Protecting Your Time

Protecting Your Time

Put more stringent measures into place to protect your time, and there will be immediate pushback from your partners, colleagues, collaborators, clients, and peers.

“Who do you think you are? Do you think your time is more valuable than mine?”

“Does this mean we can’t have three-hour conversations sorting out all the details of our next event?”

“I never knew you took your time and boundaries so seriously. Has this always been a concern for you?”

What your colleagues don’t appreciate is that you’re looking to create a workable, sustainable schedule for yourself. And by the time you’ve established a tenable plan, your productivity isn’t going to suffer. It’s going to increase. The people around you are the ones that are ultimately going to benefit from you setting more rails around your time.

You know yourself better than anyone else. That also means you are more qualified to devise a plan and stack the deck in your favor than anyone else. No one else can tell you how to live. They may have helpful suggestions, but at the end of the day you’ve got to make up your mind for yourself.

If you want to achieve next level productivity, then it’s all about setting yourself layers behind the frontlines. It’s about batch processing your email, returning texts when it best suits you, selectively ignoring communication as you see fit. It’s about delegating tasks and activity that are below your paygrade and handing off tasks to other capable people.

God forbid you might get a book written if you had an hour to spare in your day.

Fundamentally, most people aren’t going to be onboard with you opting to protect your time, and that may well be one of the greatest challenges you’ll face in setting up a moat around your castle.

But it must be done. You can’t get to where you want to go in life if you’re distractable, interruptible, contactable at all hours of the day. Someone will always be there to add to your to-do list.

Certainly, take on anything that’s aligned with your goals. But do it on your own terms. Choose when you return communication. Don’t let someone else tell you how it’s supposed to work. You make the rules.

The Parable of the Rocks, Pebbles, Sand, and Water

The Parable of the Rocks, Pebbles, Sand, and Water

I thought this parable was something every personal development fiend or ambitious person had heard of.

But today, I talked to two people who had never even heard of it. So, clearly, not everyone has been exposed to it.

As I begin to rethink my schedule again, this is the parable that has been running through my mind.

So, what is it? And what can it teach us about prioritization and productivity? Read on.

Rocks, Pebble, Sand, and Water

A University professor wanted to illustrate how each of us can better prioritize and manage our time.

He brought several items with him to class – a jar, rocks, pebbles, sand, and a glass of water.

The professor filled the jar with the rocks and asked the students whether the jar was full? They answered “yes, it’s full.”

But he then proceeded to fill the jar with the pebbles. He shook the jar until the pebbles neatly arranged themselves in between the crevices left by the larger rocks.

“Is it full now?”

This time, his students were sure the jar was full.

The professor then filled the jar with sand, which filled the remaining space left by the rocks and the pebbles.

Without skipping a beat, he also poured the glass of water into the jar as everything neatly settled inside.

The class was astonished.

“Try to fill the jar with the sand first,” said the professor, “and there would be no room left for everything else.”

The Moral of the Story

There are different variations on this parable. But the message is the same:

The rocks represent your greatest priorities.

The pebbles represent important priorities.

The sand represents minor priorities.

And the water represents everything else.

When prioritizing what matters to you, you must put the rocks in the jar first. They will not fit later. And so it is with the pebbles, sand, and water. They only work in that specific order.

For an entrepreneur, that means putting revenue generating activity first thing in your day. If you put it off until later, you will not get around to it. But if you start with it, you’ll either have plenty of time left over for everything else you need to do, or the act of completing a “rock” project will make all other activity irrelevant.

See what else I’m up to.

3 Simple Email Productivity Tips

3 Simple Email Productivity Tips

So, what’s the state of your email inbox?

If you’re like most, you have hundreds if not thousands of unread messages. You’re selective in what you read (which is not necessarily a bad thing), and you might even feel stuck in perpetual email hell, depending on the nature of your work.

It is possible to achieve inbox sanity, though it’s going to require a different way of looking at things. Are you ready to be challenged?

Here I explore three simple email productivity tips to help you recover lost time.

Create Rules for Your Emails

At some point, you will be bombarded with opportunity. How you handle it is going to have a massive impact on your overall productivity.

Thus, the need for rules.

Do you accept guest posts on your blog?

Your answer needs to be a hard “yes” or hard “no,” so you can triage quickly. At the very least, you want to say, “we’ll accept guest submissions when X conditions are met.” And X conditions should be clearly defined, so you know when to say “yes.”

I open every email with the intention of deleting or archiving it. That’s one of my rules (you will find some of my other rules in this article).

Takeaway: set rules for your emails so that you aren’t paralyzed in deciding what to do with each message, whether it’s responding, forwarding, deleting, archiving, or otherwise. When you’re clear on next actions for each email, your productivity will increase.

