Project Overload? 7 Practical Tips to Keep the Plates Spinning

Project Overload? 7 Practical Tips to Keep the Plates Spinning

Polymaths are bound to have a mix of projects on the go at any given time.

Some of this is by design. Inspiration hits and you find yourself unable to resist compelling possibilities. So, you initiate new ventures, knowing it will require personal expansion, even as you hurry to cause completion with projects already started.

And, of course, some projects serve a more practical function of creating cashflow. This means maintaining a healthy inflow of leads and stable of clients.

But how do you keep all your plates spinning? Here are several practical tips to help you maintain order amid chaos.

1. Batch Process & Optimize Weekflow to Boost Productivity

Batch processing will prove essential to getting things done. When you’ve got many projects to tend to, you can’t afford to lose time. And task switching is a known productivity killer.

That said, if you don’t optimize weekflow, your batching efforts aren’t going to be as effective as they could be. If you don’t have a good sense of the big picture that’s forming, you’ll be plowing away at a certain task, only to be interrupted by a client call, meeting, deadline, or some other fire you didn’t see coming because you were too busy working.

In my experience, a desktop calendar pad can go a long way towards achieving better big picture clarity around forthcoming meetings, deadlines, calls, and more. Some people like to use their phone, but I find notifications annoying, and they break concentration besides. Paper-based systems like Getting Things Done (affiliate link) by David Allen force you to rely more on your organizational skills (and putting things into existence) than on unreliable tech.

2. Leverage Themed Days to Maximize Results

Don’t just group your tasks. Group your days.

Don’t just group your tasks. Group your days. Click To Tweet

I’ve talked to multiple entrepreneurs who keep multiple plates spinning, and the main way they do this is by setting aside certain days for specific projects.

I, for one, publish daily, write for Music Industry How To and MIDINation, maintain Music Entrepreneur HQ, and create content for The Indie YYC.

I use Mondays to outline the content I will be developing for the week. I divide my time between my various Music Industry How To and Music Entrepreneur HQ duties between Tuesday and Thursday. Friday is The Indie YYC day, though realistically, it doesn’t require more than a couple hours per week.

I’m not trying to advance all projects simultaneously on a given day. I give each my full attention on their designated days, so that my mind space is only occupied by pertinent tasks and conversations.

As you can imagine, this helps you generate better ideas and think better overall.

3. Get into Communication to Grow Your Team & Maintain Client Relationships

First, admit to yourself that being a lone wolf polymath is unworkable. Because it is.

Second, recognize that there are people around you just waiting to engage in meaningful projects. Their jobs are boring. Their home life is humdrum. They’re waiting for you to pick up the phone and invite them to be a part of something, even if there’s no financial incentive!

Build a personal relationship with everyone in your team to keep engagement levels high. It might seem a little unreasonable at first, because it’s going to take time out of your day. But you will soon see your workload minimize as others pick up the slack.

Keep your clients informed of project progress as well. You don’t need to type out 1,000-word essays to get the point across. Clear, succinct communication helps decrease misunderstandings and sets proper expectations.

When a promise is not going to be met, communicate. Everything is about communication. Don’t try to manage people. Manage promises.

Internalize the fact that promises are empowering. Many people avoid making promises because they don’t want to be on the hook for anything. But promises elevate the importance of tasks or projects, maximizing your overall effectiveness. That leads to better results.

4. Minimize the Amount of Time You’re Available to the Public to Make More Time for Focused Work

Unless self-initiated, I’m only available to the public on Wednesdays and Thursdays, between the hours of 11 AM and 5 PM for ad hoc calls and meetings.

This may appear self-serving, but when I leave my calendar open for anyone to book at any time, I may not be in the best position to serve them (because of energy levels, distractions, other tasks I need to get to, social events, or otherwise). I might even miss their booking requests. So, it’s in everyone’s best interest that I take calls only when I’m best equipped to handle them and give the matter the attention it deserves.

5. Prioritize Self-Care & Wellbeing to Keep Energy Levels High

I understand that your days will be booked to the brim with various forms of work. After all, you’re a go-getter.

But if you’re not taking care of yourself, you will burn out, and if you burn out, you will need to spend time in recovery. This can cost you severely in terms of productive time, medical bills, supplements, rehabilitation, and more.

So, it’s best to work a little self-care into your routine, even if it’s just five minutes here, 15 minutes there. Do five minutes of yoga. Meditate for 10 minutes. Take inspiration from some of my burnout reversal strategies.

Something is always better than nothing. And you honestly might be surprised by how much a difference walking for a few minutes daily can make.

6. Test Alignment & Prune the Stinkers to Manage Energy

Pay attention to how every project and client makes you feel.

There are ebbs and flows with every task or job, no matter how aligned you are. But ultimately, some projects will boost your energies and fulfillment level, while others will take away and steal your life force.

Book Yourself Solid (affiliate link) author Michael Port suggests cutting clients that drain your energy, because inevitably they will consume the most time and energy, making any financial reward almost irrelevant. The 4-Hour Workweek (affiliate link) author Tim Ferriss has made similar assertions.

You need a “red rope policy,” as it were, meticulously defining the type of customer you want to work with, while pricing your services out of reach for those who are sure to be lesser quality clients.

The same goes for personal or collaborative projects. It might hurt to cut some off, but if you’re not acting on them today, and you didn’t last week, and you didn’t the month before, can you honesty say you’re ever going to get around to them?

As former CD Baby founder Derek Sivers says, goals shape the present, not the future. If the goal has no impact on current actions, then there’s a good chance it’s misaligned.

