On Saturday night, I experienced the early warning signs of burnout.
I have been “gunning it” for the last nine months, so it’s only expected that, at some point, I would start to feel a little worn down. And yesterday, my body let me know as I was standing in an elevator.
It’s obviously better to catch this early because recovery can happen much faster. I can adjust my schedule, turn my attention to the few revenue-generating activities that matter, and get more rest.
And more than ever, what I’ve recognized is that more work does not mean better results.
When you’re in the constant fog of hustling and grinding, it gets harder to distinguish the activity that’s producing results from the activity that isn’t.
At some point, you start creating labels for your work – work that you find fulfilling and enjoyable, work you don’t, and shades of grey in between.
Before you know it, you’re prioritizing work that’s fulfilling and enjoyable, not realizing that this work doesn’t create revenue, at least not compared to the work you say you don’t enjoy.
The labels, then, become completely meaningless. Why hate the work that’s bringing an income and instead put all your time and energy into the work that’s producing hobby level results?
You think you’re putting revenue over life, but upon closer examination, you’ll realize that you’re just putting work above life, not revenue above life.
Are You Sure You Aren’t Comparing?
“I will not be a victim to comparison,” you may say. But you don’t realize just how much you are comparing yourself to those who have a bigger following, are making a greater income, or you feel are more accomplished than you are. It’s why you keep striving for more thinking you don’t have what they have.
“They did it, so I should be able to do it too. Why am I not as far along as they are?”
It’s important to realize that, if you have a vehicle that helps you make a living wage and covers your bills, while it might not appear sexy, it’s much better than a lot of people have it.
You have no idea how many so-called “influencers” with a massive following essentially live in a yurt.
Look, some people think the Lambo and mansion are what it’s all about. Some of your potential clients might even be fooled by it.
But if you do it right, you’ll be well-positioned to save their neck when they lose their shirt from the $12.95 book, $97 home study course, $997 conference, $1,997 coaching program, and so forth, they bought from the charlatan who was supposed to have a foolproof method for success.
Unless you’ve locked yourself out of the internet, you do compare yourself unfavorably to others. And it’s affecting your judgement severely.
For most creatives and entrepreneurs, financial freedom is but a concept – some random, far-off date, with some random, astronomical figure of money.
But assuming it an inevitably, most will soldier on, day after day, thinking that they will one day wake up to be bombarded with sales orders.
The opposite is just as likely and plausible, though, that their business stagnates, gets on a downward curve, or collapses entirely despite their best efforts.
It’s one thing to find out your idea isn’t going to work six weeks or six months in, quite another to discover six years or 16 years later that your ladder was against the wrong wall.
Working harder assures nothing, as I’ve demonstrated before.
I have no doubt that you derive a certain amount of joy and even fulfillment from the work you do, just as I do. But life is happening now, and if you don’t head out your door to enjoy the weather, the beautiful mountains and beaches, the new restaurant that just opened in town, you may never get around to it.
Even if you don’t have your financial freedom yet, by your own estimation, you do have a certain amount of freedom available to you today. And today is the time to start enjoying it.
Revenue over life is stupid because when you put income ahead of your wellbeing, you begin making stupid decisions that aren’t in line with your goals. All you end up doing is wasting hours of your life you’re not going to get back.
Limit your working hours. There will always be more to do tomorrow, and it will be right there waiting for you. When you have a start and end time for everything, you will necessarily be more effective, because there will be no other alternative.
It’s been my experience that artists generally fly by the seat of their pants.
Sure, we prioritize to lesser or greater extents, but most of the time, we just do what we’re excited about. To-do lists be damned. Let inspiration lead the way.
And this is a good thing. You should spend time doing what gets you fired up. Otherwise, everything has a way of becoming a means to an end. And what kind of life is that?
But we also need to look closely at the things we’re dreading. Oftentimes, the reason we’re avoiding certain tasks – like making calls, booking shows, or networking – is because they’re just a little outside of our comfort zone. It’s not that any of these tasks will ultimately take a Herculean effort. You can make a phone call in what, five minutes? But these tasks can be confronting.
What I’ve discovered on my own path is that the results generally aren’t forthcoming when I stay in my comfort zone. It’s in the activity that’s just a little outside what I would consider comfortable that good things happen. And miracles can literally happen in a moment if I just do what I know to do but haven’t done yet.
