly)
-Submit to five new places daily
-upload tracks to Ad Rev
-New Music Video
-Send Beth Wernick Music
-Get tracks featured on Spotify
-Launch boom goes the music, podcast and make playlists
Each week, I change the things I need to do and focus on for that week. Right now, I’m recording an average of two new songs a week, for specific projects I’m working on. I’m also releasing a new EP, working on creating new content for my Youtube Channel and in the process of launching a new Podcast featuring other artists. I’m also continuing to promote my music and reach out to new contacts as well. There’s a lot to do, but by breaking down so clearly what I’m trying to accomplish, it makes it much easier to determine the steps I need to take.
After I’ve determined my overall life vision and the things I need to do on a weekly basis in each key area, I then I make a daily list of things to do each day. I tend to do this each night for the following day. As an example, here was the list I made for myself for yesterday:
8 am - Workout
get to office
Work on member site
Create new videos, content, add new leads, etc
Make 5 submissions
Submit to five places
Work on new music video
Send 90 day leads
Write new instrumental cue and make demo
Promotion: Email colleges, universities, etc
6:30 Call with Senne for 90 day challenge
8:00 – Finish recording with Eusebio
I tend to start my day by working out, then head to the office and focus on business things during the day, and then at night I tend to focus on my music, writing, recording etc. I continue this process more or less the same throughout the week. I usually factor in at least one day a week, normally Sunday, where I don’t do any work and spend the day, normally relaxing with friends, going to the movies, going out to eat, etc. I also typically have at least two or three nights a week where I go out somewhere, either on a date, hang out with friends and so on.
Overall, I would say I’m a pretty busy person, but I feel like I lead a balanced life. I’m busy, but I don’t feel overwhelmed or out of control. I know what I need to do and I focus on getting things done, but I also make sure to take time to “stop and smell the roses”. I think when you give yourself regular periods of rest, at least one day a week, when you do return to work, you’ll find that you’re more focused and rejuvenated, and you’ll be able to get more done.
The blog of musician and thinker of deep thoughts, Aaron Davison.