Set rules for your emails so that you aren’t paralyzed in deciding what to do with each message, whether it’s responding, forwarding, deleting, archiving, or otherwise. Click To Tweet

Utilize Templates

The least efficient way to respond to email of a certain type, especially those where a request is being made, is to write out unique answers individually. This will have an impact on your productivity.

The least efficient way to respond to an email is to write out customized answers one by one. Click To Tweet

Instead, I suggest setting up templates. These templates should be customizable to the extent that you need them to be. But you should never start with a blank page or reinvent the wheel.

Apps like Gmail let you save messages as templates, and even if your provider doesn’t boast such functionality, you can still save your canned responses in plain text files.

Takeaway: whether you’re aware of it or not, you respond to the same kind of email all the time. And most of the time, your response is the same, too (if not, review the last point on creating rules). So, create templates for your most common types of responses and save them for later use.

Delete Last Year’s Emails

I’m probably about to make you a little nervous, though I’m not about to share anything I haven’t shared before.

One of my rules is to clean out last year’s emails. Sure, if there’s something specifically, I want for my memories, safekeeping, documentation, or otherwise, I will save it to the appropriate folder. Same goes for important contacts (don’t forget to save those before deleting your emails!).

But otherwise, your emails are just taking up space (even if just virtual space), and you’re basically never going to get around to responding to or reviewing those messages ever again.

Yep, you dropped some balls. You didn’t get back to some people. Projects fell through the cracks. You should have responded, and you didn’t.

But because of that, you live in a perpetual state of incompletion, and your mental RAM is over capacity. It’s time to complete what has already happened and live in the moment instead of recalling yesterday’s trauma.

Takeaway: Remember – one of my rules is to archive or delete every message, and the goal is to get to inbox zero. So, ideally, by the time a new year has rolled around, I’m already on top of last year’s messages. I do this so I can be complete with last year and focus on this year.

Recommended Resource

If you like the idea of causing more completion in life, and need actionable steps you can take to engage in the present fully, you will benefit from a reading of my Start Your Year the Right Way. There are plenty of great tips, prompts, and journaling exercises to help lead you to clarity.

Start Your Year the Right Way

Final Thoughts

It’s going take some work, and a stronger will to get your inbox sorted. But you can do it.

What did you discover here? What step will you be taking towards inbox sanity today?

See what else I’m up to by checking out my link in bio.

Your Sunday Routine

Your Sunday Routine

How do you like to spend your Sunday?

I understand that some people don’t have the weekend off, or don’t necessarily take it off. In which case, substitute “Sunday” with whatever day you have off.

The question is, what do you do on your day off, do you have a routine you follow, and if so, what has worked best for you?

For me, my Sunday routine has basically followed one of three trends in the last few months:

Scenario #1

Scenario #1 is where I spend a third of the day outside, a third of the day reading, and a third of the day playing guitar.

Going outside might look like going for a drive, having lunch, getting a bubble tea, maybe do a bit of shopping.

Reading is self-explanatory. I will get into some good books.

As for playing the guitar, I’ll work on something new, to keep developing my skill on the instrument.

I do find this routine somewhat energizing, and I feel accomplished after completing it. But I usually wake up feeling tired the next day.

Scenario #2

This is basically where I do nothing. Spend most of my time in bed watching Netflix, potentially while playing something on my Nintendo 3DS.

This has been a good way to spend a day off from time to time. Everyone needs a break. But on a more regular basis, it doesn’t work. I usually wake up tired the next day.

Scenario #3

Scenario #3 is what I stumbled on yesterday.

I stayed in bed until about noon, at which point I prepared to go outside. I loaded up my laptop bag with my computer, iPad, book, and newsletter (No B.S. Letter).

First, I went to the bakery for my breakfast. Then, I went to Starbucks and read for a couple of hours.

Then, I went shopping for a bit before returning home with a pizza and spending the rest of the night laying in bed and watching Netflix.

I woke up today feeling refreshed and energized.

Lessons

While I don’t know if I have my Sunday “dialed in” yet, I know I’m getting close. Here are some of the things I’ve realized:

  • Organizing and cleaning up does make you feel better
  • It’s always good to get more sunlight and limit exposure to screens when possible (get out into nature)
  • Breakfast is more enjoyable when it’s healthy and something that tastes good (the bakery I went to largely serves healthy breads and pastries)
  • Catching up on your reading is a great way to reflect and find inspiration for your current projects and life circumstances
  • Taking care of odds and ends takes a load off the mind – just don’t overspend in the process

Thanks for reading.

