As our music world opens, I know I have been getting very busy keeping updated on new ways to reach an audience, what is hot in the social media world and trying to keep up with technology. So today, in my own home office, as I just finished getting my final papers to the tax man, I knew it was time to re-organized my office and get rid of all the papers I seem to accumulate. Isn’t it funny in this techie world, that we are still dealing with so much paper?
Here is how I start organizing my busy workload.
PAPERS, PAPERS and MORE PAPERS
First, I began with separating all my mail. It is best to keep a trash can by the front door so you can get rid of the junk mail right away. It is very helpful having a small in-box on the ledge where your keep your keys, pocketbook/phones, when you walk through the door. I suggest keeping an 8”by 10” colorful in-box for coupons, ads, and personal correspondence you may want to look through later. From there, it is best to move all the bills into your work area so you will not forget about them.
Personally, I have a file cabinet where I place paid bills and receipts and have a cool looking hanging wall files where I keep important papers, equipment manuals, personal photos & magazines that I want to read and one section for bill to pay. Writing the date when the bills are due, on the outside of the envelope, is an easy way to check on those due dates weekly. If a bill is coming due the following week, put that on your ‘bill pay note” on your daily calendar.
NOTE: Using a google calendar has rescued me from missing important appointments and helps me prioritize my daily ‘To Do’ lists. Whatever method you are using for organizing your daily activities, consider depending on something digital.
Before you do anything else, look around the room you are organizing. It is time to gather any loose paper and put them in a big box, to either get rid of the paper or file it in the right place for action. Consider doing this at the end of the day, when you are watching a movie or relaxing listening to your favorite music.
If you are done gathering your tax papers and receipts, put them in a banker’s box and label that information. If your box was not totally full from last year, file this year’s receipts with last year’s tax receipts and just add the date to outside label. Keep your last TWO years of tax receipts nearby, in a closet or under a desk, in case you need to get into those numbers for applying for a loan, working on budget for a new music project, or needing those numbers to apply for a new credit card or even buy a new car.
File your receipts away bi-weekly will save you the headache at the end of the year. Also, consider getting a simple program like Quicken or CheckBook Pro to keep track of your incoming and outgoing money. These programs can print out a simple report at the end of the month for the tax man. Trust me, if you go digital with your finances, you will be a happier person at tax time.
UNWINDING AT THE END OF THE DAY
If you like to read before you go to bed, keep a small colorful box by your bed that contains magazines, books and inspiration reading material. But make sure the reading items have nothing to do with your business. Try a AAA travel magazine to think about fun travel vacation, a Chicken Soup for the Soul book or books on cooking or baking. What you do NOT want to do is spark business ideas that will prevent you falling asleep. When your box is too full, go through and file those on a book shelf or recycle the paper magazines!
It is my goal to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night, but somehow my bed time gets later & later. We all get so busy sometimes but you really need to know how to relax your mind at night. The light from the TV or your phone/computer/ipad, is known to affect your sleeping habits, so make sure your room is dark to get a good night’s sleep!
There are some great FREE YouTube videos for Yoga at bedtime or Stretches before bedtime. Find something that works for you!
ORGANIZING YOUR WORK AREA
Data says your will be more 89% more productive if you allocate a space where you just do your business. Adding a creative twist to your office or to just a corner of you abode, will draw you in to accomplish your daily “To Do” lists.
- Defining your work area. If you are not as lucky as me to have a home office, find a corner where you can do some concentrating and set up a desk. Some of the items that may help you concentrate: a bulletin board for reminders & calendars, an inbox for bills and other paperwork you need to work on this week and a music project box. I love my 3 files that hang on the wall and helps me organize, important items that need action, worksheets for my long-range planning and a personal file with personal cards and photos. If you are only using a corner space where other activities are taking place…. read the “Overcoming Obstacles” section below!
- More than one computer? I have a laptop and a desktop computer. Make sure you have good lighting and take frequent eye strain breaks, after a few hours, it will be hard to look at the white lighted screen! Make sure there are extra plugs around your desk for your printer or battery for your laptop and phone.
- Distraction notebook. As you are focusing on a music project, I know sometimes our brains wander to thoughts we need to do. I recommend keeping a small notebook next to you so I can jot down any ideas that creep in that try to get in your focused way. Making a call to confirm a zoom appointment or sending your music for a blogger’s deadline are important items too! But just write all those ideas down and then when you take a break or finish an hour (about 4pm), so you can confirm any items on your deadline.
