21st-century musicians are the ultimate freelancers. You might have multiple jobs like performing with an organization, booking and performing your own gigs, teaching, administration, and/or a nonmusical day job.
Many refer to this as a “portfolio career” and it has become the norm for musicians. But keeping up with all of your jobs and projects is challenging!
When your dependability and responsiveness affect your professional reputation, what’s the best way to keep all of your plates spinning — without making yourself crazy?
I invite you to learn and implement these five simple organization tips, so you can handle your schedule and to-do lists with ease and grace.
To create the best art, your work environment is so important.
To set yourself up for success, create a work environment that is conducive for you.
For you, that might mean working in a quiet place, closing social media, or even turning off our phone.
On the other hand, you might find that you get more done in a coffee shop or somewhere that people are around.
Think about your current space and make the necessary changes to make it inspiring and inviting.
I’ve never met a person who can remember everything on their schedule. Your brain is good at processing, but not remembering!
We’ve talked about time management for busy musicians before, and the bottom line is to have a calendar.
I live with and swear by my Google Calendar. (Of course, you can use a physical calendar if you prefer.)
Everything, and I mean everything, goes into it: rehearsals, work hours, reminders, upcoming events, etc.
What I love about Google calendar is that it’s on my phone and computer, and it is easy to add event details like location, time, notes, or a URL. You can even set the timezone and send invites using the other person’s email.
I have multiple calendars for different jobs and parts of my life so that I can easily see where my time is going in nice bright colors. You can turn off and on the different calendars so you don’t always have to look at all of them at once.
Since I work from home and have to keep track of my hours, at the end of the day I go into my calendar and put in my hours and tasks. This makes it really easy to create a timesheet at the end of the month.
I highly recommend taking time each week, and even a little time each day, to plan out your week. Every Sunday night I look at my calendar for the upcoming week and put in everything I know I will do or need to do. This is also a good time to review your previous week and see how you used your time.
Keeping track of to-do lists is hard. Everyone’s brains work differently, so the most important thing is to find a method that works for you.
When we look at our big to-do lists, everything can seem like a priority. These lists can get longer and longer and you can quickly feel overwhelmed with where to start first, which leads to procrastination and stress.
A little bit of stress to meet a deadline is okay to kick us into gear, but it is not healthy or productive to live in that state all the time.
Ask ourselves, what is THE most important thing to complete today?
Most people can accomplish one big task and three to five medium and small tasks a day. As you’re making your daily to-do lists or scheduling work time, rank you to-dos in order of priority and then mark them as big, medium, or small tasks.Most people can accomplish one big task and three to five medium and small tasks a day. Click To Tweet
Complete the priority items first and then work your way down the list. Also, I recommend completing the task that you’re least excited about first so that it’s out of the way and done. You will feel so much better!
Planners and Notebooks
Where do you store your lists and notes? Is it somewhere that you can access all the time like an app on your phone and computer?
Some of the digital personal planners that we use include:
In Asana and Trello, you can create, assign or delegate tasks to team members and it allows them to check them off when they have been completed. Both programs also allow you to create lists or boards for individual projects.
Personally I use Evernote. In Evernote you can create multiple “notebooks” in which you write “notes,” and everything is stored on my phone and my computer.
I have a notebook for each of my jobs to keep my weekly to-do lists organized.
You might prefer to use a moleskine notebook or a good old-fashioned school notebook. It doesn’t matter what you use, but I do recommend choosing one tool and sticking with it.
Email can be a major time-suck if you check it too often or don’t have an effective organizational system.
I recommend having a filing system for your inbox and only checking your email two or three times a day.
I also limit the amount of times a day I let myself check social media. It’s so easy to get sucked into your phone and end up wasting what could add up to hours a day.
There Is No One Right Way
Remember, everyone is different and there is no one right way to approach organization. Some people by nature are more inclined towards organization, detail, and structure. Others (including many musicians) are not naturally organized.
Also, keep in mind that your organization techniques only matter to the extent that they make you feel more successful and effective in your life.
As long as you can meet deadlines, deliver quality work, show up prepared, and respond to emails and requests in a timely fashion, it doesn’t really matter what your organization looks like — it just has to work for you.
Now it’s your turn! Share your personal organization strategies by leaving us a comment below.