Do you struggle to get things done?
Do you have a million projects that you’ve started, but have struggled to finish?
I know I’ve been that way. Still am sometimes. It can be challenging to get things done.
You see, getting started is fun. You get going on your project and the possibilities seem endless. You think about all the great things you can do with this song, or mix, or whatever. You imagine how great it will be when it’s done.
But then when you get into it, reality sets in. Maybe it’s more work than you thought. Maybe the initial excitement has given way to stress, or boredom, or discouragement.
I’ve been there.
Although I haven’t mastered this, I feel that I’ve come across some pretty great strategies for pushing through the creative barriers. They’ve worked well for me, and I think they can really work for you as well.
Ok, so maybe this is a no-brainer, but it can be so easily overlooked. If you want to get something done, you need to plan it out. Put it in your schedule. Write it in your calendar. Don’t just say “I’ll do it someday”. Someday never comes.
The best way to do this is to take your looming project and break it into actionable steps. When I say “actionable”, I mean literally something that you can just do, without having to think about it. “Record acoustic guitar tracks for the EP” is an actionable step. “Do EP” is not. Be specific. Ask yourself “What is the next action I can take on this project?”
If you’re not familiar with the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology, I would recommend reading about it some. Maybe even buy the book. Whether or not you implement the methodology, David Allan does give a lot of good strategies for…well…getting things done.
Along with planning, deadlines are important. If you struggle to get things done, or if your projects just tend to drag on and on, maybe you should try setting a deadline. Promise yourself that you will get it done by that date.
And then tell somebody about it. Which leads me to my next point:
For me, the best thing I can do to ensure that I get a project done is to tell someone about it. Recently, two of my buddies, Al Tone and Lennart, (check out their stuff, because they’re awesome) independently told me stories about how accountability made the difference for them. They both had people holding them accountable, and that helped them to get the project done.
I can testify myself that it has helped me too. It’s not a silver bullet, but it can definitely help. Find a friend who will follow up with you. Tell them about your project. Show them your plan. Share your deadline with them. Try it out, and see if it works.
Ready to keep me accountable?
Ok, so I’m going to go out on a limb here and do something a little scary.
I’m a member of Dueling Mixes (affilate link). For those of you who don’t know, it’s a fantastic online service for practicing mixing. I can’t tell you how much better my mixes have gotten because of this one specific service. If you haven’t checked it out yet, I highly recommend that you take a look. If you put in the work, your mixes will get so much better.
One thing that I like about Dueling Mixes is that I have to complete a new mix every month. Guess what? This gives me a deadline. It challenges me to get a new mix done every single month.
Now, here’s the scary part. The deadline is looming. I want to get my mix done by the end of the month, which is this Saturday. By the time Sunday rolls around, I want to be done this month’s mix.
I would like you to hold me to it.
I’m almost done, I just have to do that last little bit, tweak a few more things, and then bounce it down. Once it’s done, I’m going to share it with you so you can have a listen. My goal, which I’ve now told you about, is to have it done by this Saturday. Hold me to it.
[EDIT – I got it done on schedule. If it weren’t for putting this deadline in writing, I probably wouldn’t have. So thank you!]
Accountability is key. Whether it’s a mix, a songwriting challenge, or a full production, it helps to tell someone, and have them hold you to it. It’s stressful, but it’s a good kind of stress. The kind that motivates you to get things done.
Because here’s the truth: the more you get done, the better you get. It doesn’t matter how many things you start. You gotta finish.
Over at Dueling Mixes (affilate link), I’m finishing a new song every month. If you want your mixes to get better, you should click that link and join me. I’d love to see you inside.
But either way, let me ask you this: what project are you struggling with now? Are you having trouble getting it done? If so, make a plan. Put it in your calendar. Set a deadline.
And then, send me an email. Tell me about your plan and your deadline. I will check in on you to see how you’re doing, and help you to accomplish your goal in whatever way I can.
Go make some music!
7 thoughts on “The Power of Accountability”
I think I will set the deadlines of my upcoming music today itself!
Very nice post, Alex. I don’t know, but it seems really difficult to set a deadline for something unless you are put into some pressure of completing the work. Just like how the pressure at job kind of forces us to put that extra bit and complete work in time.
So having someone monitor your work and deadline makes good sense. Otherwise, you yourself will not be able to keep track with the completion of work as would like to.
I am going to think about this seriously now.
Thanks. Keep it up. 🙂
Good work man!
Yes, setting a deadline and getting someone to hold you to it can definitely add that little bit of (good) pressure and stress to get it done. It has certainly helped me before, many times!
Very true. But have to admit that it is not easy to implement when you have day job and other responsibilities/priorities too. I guess you can understand it very well. 🙂
Still, have to keep pushing ourselves to do whatever good we can to ultimately keep making good music.
I agree and disagree with you there.
I do have a day job, and plenty of other responsibilities. Things are very busy, and I don’t get nearly as much time in the studio as I would like these days.
This means that I have to be *realistic* about what I can commit to, as far as studio work goes. If I take on more than I can reasonably complete, then even the accountability system will not work. It just becomes stressful, and I can’t meet my deadlines.
On the other hand, it’s very possible to *not* be busy, and yet still manage to get no work done on music. I’ve been there, too. You have tons of time, but you waste it on this and that, and never get any real work done.
So I think that we definitely need to set realistic expectations for ourselves based on the amount of time we can realistically spend on a project. But even then, accountability can help us to actually push ourselves to get in there, make music, get things done, and release it to the world.
In other words, even if we only have an hour per week to spend in the studio, if we set realistic goals and force ourselves to follow through on them, then we’re much more likely to make that one hour count!
Otherwise, no matter how much or how little free time you may have, it’s easy to make your self busy with work that accomplishes nothing 🙂
Thanks for the comment, Kaitav! Time management is a huge topic, and I’ll probably write more about it on here. I think it’s a big one that we home musicians struggle with.
I do not disagree with you, Alex. We indeed should be realistic, but not just about music, about other things also. We do waste quite a bit of time here and there which we should not, but sometimes it might not necessarily be fruitful if we try to force ourselves to do some creative work in this time. If we do, we might get some work done but it might not be that satisfying. This time that we waste may not be actually a waste of time, because by doing this you are simply trying to relax yourself, your body, your mind. By doing this you may gain some lost energy and peace of mind and then going in studio might turn out to be more beneficial. Time management will indeed make a lot of difference, but you have to put realistic goals for your music as well as for yourself.
This is indeed a huge topic. Let’s hope we can make more and better music by doing whatever we can while not putting too much stress on ourselves at the same time not being too lazy as well. 🙂
Mmm that’s true. I know for me there have been occasions where I planned to get some mixing work done, but I just wasn’t into it. So instead, I just jammed on my guitar and played some favorite songs. It was very relaxing, and gave me an extra “boost” for the day.
Yes it’s definitely a balance, and it depends hugely on the goals. I think you’re right. Although we do at times need to push ourselves to get things done, at other times we need to relax and remember why we’re doing this in the first place.
Because it’s fun, it’s creative, and we want to share our creative ideas with the world. Although there’s a place for hard work, and “good” stress, it’s also important not to lose sight of why we do what we do, and to enjoy what we’re doing. Keep having fun with it, and keep creating 🙂
Indeed. It is all about balancing everything, and I think we can do it for sure if we are determined and plan everything nicely. 🙂