We want to examine our relationship to everything we do, as personal development guru Steve Pavlina suggests. And we can shift our relationship to our projects at any time. But inevitably, you’re going to bump up against work that’s not in alignment.

Consider eliminating the projects and clients that take up too much mind space, time, energy, and resources. They are robbing you of fulfillment in every dimension.

7. Track & Review Your Progress to Ensure Momentum

Review your progress each week. If you’re not advancing in certain areas, remember – goals that aren’t shaping the present are bad goals. They aren’t in personal alignment.

Each week, take some time to review:

  • What is getting done
  • How much progress was made
  • Your overall performance relative to each project, on a scale of one to 10
  • What is not getting done
  • Where progress wasn’t made and why
  • Areas you need to improve in
  • Tasks others are working on
  • Tasks you need to delegate
  • Projects you need to revise or prune
  • Your overall fulfillment level

If you aren’t tracking and reviewing your progress, you can’t make an honest assessment of how a given project is going. And that stifles your ability to adjust or course correct.

Clarity is key. You can easily forget or lose track of specific tasks, projects, or people if you aren’t aware of how your projects are going, and that is unworkable.

You’re busy, and you’re up to something. And you won’t do everything perfectly. You will drop balls, and you will make mistakes. Which is why communication matters so much. But as much as possible, you want to create workability in every facet of your endeavors, and your weekly review is a good time to think and reflect on that.

Final Thoughts

Taking on many projects isn’t for everyone. But where there’s a will, there’s a way.

I would still advise chipping away at projects that don’t serve or fulfill you, as they are bound to consume more time and energy than they are worth. That said, I’m not one to stop anyone from running three businesses simultaneously. I know people that do. And it’s possible with the practical tips discussed here.

Find the things that keep you up into the wee hours of the night, and have you jumping out of bed early in the morning. These are the things that will inspire you to be, do, and have more.

Get Music Career Advice from Someone Who’s Outrageously Successful

Get Music Career Advice from Someone Who’s Outrageously Successful

As a blanket piece of advice, this works, and I would even say it’s mostly correct.

But so far as I – and any other professional coaches – are concerned, it’s missing some important nuances.

When hunting for good music career advice, you’d need to keep the following in mind too:

The Best Musician Coaches Aren’t Necessarily the Best Musicians

You don’t just want to look at how successful a coach is in music, because they may be more successful at coaching than in music.

A great musician isn’t necessarily going to make for a great coach, and a great coach isn’t necessarily going to make for a great musician. Occasionally, you will find someone who is skilled and accomplished in both areas, but they are rare.

Being successful in music is a lot of pressure to put on a coach, given that if they are any good, they are probably busy coaching and don’t have hours of spare time to invest in their music career.

Just for reference:

  • I am a four-time award winning, one-time nominated composer
  • My music has been featured on The Antidote and CCM Magazine
  • I have performed over 300 shows across western Canada
  • I have been teaching guitar since 2001

These accomplishments took something on my part. But they are nowhere near as impressive as my credentials as a coach.

The Best Coaches Listen & Ask Questions

Sure, us musician coaches share some of our best tips in blog posts, podcast episodes, and YouTube videos too. How else are we supposed to get traffic? But dispensing advice is not the true function of a coach.

The best coaches, once hired, don’t just come at you with a list of things to do. First and foremost, they are great listeners. Secondly, they ask questions that bring clarity to your situation.

If they come up with a list of tasks or a plan, it’s because the student requested it. So far as a coach is concerned, this is never step #1. Step #1 is either listening and asking questions, providing a self-assessment tool, or both.

If a coach isn’t starting there, then either their method is unconventional, or they’re not a great coach. Because if they’re not listening and asking questions, they don’t understand your problem. And without understanding your problem, how are they going to solve it?

The Best Coaches May Not be the Best Known

I was recently chatting with Diane Foy, and I tend to agree with her, that the most prominent musician coaches aren’t the best. In fact, good musician coaches may appear a commodity, but they are very hard to find!

Remember what I said earlier – the best coach may be too busy coaching and earning their stripes as a coach to be able to promote themselves. If a coach is prominently appearing in search, social media, and ads, it’s likely that they have investor help, are bankrolled, or are self-funding to the extreme.

I can’t say I know anyone professional who does this for the money – they do it for the love of music and musicians! But there are shills and charlatans out there to be sure, so user beware.

The Outrageously Successful Aren’t Always Dishing Out Advice

It’s funny how people say, “find the best person in your niche and ask them for advice.”

It works until it doesn’t. I’m not saying Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, or Tiger Woods aren’t giving back. But Jordan’s best apprentice, arguably, was Kobe Bryant, and he was a competitor, playing in the same professional capacity Jordan was. If he wasn’t in the NBA, do you think he would have received any kind of direction or mentorship?

Unless you’re on the same label as Miley Cyrus, I don’t know how you expect to learn from her, and even then, she probably doesn’t have time for you unless you’re collaborating on a song.

Ever notice how the “best” aren’t available for comment? Most of them aren’t just freely dishing out advice on Clubhouse or Instagram like it was NFT “knowledge.” They’re busy doing instead of talking about what they’re doing.

If you’re looking for the best coaches on social media alone, you’re just skimming the surface of self-funding types we talked about earlier.

Final Thoughts

You’ve got to be discerning in choosing your coach, of that there’s no doubt. But if you think the best musicians make for the best coaches, oh how wrong you are. Teaching is a skill and a talent, and not everyone has been blessed with those capacities. Everyone can become a better teacher, but not everyone is a natural, or even has proven results!

You can look for people who are outrageously successful (or appear to be so), but they aren’t guaranteed to be the best coach, and unless you’re also considering the above, you could end up being exploited by disingenuous providers.