Efficiency and productivity are a trap.
The harder you work to fill up every single moment of the day, the more of your time you’ll spend on less meaningful things. Just look at email… Have you ever gotten really motivated to clear out your inbox only to realize that the more emails you answer the more magically show up in response? Trust me on this one, divas. If you’re out there hunting for the perfect time management system which promises to help you cross everything off you to-do list, then it’s very likely you’re not actually being as ruthless about what makes it onto the list as you need to be.
When the pandemic came, many of us experienced that crushing wave of gig cancellations. It felt like there was one day in March of 2020 when my inbox piled up with 25 colleagues regretfully informing me that we wouldn’t be moving forward with our plans. It hurt. Some of those gigs were years in the making. As a self-managed artist, I hustled every singled one of those myself. Then, they were gone.
So, with every artistic commitment wiped off the books, I should have had an abundance of free time, right? Everyone else seemed to be baking sourdough and catching up on Netflix. What was I doing? I was somehow clocking 70 hour work weeks for my three clients combined. I remember finally feeling like I caught my breath in June of 2020. It was wild. That’s when it hit me, “I’ll always fill the time.” Even if everything in my artistic life disappeared (through no one’s fault), I will still find a way to be wildly busy.
Your 29 Days to Diva – Day 2 Assignment: Make your “I am doing enough” list
I, like many productivity-obsessed humans, loooooove the dopamine rush of crossing items off the list. Plus, I’m also the kind of person that believes it’s possible for me to find time to do everything. That’s kinda part of the problem. Mixing the dopamine rush of completing tasks with the belief that you can accomplish more if you just hustle a little smarter/harder means that I’m not always strict with myself about whether or not any given activity is worthy of my time and energy. Whenever I bump in to a new idea for something I should do or try, I’m strongly biased towards incorporating it (and not sacrificing anything else that I’ve already been doing for years.)
The fact is that something does get sacrificed. Something always gets sacrificed. You don’t have more time or less time than any other person alive.
So, it’s time to make the list.
I always prefer a handwritten exercise over a typed exercise, but you do the one that feels the best to you. We’re doing a riff on Warren Buffett’s Two Lists. Two Lists is a productivity, prioritization, and focusing exercise. First, start by writing down your top 25 goals. Now, circle your five highest priorities.
In Buffett’s Two Lists, you then focus on those five while “avoiding at all costs” doing anything on the remaining 20. If you can do that, FANTASTIC. I mean it, really.
What outcomes would be enough for you?
We’re doing a version of this for 29 Days to Diva today in which I have you take a next step with the full 25. I want you to focus mostly on those top 5. After you focus on those, feel free to write one or two things for each as you go down the list. Isolate your top five into their own headings and create some blank lines or spaces under each one. For each of the top five, I want you to list out a few outcomes that would be “enough” for each of those goals this calendar year. It might look something like this:
- Perform more
- Two to three performances at a university/college per semester
- One performance at a “immensely meaningful to me” venue this year
- Sing for one conductor in a coaching/audition this year
- Audition for a full opera production
- Apply for one competition
- Pick the repertoire for my next album
- Set the date with the recording studio
- Contract an engineer
- Work with a label
- Spend quality time with my family
- Date night every third Thursday is sacred and doesn’t get scheduled over
- I’ll prioritize visiting my mom/grandfather/third cousin once removed every other Fourth of July
- I’ll text my sibling once a week
- When my family comes to visit, I will take time off of all work
You see where I’m going with this. There’s a reason I specifically wanted you to ask, “what would be enough?” Most of the awesome creative people I work with feel the pressure to do more, more, more. Either because they feel like that’s the only way they’ll achieve their overarching goals or because they’re so passionate and excited about so many things and they aren’t able to restrain themselves from jumping in.
Identify “the range of plenty”
We are typically pretty lackadaisical about identifying what would be the bare minimum of the goal/activity that would feel good, meaningful, or sufficient to us. That usually leaves the “fullest expression of the goal” as the ONLY marker of success. If you’ve ever talked with college students and helped them realize that “sometimes a C in a class is just fine” then you’ll know what I’m talking about. I called this identifying “the range of plenty” in a session recently. There’s a much wider range of activities in the “enough” category than you might be giving yourself credit for. With awareness of all that’s in “the range of plenty” for you, you can feel more self-efficacy. With that heightened sense of self-efficacy, you’re more likely to be at peace with working on your own terms toward your specific goals.
You are enough.
You are doing enough.
You are more in charge of how you spend your life than you think.
Suggested additional reading:
- Title: Essentialism : the disciplined pursuit of less
Author: McKeown, Greg.
- Title: Four thousand weeks : time management for mortals
Author: Burkeman, Oliver, author.