Now I know what you're thinking (probably)...you read my last article, "The Artistry of Admin" and felt super-inspired (I mean, why wouldn't you, right?). So, you started working on a to-do list, all ready to go and...got completely distracted and ended up deflated, having done nothing on your list. Well...I can relate!
So let's try a different tactic – the "what's in it for me?" angle. Like a dopey rom-com lead, willing to endure all manner of humiliation just to get the girl at the end, experience shows that we also will only endure pain willingly when we're convinced of the effect it will have on our greater, over-arching goal. The pain of routine or the mundane is no different. So...let's look at what's in it for you!
There is power in writing stuff down. Anyone who's ever thought or dreamt up a fire riff/rhyming/song idea, only to forget it in the next few minutes will feel me on this one. The physical act crystallizes the idea, makes it more tangible and this in turn focuses your mind on it. Whether you've got a task-focused app (like Mike, of course) or you want to go analogue and actually put pen to paper, the effect is the same.
Look at it like a manifesto of sorts. As a scatter-brain, INFP personality, creative type, I'm plagued by voice notes, Evernote documents, random sheets of paper, post-it notes and DAW sessions full of unfinished ideas. But I've started to make progress as an artist, by learning to write down what I wanted to achieve for each day, prioritizing and working towards it. Even if I don't get everything done, I get some satisfaction from knowing I achieved some of the things on the list. I finally finished and released the album that I'd been working on for several years, by implementing this over the last year.
Even in our downtime, if we know what we're about & what to prioritize, we waste less time killing time, and more time actually enjoying ourselves!! A couple of minutes into watching some pointless viral Youtube video, I've had to ask myself:
- Am I actually enjoying this?
- Am I learning something from this?
- If both are "no", why am I still watching this?
Love the Mirror
Now I know the outside world thinks musicians have confidence by the bucketloads, but you and I know this is often not the same thing as self-esteem. We're a sensitive species, prone to self-doubt, depression, mental health issues, and a bunch of other things that seemingly come with the package. It doesn't help that most people stereotype us as lazy, mood-driven, no ambition-having pipe-dreamers, and we can sometimes internalize these accusations.
Yet there's something about organizing your life, like writing down priorities and tasks, that makes you respect the hell out of yourself and how hard you actually work. Nothing like seeing a list of the tasks you've smashed & goals you've met to make you realize just how much you kick ass; the satisfaction that you're not just some 'dreamer' with a demo or a mixtape, but that you really get s**t done!
I've found my self-esteem grows when I invest in it. Some of us are driven to create to prove our doubters wrong, but self-discipline proves us right to the only ones who's opinion is worth a damn...ourselves!
Start your engines
Nobody jumps on a bus with the engine switched off, when there's one right behind it with the engine on! I mean, we all got somewhere to be right?
I've had to ask myself regularly, if people keep "sleeping on me" [read: slow to get on the bus], then what is it about my "bus" that's giving the impression that it's not moving anywhere? I think I've stretched that metaphor far enough, but you get my drift.
Things like task lists may seem boring and inconsequential, but the stuff we get done as a result shows people if we're either still living in La-La Land or if we're "Moonlight" at the Oscars (yes, I'm here all week).
If music is as important to me as I keep telling everyone it is, but then my to-do list shows that I can't devote at least 30 minutes a day to moving some aspect of my goal forward, then that's not a goal...it's a birthday candle wish!
On the reverse though, having people tell you, "I see you making moves, congratulations", can be such a boost to your sense of achievement. But it starts by setting a framework to move your goal a little forward everyday. It's a snowball effect. Completed tasks pile up and gather momentum, and suddenly people start noticing.
Let the light through
From personal experience, I get stressed because I know that I have a ton of abstract "stuff to do", but without a clear list of what that stuff is, and a plan of action, it feels like I've run into a massive brick wall, with no ladders or hammer in sight. It's at this point, I usually think "screw it", and just waste time watching a billion pointless Youtube videos, or binge-watching 2 seasons of some Netflix show, only to then feel guilty that I've done nothing tangible.
Yet, I find that when I've split up my task list on a day-by-day basis, I cope better, knowing that each day I get to knock down a bit of that wall and let a little more light through! Eventually, nothing is left of the wall but the rubble at my feet and the satisfaction that I just whooped this wall's ass!
The defence rests
In conclusion, there's so much purpose in setting yourself up to win; in writing down your goals and setting a plan to achieve them. You may need to ask yourself a lot of hard questions, but you HAVE to believe that your music is worth it! That your fans (whether potential or real) really CAN have their lives made better by hearing your music, or seeing your movement grow. Then invest in yourself!