007: Hard Work Redux
Last time I talked about the myth of Hard Work, and how we need to stop 'working hard' and start being productive. The premise being that hard work has come to mean being ‘busy’ and ‘grinding it out’ [if you missed that one you can read it here]. I wanted to follow up on that train of thought to say that this isn’t a license to be lazy, to take a haphazard approach to things and assume great things will happen if you simple stop being busy and no longer buy into the grind. The purpose is to actually redefine Hard Work and bring it into a more modern perspective. We still need to work hard, but that is no longer measured by the hours logged or wearing a ‘multi-tasker’ badge of honor. Instead it is measured by how focused, detailed and dedicated our work is.
What is the number one thing you spend your time doing? As a musician, if your answer is anything other than being creative - you need to reassess your priorities. You need to be spending time working on your music, working on your live performance, writing, recording or being creative in other ways - like drawing or painting. This should be where most of your time is spent. Now I know what you’re going to say - with all the admin work there is to do, how do you expect me to have time to be creative? That comes down to being productive and understanding that how you prioritize things determines how much you value them. There is a saying that goes - ‘don’t tell me your priorities, show me your schedule’. When you look at how someone spends their day, you can easily see what their priorities are. What does your schedule look like?
How long do you spend answering emails each day? Now divide that by 3. If you spend three hours, it’s now 1. If you spend 1 hour, it’s now 20 min. For one week - that is how much time you have to answer emails. Give it a try - limit yourself to that much time and you’ll be surprised at how productive you can be. You’ll prioritize the important and tough emails instead of putting them off until later - you will be quick and concise, which is very much needed. You’ll get better at asking for exactly what you need from the other person - being kind but direct saves time later as you don’t need to follow up. Here’s the most important thing to remember. Email is not work. That’s right, I said it. Email is not work. It’s a system we use to talk to people about the work we do, but it is not work. Do important things come from emails - sure. But that doesn’t mean we need to dedicate the amount of resources some of us do to it. Like I said, try this for 1 week. If some emails get missed, or put off a week because of it - don’t worry, you can reply to them next week. I’m sure you’ve left emails longer in the past. The important part is that you’ve just found yourself some extra time. Take the other 2/3rds of the time you used to spend each day sending emails and be creative. Do whatever feels right in the moment. Draw, paint, pick up an instrument you don’t normally play and mess around with it, learn someone else’s music. The point is - dive into creativity the same way you used to.
Once you’ve done this for a week you’ll start to see the shift and I’d encourage you to continue and look for other ways to be more productive with your admin work so you have more time to be creative. This is the point of Hard Work. It’s making the hard choices to prioritize things. It’s saying - my time is better spent being creative than answering an email. It’s saying - I’m not going to waste unnecessary time keeping busy, I’ll be effective and create systems to do those tasks, so I have more time for the truly important things. Start working on your live show - that one you’ve always wanted to put together but never had the time. Dedicate yourself to that - it will take months, it won’t be easy, but it will be more rewarding that just keeping busy during that time and being no further ahead. Take back Hard Work - it’s about making the hard choices and doing what is truly important to you.