- Visualize your music mission. Using a fun or inspirational physical calendar, putting your awards on a bookcase or using a simple bulletin board with photos & deadlines are motivating items as you take your short breaks away from your computer. If you can have your desk by a window, will bring the light you need to bring your spirit up.
PRIORTIZE YOUR TASK LIST
As DIY musicians, you have so much on your plate. But organizing the steps you need to accomplish monthly, weekly and daily will truly bring you success in meeting all of those music goals!
- Schedule your weekly activities. Begin with your responsibilities: the job that brings in the money, family obligations and at least 2 or 3 personal times (to do errands, your laundry or nightly walk). Then you can see exactly what open time you have available to work on your music projects. If you are doing music full time…I bet you still need to prioritize your weekly deadlines. I usually plan out my month, revise weekly items and only put a few MUST DO items on my list every day. If on Friday you review your list and an item did not get done, them make sure it is on the top of your list for next week. IF it still does not get done by the following Friday, usually you are usually scared to pursuit it or don’t have the skills. It is time to reach out for help.
- Pen or automation? I say both. When you put pen to paper instead of making a note on your phone, you are using a creative side of your brain! Try it! Write out or print out a physical calendar and work out your schedule….then you can add it to your phone or google calendar.
- Keep regular hours. Knowing your biological clock is very important. If you are not good at accomplishing things in the morning, then pick a time you are productive. I know a lot of musicians who come alive just as the sun goes down…that is OK too. I say if you are not a morning person, then sleep in. The only time you would have to push yourself to do something in the morning, would be if you had to do business from California with an important connection in New York. But you could schedule that early wake-up time, have a cup of java, make the call, do some personal stuff, take a nap before noon ….then start the rest of your day. Hey, it is the music business, but rarely does business start before 10am. The main thing is to keep a regular work schedule. Be aware that business is done Monday through Friday usually from 10am to 6pm. You can catch up on the weekends, but you really shouldn’t contact business people over the weekend unless they say it is OK.
- Long Range Goals. Make me a promise…at least once a week do one task to help reach your long-range goals. Schedule it in. For instance, if you want to get spotify curators lists or get press reviews, that takes research, so schedule in one or two hours a week, when your household is quiet, to do that research to reach that goal. OR maybe you are so busy doing the business planning that you need time to do more songwriting. Book that time with yourself and don’t give is away. Think of it as paying for a gym appointment or going to a doctors appointment.
- It’s still on my “to do” list! This is really for many of you who say at the end of the week, “What did I do with my time this week and how come I did not get done everything I needed to do?” There are usually two reasons for not accomplishing everything you wanted to do this week. Either you are afraid to do the call or you don’t of the skill to complete the project. It is really OK to ask for help. We all have expertise in different areas, so you could even barter with another musician. Your music friend may be an expert at writing Facebook ads and you are best at creating and scheduling Instagram posts. You really need to network with other DIY artists in your area!
OVERCOMING TIME & DISTRACTION OBSTACLES
If you want to get things done, you need to control your distractions.This statement is true! We all have 43 distractions a day and it takes 23 minutes to get back on track if you allow the distraction in. Below are some ideas to capture the time you need to get things done.
- Using Down Time Effectively. Over working will only bring you down physically. You have to have some time to just chill, making time for yourself, your family, your spouse and friends. Think about it, if you get sick, you will be down for two weeks and then you will really be behind! Take care of yourself, so you can be more productive!
- Concentration. Yes, we are a world of multi-taskers! But you can get more done if you concentrate on one thing at a time. That means turning off your social notifications and phones for a short block of time so you can get to your projects. If your office is in a busy part of your house, announce you need quiet for 30 minutes, get some sound blocking earphones (or listen to some music), or shut your office/studio door and add a “DO NOT DISTURB” sign on your door. Choose your boundries and then let everyone in your house know your time schedule. I even put a list of meeting (or quiet times needed) on the refrigerator so everyone in the house can see it!
- Break times. Reward yourself with a short break at least every 2 hours. If you are a hard-to-focus person, then time yourself every 20 to 40 minutes and then get up and renew your water bottle, do some chair yoga, or just go and pick up your mail downstairs. Keep your breaks to only 10 to 15 minutes. If you are going to eat a meal, give yourself at least 30-minute break away from your desk. Again, keeping a regular schedule will help you accomplish more tasks.
I hope some of these ideas will help you function better in your studio or home office. I did a Facebook live & blog back on December 30th that has even more suggestions to help you accomplish your music goals.
Do you have another idea not listed here that helps you get things done? Please share that with us in the blog comments or on our MusicBizMentor’s facebook page!