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Take Charge of Your Time

There are three key resources that we have available to create the action in our lives: Time – Energy – Money. As hard as it might be to accomplish, money and energy can be replenished. Time, however, is a different animal. We fritter away our precious time by allowing ourselves to become distracted, i.e. surfing the net, downloading songs, watching TV, spending way too much time in the virtual world, etc. This way we don’t have to deal with confrontation, performing a mundane task, or stepping up to the plate by being proactive when having to conduct business within unchartered waters. This type of behavior is often given other names, such as procrastination. It can create feelings of guilt and worthlessness which proliferate over time. And in the long run it generates a lot more work which you eventually have to tackle if you want to get to where you are going.

Time management skills are especially important for entrepreneurs, and that is exactly what you are as a singer, working toward making a living by performing. You have to wear many different hats during the course of a single day which each require you to perform many different tasks. What process works best of you when managing your time?

"To think too long about doing a thing often becomes its undoing." - Eva Young

If you don’t have a process in place, let me suggest some helpful ideas for building a more effective, proactive and doable process that will allow you to use your time in a more productive way.

  • Even a journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step. The first step to becoming more successful in managing your time is to evaluate where you are right now as far as accomplishing your goals for the day are concerned, which will give you a benchmark against which you can track your progress and evaluate your success at the end of each day. In other words, make a “to do” list, just for today, and check in at the end of the day to see if you put too much, too little or just the right amount on your plate. Ask the question, “Will having accomplished step A today actually take me to step B which I know I can tackle tomorrow?” This allows you to make any necessary adjustments until you are able to find the right balance. It’s doing these small steps each and every day that will eventually get you to where you want to go – your end goal.
  • Do you fall prey to dream stealers and time-wasters? What are your time-bandits? Do you spend too much time surfing the net, reading and answering email, listening and downloading music, taking to friends on the phone, spending way too much time playing virtual games or chatting on Twitter or Face Book? Make a list of these “Time Bandits” and post it where you can easily see it. This will help remind you to use your time in a more productive manner by focusing your attention on where and how you want to spend your precious resource of time.

"I am definitely going to take a course on time management… just as soon as I can work it into my schedule." - Louis E. Boone

  • Make sure you create a verbal, action packed “to do” list that is a tactical force behind your short-term activities you’re committed to doing today. Don’t be vague or passive with the words us use to describe each task. The tasks you put on your list can’t be conceptual or multi-action projects; that is not being specific enough. You must believe you are competent to jump into any task you have on your list. One way to do that is to use action verbs to help describe the task and the kinds of tools and time you will need to get it done. Example: Saunter to PO to get Flat Rate envelopes and stamps. Blast-off your Resumes. Vociferate Regina Opera to find out the repertoire for next season. Orchestrate an audition. Notice that you actually feel differently about the possibility of having to do these particular tasks when you add these action packed, over the top dramatic descriptions. It grips your imagination.
  • Another idea is to assign a particular task for the day to one of your favorite operatic characters. Put on that character to perform each task on your daily “to do” list. I think this will get your juices going to accomplish just that one task and then be excited to move on to what is next on your list.
  • Filling your list with tasks that you can’t, won’t or don’t need to do wastes your time. Make sure your “to do” list reflects what’s really important to get done now. Don’t confuse your daily “to do” list with trying to achieve some complicated long-term goal. Remember that the proper progression is: daily tactics, (the small tasks you can do right now this week, today to move you closer to eventually completing one of the larger strategies which eventually lead you to accomplishing your goal.)

"The key is in not spending time, but in investing it." - Stephen R. Covey

Give yourself a realistic time frame to accomplish just 1-2 items on your list at a time. If you have 10 - 30 minutes of uninterrupted time, break down which tasks can successfully be accomplished in that amount of time. And once you see that this type of scheduling can work, use it over and over again during the day. You will notice that by day’s end you have checked off most of what is on your “to do” list. If there are tasks that require more than this amount of your uninterrupted time, create space on your calendar to accommodate them.

Establish routines and stick to them as much as possible. While crises will arise, you'll be much more productive if you can follow the routine most of the time. Start each day with a time management session prioritizing and weeding through the tasks for that day. If you have 20 tasks for a given day, how many of them do you truly need to accomplish today?

Take the time to organize a designated work space to take care of your singing business. Are you wasting a lot of time looking for the essentials needed to take care of business? Redo whatever needs to be done so you feel organized to the point that you can quickly lay your hands on whatever requires your attention to carry out your needs of doing business.

"To do two things at once is to do neither." - Publius Syrus

Separate the wheat from the chaff. Have any unfinished tasks that keep appearing on your daily or weekly “to do” list? If so, create a special new list to transfer these tasks to that fit into this particular category and call it something like your “bamboozled” list. Add a note to each task as to why honestly you have been avoiding it. Example: fear of failure, dreading confrontation, boring, difficult task, don’t know where to start, etc. Take on just one of these tasks at a time to add to your daily, weekly or perhaps monthly “to do” list and write down how getting it done will make you feel more in control of your life by giving you the option of taking your power back. After having figured out what was keeping you stuck and the best method for you to resolve your fear of completing that particular task, you will gain more confidence in your ability to solve problems. You might notice that using this ongoing process will help you develop new tools and skills for dealing with whatever was holding you back or might hold you back in the future. And by further developing this type of positive experience you continue to strengthen your tenacity and creativity in solving problems and getting “unstuck”. This is how we all learn to grow and change exponentially as a person and as an artist.>

"Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein." - H. Jackson Brown

No matter how organized you are, there are always only 24 hours in a day. Time doesn't change. All you can actually change are your own habits, thoughts and decisions about what you choose to do with the time that you have. The objective is to change your behaviors over time so you gain the skills, tools and experience necessary to increase your productivity and decrease your stress. That means being specific with what you put on your daily “to do” list, keeping it real and honest so you can track your progress over time to see whether or not you're headed in the direction you want to go. And that, once again, is done day by day using a concise, doable and action driven “to do” list. Make it a fun activity by putting your imagination to work in creating a character to help you get through each task. And, for heaven’s sake, take your power back by being responsible for and owning your very own personal process that helps you get unstuck and improves with experience. Get what you need by learning how to take charge and stop wasting your time, energy and money, but especially your time which can never be replaced.

"Those who make the worse use of their time are the first to complain of its shortness." - Jean De La Bruyere

Don’t wait for the right time to start, do it now! If you don’t make something of your own life, someone or something else will and that is a fact.
Avanti and ciao until next time, Carol

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