My Productivity Tool Stack for 2022

My Productivity Tool Stack for 2022

My productivity tool stack hasn’t gone through any major changes for years.

But because of the intensive, yearlong leadership program I’ve been taking, this has fast become a moving target.

So, here I share my current tool stack to help you find your path in 2022 and beyond.

Desktop Calendar Pad

Staples desktop calendar pad

I’ve explored why this is an indispensable part of my tool stack in a previous post.

I typically use it:

  • To track upcoming meetings, interviews, and events
  • To track income (in the memo section)
  • As an editorial calendar, so I can keep my content queue (on various platforms) full

The calendar pad is great for record keeping as well.

Yellow Legal Pad

Yellow legal pad

I used to use my yellow legal pad for my to-do lists.

These days, I find myself using it to take notes, project and contact lists,scribbles, and for the occasional short-form to-do list.

Because of that, I use it more spontaneously than in the past, and most of the notes I produce have a short lifespan.

Samsung Galaxy S7

I do not own the latest, flashiest phone on the market. I only upgrade after wearing down what I happen to be using at the time, and the Samsung Galaxy S7 is what I’ve been using for the last few years.

It’s easy to become a slave to your device, so I’ve turned off most notifications. I even deleted TikTok off my phone once I logged in on my desktop, because I only use it for marketing purposes.

My phone is great for capturing quick photos and videos, maybe the occasional thought or idea. Besides texting and calling, that’s the main way I use it.

iPad & Apple Pencil

iPad and Apple Pencil

For my reflection time, I often use my iPad and Apple Pencil to handwrite notes. It’s my favorite journaling tool combination.

I also read Kindles on my iPad, though I still prefer physical books to digital ones. An iPad is still lighter for travel.

Evernote

The Rule of 5 to-do list

This is where my to-do lists now reside. I don’t completely understand how this switch happened myself.

It could be because I hadn’t logged into Evernote in a long time, and when I finally returned to it a couple of months ago, I found it a more comfortable working environment.

It could also be that writing down the sheer number of tasks I have to do each week on a yellow legal pad is less practical than it used to be.

Dropbox

Dropbox is so integrated with my workflow that I sometimes forget that it’s a vital part of my creative endeavors.

I’m often moving a lot of files around – screenshots, pictures, raw video files – and often need to be able transfer these files from one device to another. Dropbox is a convenient tool for that.

Even if not for that, though, I use Dropbox for my staff writing duties at Music Industry How To as well.

Google Workplace

Gmail, Drive, and Calendar are powerful productivity tools if used correctly.

Gmail is great for organizing your communication and filtering your emails.

Drive is highly searchable, and that makes it easy for you to pull up all your documents, spreadsheets, presentations (and anything else) at a moment’s notice. My Learning folder and LifeSheet are stored inside Google Drive, and I also have them bookmarked in Firefox.

I timebox my days inside Calendar each week now:

Timeboxed calendar

I’m also finding that Drive works well as a storage device. If I’m having trouble sending files over via email or Dropbox, Drive usually does the trick.

Slack

I initially had some resistance to Slack. I’d heard about its power. Entrepreneurs raved about it. Even after giving it a chance, to me it was just another app.

Because of the previously mentioned leadership program, I’ve had to get used to communicating on Slack, and have also been using it for my own team’s ongoing collaboration.

I still think of it as “just another app,” but I like that it’s highly searchable and you can use it as a file repository, feed reader, and so on.

Notion

Every team (and ambitious solopreneur) needs their own internal wiki, online bulletin board, or project management system.

Notion makes it easy for you to create a highly organized database with tables, calendars, to-do lists, and more. You can even embed media.

Zoom

Although I still use Google Meet here and there, most of my video conferencing needs are covered by Zoom. It integrates nicely with most calendar solutions as well.

Microsoft Office

Almost all my writing is done inside Word.

Google Docs are fine, especially if I want to be able to write wherever, whenever on any device, but they don’t catch all my errors.

I have not used Grammarly, and don’t intend to. Word suits my writing style best.

I also use Excel for ledgers here and there.

Adobe Photoshop

Canva is nice, but I know my way around Adobe Photoshop better.

Photoshop is also far more versatile, and if you design in a professional capacity, you need all the power you can get.

I’m not the best designer in the world, and don’t claim to be. But Photoshop is part of my workflow because my various duties require it, and a different app (like GIMP) would just slow me down.

10XPro

10XPro

Campaigns and sales funnels would take me much longer to build with any other piece of software. 10XPro lets me set up websites, membership sites, campaigns, and sales funnels with the click of a button.

