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Indie Musicians: Build Your Career Faster by Working Smarter, Not Harder

Indie Musicians working smarter

Indie Musicians Working Smarter, Not Harder

This GoGirlsMusic post by Rorie Kelly originally appeared on Medium

Training a team of dinosaurs to run your social media may seem like a great time saver, but there are logistical problems to consider.

Most of us know by now that when we decided to become indie musicians, we unwittingly signed up for a series of other jobs as well. Some of the titles we may have accidentally hired ourselves for include Tour Coordinator, Producer, Booking Agent, Administrative Assistant, Social Media Manager, Fundraising Director, and more. Self-managing a career in the arts demands that we do a thousand different things, as well as keeping a keen director’s eye on our long-term goals. On top of this, most creatives find little joy in business and mourn the lost time for their art.

It’s clear that if we are going to reach our goals and keep our sanity, we need to find ways to be efficient and selective with our time. We need to work smarter, not harder so we can get it all done and still enjoy our lives. Here are some tips to help you do just that.

1. Unitasking beats multitasking every time.

These days, with multiple devices and many streams of information and communication at our fingertips, it’s very easy to start an important task and lose the plot within minutes. It’s not your fault — it’s the nature of a culture that constantly assaults us with new information, demands we be available all the time via a variety of communication methods. When we are constantly processing new input and multitasking, our brains don’t get a chance to perform at full capacity on the stuff that is really important. Instead of multitasking, try spending one day where you place your focus only on one thing at a time. Don’t beat yourself up if it is isn’t easy — set alarms to check in with yourself at regular increments, block yourself from visiting sites that suck your time if you have to. Do what makes it easy for you. You will be amazed at how much you get done and also at how much less stressful it feels.

2. Declutter your to-do list regularly and ruthlessly.

A little over a year ago when I was feeling stressed and overwhelmed, I started a new process of subtracting, rather than adding to my to-do list at the start of every day. Before I got lost in the daily grind I looked with fresh eyes and asked myself if each task was really going to move me ahead–or if it was just busy work to help me feel I was doing “everything I could”. I committed to doing less, not more, and I committed to doing it better. This is still a regular practice for me and I’m getting better at it all the time.

3. Get real about your time and learn to prioritize.

In addition to assessing the value of the tasks you’ve assigned yourself, it’s important to also ask yourself honestly how long each task will take and add it up. Spoiler alert, if you are routinely scheduling 15 hours of tasks into the 2 hours per day you get to work on your career, no amount of wishful thinking is going to make that doable. I am frequently guilty of scheduling myself for more than I can possibly do in and day. Taking 5 minutes to do the math on my to do list is a reality check that forces me to prioritize.

4. Take breaks and schedule in time to relax.

We are not meant to be working nonstop for all of our waking hours. In fact, many people report that their best ideas and solutions to their problems come to them during “downtime”–in the shower, on a walk, while driving. Pushing yourself to cram work into every minute of every day leads to burnout, stress related health problems and honestly, a lack of joy in life. Get accountable with yourself about giving yourself time off. It will make you happier and, yes, more productive. Really.

5. Keep a “done” list and review it at the end of each day.

Many productivity methods advocate keeping a to-do list — capturing what you need to get done in one organized place. But whenever I am feeling overwhelmed, I change the script by starting up a “done” list. As I work, I write down everything I accomplish, including side tasks that just came up and weren’t necessarily on my list to start with. I also include work on larger projects that can’t get completed in a day. My done list has items like “talked to venue about promotions for upcoming date,” “nailed down band rehearsal,” “dealt with electric bill,” “started researching studios and reached out to several,” “fixed error on website” — etc. In a world of multitasking and constant distractions, it can be way too easy to focus on what we didn’t get done, which feels awful at the end of a day of work. Instead, read through your “done” list at the end of the day and congratulate yourself on what you got done. Going to bed feeling proud of what you did, rather than anxious about what you still have to do, is a huge level up for your mental health. Over time this will also clue you into areas you can refine what you spend time on, and give you a more realistic view of what is possible in a day.

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What are the best ways you have leveled up your productivity lately? What do you still struggle with? Inquiring minds want to know. Share your thoughts and tips in the comments so we can all learn from each other’s experiences.

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Rorie Kelly
Ladybeast musician. Social justice warrior-princess. Co-director GoGirlsMusic. Enjoyer of dragons & wine. INFP. Sassy songs at http://roriekelly.bandcamp.com

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