Time Management for Music Entrepreneurs: Conquer Your “Overwhelm”

To be a successful musician—or indeed successful in any enterprise—time management and prioritization are essential skills.  Musicians are busy people! It is essential for them to manage their time AND their energy.  And often, things crop up that interfere with smooth time management and create obstacles to career success.  Read what time management challenges the students at the Yale School of Music are facing and how we went about solving them.

In my experience, the most effective time management strategies come by examining the inner blocks to having control over your time.  While some time management systems use a “just do it” approach and have you learn a series of technical skills, my feeling is that time management is really self-management.  The most effective strategy to high-energy time management comes from taking charge of your time.  You can do this by answering the following questions:

·      What are your values-based goals and priorities?
·      What are your biggest challenges and the reasons underlying your challenges?
·      What can you do about these challenges?

These ideas were at the heart of a recent time management workshop that I led at the Yale School of Music. These talented young people are busy!  They attend classes, rehearse, perform, perhaps have a part-time job—and long to have some fun, get some exercise and keep in touch with their friends.  A few had some great strategies on how to be productive and manage multiple projects.  But most of these students felt overwhelmed:  they told me that they simply have too much to do and they don’t know where to begin.

I asked them why they had so much on their plates.  Here is what came up:

1.    “I am afraid that I will be missing out some great opportunity.”
2.   “I am not clear on my own goals so I say yes to everything that comes my way in the hopes of finding something that I really like to do.”
3.   I can’t say no to my friends.  I don’t want to disappoint them and I am afraid that they won’t like me if I say no.”
4.   “I get distracted by Facebook, text-messaging, email and then I don’t have time to do my work.”

These challenges are very real.  And the good news is that there are solutions.

In the first part of our workshop, the students focused on finding their values, setting goals that reflected those values and creating short-term priorities that tied directly to their goals.  The students’ goals included:
·      career goals (performing, teaching, working for non-profit organizations)
·      relationship goals (getting married, having a family, keeping up with close friends, collaborating with like-minded musicians and artists)
·      health & wellness goals (exercising more, staying healthy in order to perform better) and
·      personal development goals (learning a language, reading for pleasure, spiritual development).

With these values-based goals in mind, I then asked the students to evaluate all of the projects that they were currently involved in.  For many, it became clear that a lot of their activities were peripheral to their priorities. (Click here for tips on setting your priorities).

Some of those “great opportunities” really did not align with those closely-held values or long-term goals.
In addition, saying yes to things proposed by others often meant that you did not have time to do something very important to you.  In effect, saying yes to others meant saying no to yourself!

For those who took on every opportunity in the hopes of figuring out what they wanted to do, they saw the negative impact in taking on responsbilities and not being able to complete them or in trying to please others.  Instead, they found that concentrating on activities that honored their values and saying no to the rest was a much better way to go.

And for the many students who found themselves distracted by outside media, it helped to focus on goals, create blocks of time in which to work, and see how all those precious hours wasted on Facebook could be better spent on other things, including live face time with friends!

So if you are like the students at Yale and find yourself doing too many things, ask yourself how well your activities align with your values and your goals and see what you can do to reduce that full plate.  Chances are that by concentrating on the things that are the most important to you, you will feel much more in charge of your time and your life.  That’s the secret of great time management!

© Astrid Baumgardner 2011