I will be setting up more products and programs over at Content Marketing Musician because of how amazing this piece of software is.

Read my review of 10XPro.io

Final Thoughts

Remember – productivity doesn’t necessarily mean more tools.

But if you’re doing everything by the seat of your pants, guaranteed you’re sacrificing productive time.

What structures will you be putting into place? What systems do you already have?

Although I don’t come cheaply, as a champion of artistic success, I’m always here to support you. If you’d like my coaching on setting yourself up for an effective 2022, get in touch. You would also merit from a read through of my latest, The Music Entrepreneur Code – 2022 Edition.

How to Move Multiple Projects Forward Powerfully

How to Move Multiple Projects Forward Powerfully

“Don’t multitask – it makes you unproductive.”

“Everything needs to be done one step at a time.”

“If you’re suffering from project overload, it’s time to purge.”

Most productivity advice originating from the mainstream and even the gurus are thoroughly unhelpful or plainly bunk, as they seem to be under the mistaken impression that all of us only have one job, freelancing career, business, or client.

If you find yourself in a position where you can freely choose what you want to work on, and for how long, discard this – it’s not for you.

For most of us, the reality will be moving multiple projects forward simultaneously. Once you’ve accepted this, and I stress this – once you’ve accepted this – you will be ready to move multiple projects forward powerfully.

Project Management is the Bottleneck

At the risk of beating a dead horse, there are no textbooks on project management, as people lucky enough to be tasked with the responsibility, unless especially talented or experienced, find themselves needing to invent a system in a company that’s reluctant to set forth the necessary resources for a new initiative, and want to do everything by the book.

I’m a champion of artistic success, and as such I’m aware that I’m speaking to creatives, freelancers, and entrepreneurs.

But understand – even if you’re mostly a one-man or one-woman show, having no structures in place will be the downfall of your success in moving multiple projects forward. Without structures, you will drop the ball on projects, experience major cash flow problems or lose income to prolonged silence and neglect. And no whiz-bang invoicing system will save you the trouble. Read this paragraph again.

We need structures, though complexity is unnecessary. A simple written list of projects can serve as a good reminder (just beware of it blending into your environment so you don’t even notice it anymore). As well, there are tools plentiful enough to satisfy most personalities and inclinations – Evernote, Google Drive, ClickUp, Asana, or the now trendy Notion. Pick something, commit to its mastery, and make it your own. Start simply and don’t second guess.

Crack the Whip on Your Time

As a passionate adventurer, I take it upon myself to dig for the gold in countless resources, whether books, courses, mastermind groups, coaching programs, or otherwise.

No one can give you the tough love you need like author Dan Kennedy, especially in his timeless book No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs. And while his methodology may appear draconian to the microwave success crowd, it’s worth reading for the mindset alone. Let it impact your workflow, and you will expand beyond any level of productivity previously imagined. Anything else I could say in this regard would be redundant or a pale imitation.

Nir Eyal’s timeboxing process would also merit a look, as I have personally experienced great success taking on blogging daily, a yearlong intensive leadership program, community projects, staff writing duties, freelance and ghostwriting clients, and multiple business projects simultaneously. And I still workout at least three times per week, meditate most days and have time enough to wind down for a couple of hours each night.

Act with Great Urgency

There is no time to sit around waxing eloquent about the theoretical. You’ve committed to multiple projects, and now it’s time to put your money where your mouth is. Don’t wait to get started. Don’t expend more time and energy on planning and project management. Don’t try to fine-tune your routine or time management processes. It’s time to act with urgency.

As actor Will Smith says:

Bite off more than you can chew… Then chew it!

Start chewing now. Don’t wait until later. Adopt the mantra “do it now” and have it lived in your life.

And as you get into motion, you will recognize that there isn’t time enough to be tired or sick. There isn’t time enough for excuses. Only time to do and restore integrity when and where you are out of it.

Create a start and end time for every activity, and unless completely impossible, move every project forward every single week.

Create Margin for Hired Help

If your fees are barely enough (or not enough) to keep you afloat financially, increase them immediately. Your personal solvency is paramount to your initiative’s future success.

In most projects, there will be opportunities to outsource the workload, if not in whole then in part, and that will bring some relief to the project load. Over time, you can create even more leeway.

Smart entrepreneurs won’t outsource everything, though, and will instead discover and feed their passion for marketing and continue to sign paychecks and monitor staff activity.

Final Thoughts

My book, The Music Entrepreneur Code, introduces several real productivity techniques I use to get results. It was written for musicians, but freelancers and entrepreneurs alike have benefited from the read.

Let go of the need to fight against multiple projects and instead embrace it as a way of life. Get good at advancing every project every week of your life.