So, make an honest assessment of what you’re working on, and whether it’s going to get you the results you’re looking for. At times, we all need to engage in activity we don’t really want to do to get to the next level. If progress is important to you, don’t step over this. You don’t need to spend all your time in your discomfort zone. But if you’re stuck in your career, consider that you haven’t been in that zone for a while.
For a proven, step-by-step framework in cracking the code to independent music career success, and additional in-depth insights into making your passion sustainable and profitable, be sure to pick up my best-selling guide, The Music Entrepreneur Code.
Work has been, and always will be, done wherever you are. And you are not remote. Your team members may be, but wherever you are is local to you. You may be video conferencing instead of working together in the same office now, but for everyone on your team, wherever they are working is local to them. They are only “remote” to you. And you are only “remote” to them.
I get that you may not be commuting to the same office or workplace anymore. But it’s funny how we never called that “remote” work, because everyone had to gather in the same place to do their work.
Currently, I live in Abbotsford. But if I took off to New Zealand and did my work from New Zealand, I would not say that I was working remotely. I would be working locally in New Zealand. And because I live nomadically, I would continue to journey on, exploring different countries (like that’s ever going to be a possibility again). Regardless of where I journeyed, I would say that I was working locally.
I find it fascinating how we attempt to adopt different paradigms for the changing dynamics of work. I completely understand that phone calls and video conferencing are no substitute for in-person meetings. I have also felt the disconnect.
I attended an online conference a while back (while working, I might add), and no matter the sound effects, or digital “claps,” it just didn’t do it for me. It will never replace the connection, excitement, and directness of an in-person conference.
And we call these “virtual conferences.” I don’t get that terminology either. If it’s virtual, isn’t some part of it fake? It’s not virtual, it’s just not happening at a hotel, theater, or conference center. It’s happening online. It’s just a glorified video conference.
Getting back to the point, how effective were your meetings in the first place? If your office was like most, the answer is not very.
And, again, even though I understand well the challenges of communication that come with the heavy reliance on devices rather than direct communication, the fact of the matter is, there isn’t a whole lot of difference between where you used to work, and where you work now.
You’re still staring at a screen (or multiple screens). You’re still using email to communicate (which is funny, because it’s more useful now than it used to be – it probably shouldn’t have been abused in the office). And you’re still pulling the same hours if not more.
This is just the perspective of a digital nomad, so take what you will. But to me, there is no such thing as “remote work.” Work happens where you are. And for your team, work happens where they are. It’s helpful to adopt that paradigm, because otherwise you might tend to think work is happening elsewhere. That’s not quite true. For everyone in your circle, work is happening where they are. And part of the separation you feel is because of that unnecessary distinction.
One of the reasons we even worry about productivity is because we have things on our to-do lists, we don’t even want to touch.
Go ahead, look over your to-do list. How many items do you actually feel motivated to tackle? Chances are, there are only one to three items that give you any sense of excitement.
Invoicing your clients is essential. It’s always nice to get paid. Answering your emails might give you a tiny dopamine fix. Having to call your bank can probably wait. And the fetch quest tasks (research options and submit to client, partner, boss, etc.), well, they don’t exactly make the fires of passion well up in your belly.
Maybe the way we’ve been thinking about productivity has been wrong all along.
Because if we just focused on the things that excited us, we’d have a hard time peeling ourselves away from our desk or lab. We wouldn’t be watching the clock, waiting for it to turn 5 or 6. We’d be so deep in flow, we’d have to be deliberate about having a hard stop.
“But I still have things I need to do that I don’t want to do, David” you say. “What you’re suggesting is highly impractical.”
True, you can’t outsource exercise. If you want to maintain your health and fitness, you’ve got to put in the work. There is no other way. It’s the same way with invoicing, emails, calling the bank, and so on.
And we can’t very well escape communication, whatever form it may take. Even ruthless time manager and author Dan Kennedy accepts faxes.
But if we’re serious about productivity, we can’t just think in terms of getting things done. Because that’s not where the important work happens. The truth is the important work only happens when we prioritize and schedule it. Otherwise, it has a way of getting swallowed up in the deluge of urgent tasks that force productivity instead of inspiring it.
If you want to inspire productivity, you’ve got to work on something you love.
Just yesterday, I completed a new 8,000+ word eBook. I wrote it in three days, and I happen to think of it as a timely, important work.
I had my reasons for wanting to get it done, mostly because I plan to release it by tomorrow (April 1, 2021), and because it’s replacing a legacy product.
If I were tasked with writing an 8,000-word listicle, unless I was especially excited about the subject matter or had a hard and fast deadline for the piece, I would probably needlessly stretch it out over the course of four or five days.
“It’s so boring,” I would whine. “I just want to be working on my own stuff.”
Now, I’m not saying that you will love everything you work on, even the things you call your passion.
It’s funny – on some level, I actually hate my new eBook. But I got into flow as I was working on it, and I didn’t want to peel myself away from it until it was done. And in this case, I took hating it as a sign that I was engaging in important work.
The point is that we all need work in our life we can’t help but engage in. And, if possible, our lives should revolve around it. Usually, “must do” tasks can be batched on one evening or maybe a couple hours during the weekend. We can create our businesses around the things we love, and not doing so is robbing you and your audience of something amazing.
What is one small change you could make in your life to do more of what you love?
There’s work that needs to be completely urgently.
And then there’s work that we can put off, seemingly indefinitely.
The life of the creative is paved with scenarios like that.
But what we don’t acknowledge is that the work we put off might hold the key to our next breakthrough.
The “boring” is worth giving some attention to. It’s where you have the potential to see the greatest growth.
Where I Feel Like I’ve Fallen Short
What strikes me as sexy, at least in my world, is content, traffic, and product development.
Content tends to come first in my day, if only because I’ve made a commitment to publishing daily and because I have staff writing duties to carry out.
I’ve been trying to put product development first in my day because I know that’s where the greatest return is going to come from. Some days I’m successful, some days I’m not.
To be honest, there are times when product development can seem boring to me. But that’s because it’s time-consuming and intensive work.
But what I’ve recently come to realize is that I find the following business tasks the most boring. Things like:
Understanding my target audience better
I’m knowledgeable and well-versed in every one of these areas but have had trouble bringing myself to work on them consistently.
Which isn’t to say I should be doing it all myself. But since I haven’t experienced any breakthroughs by focusing on content, traffic, and products, maybe the step forward I’m looking for is in engaging the boring.
I’ve Already Started the Grind
This realization about the “boring” occurred to me last week.
I was watching my business coach in action from a 2009 presentation, and what I saw was just how diligent and thorough he was in research and gathering information to determine whether a business had the potential to be profitable.
Let me restate. This was in 2009! Holy.
We’re in 2021 now, and no matter the niche, no matter the audience, things are more competitive than they’ve ever been! You’ve got to bring your A-game, bro.
I’ve never claimed to win a high school popularity contest (which is pretty much how social media, online business, and even music has occurred to me at times), and I don’t think I’m about to. So, that means I’ve got to build a tribe that resonates with me specifically, even if it’s a small one.
(By the way, I do feel I could change my context around this “high school popularity contest” business and would even benefit from doing so.)
Anyway, waffle as I do, the grind has already begun for me. As we speak, I’ve started dedicating some time to pruning and optimizing my content at Music Entrepreneur HQ, my lovechild (over 800 pages…).
And this means combing through Google Analytics for pages that haven’t gotten much traffic in the past year and figuring out why that’s the case (oftentimes it’s just because of a missing or broken image, though there are some low-quality posts that I’m upgrading or pruning).
I already know that this is nowhere near as important as creating an offer that converts and developing a sales process for it. That said, I have multiple products just waiting to be launched, and that makes no difference if there isn’t an audience there to buy them.
I’ve spent 12 years building an audience. What’s funny is that I’ve changed a lot in those 12 years, and whoever is still with me has had to endure that roller-coaster ride.
Maybe it’s too much to expect that they’d still be with me. Only a small number still are…
Like I said, I’m not winning any popularity contests.
What Have You Been Avoiding?
Again, I drone on.
But this post is about you and what you’ve been avoiding.
What is something that has been showing up as boring in your world?
What is something that deep down you know you haven’t been giving the attention it deserves?
It might even be something that occurs to you as a total mess (just as Music Entrepreneur HQ does to me).
We are all in a dance with how things occur to us…
But maybe there’s a breakthrough waiting for you in that very area.
Like a to-do list with tasks, you never seem to get around to or even want to touch…
It’s human to move towards the comfortable. Move away from the uncomfortable.
But there’s something magical about the uncomfortable.
When you finally tend to it, you may find that it isn’t a big deal after all. You may find that it only takes a few seconds to do. Even if it takes longer, you may find that it’s not as hard as you thought it would be.
Some suspense may follow your actions (e.g., like if you were cold calling an influencer), but the task itself might not be the mountain you’ve made of it.