• Phil McDonald

The "Don't Do!" list.

This week I thought I'd tackle a subject which can make a lot of difference to your everyday life and perhaps more importantly, your music career. It's a simple concept but one which can make your life so much easier. It's simply saying no or having a "don't do" list. As humans invariably want to help others, it's often the case that we say yes to things we don't really want to do and end up with more on our plate than we need. Let me explain.

It sometimes seems like there aren't enough hours in the day, doesn't it? Trying to balance a busy work and family life whilst pursuing a music career can lead to burnout and/or health problems. I'm sure you've been in the position where it seems like there's no way you can accomplish all the tasks on your list. And just when you're making headway, something crops up to throw a spanner in the works. This is where having a "don't do" list comes in handy.

I have several absolute "don't do" items on my list, and I add more as necessary. A good example is my studio. I don't work on a Sunday no matter what. I'm a firm believer in a day off once a week where no work related activity takes place. Sunday is a day for family, relaxation, a nice walk and a big roast dinner. I don't even go into the studio. It stays shut all day. If I receive any studio related messages on a Sunday I leave them till Monday. I didn't always do this, I would often be in the middle of something and an email from a client would pop up and I would drop what I was doing to deal with it. I found this made me less productive and drained precious weekend time.

Another thing I've learned to say no to are projects that are out of scope for me and the studio. It's sometimes tempting to take whatever work comes your way but the truth is it's much better to say no to things that aren't a good fit. I once took on a project with a vocalist who's material wasn't, shall we say, nice lyrically. The project dragged on far longer than it should have and overall it wasn't a good experience. To make matters worse I knew what I was letting myself in for as the singer had sent me some rough phone demo's of the material. If a similar situation arose now, I would simply say no, stating it wasn't my area of expertise and genres I work in. It's worth leaving the money on the table for the sake of one's sanity!

So how can you put this to use in your career? The first thing to do it to identify the areas where you encounter problems - Is it at home, work if you have a day job? The next step is to determine what tasks or general things can be eliminated. Once you've done that can you automate anything? Instead of posting promotional items or gigs on Facebook as you go, why not use something like Buffer to do this for you? By spending an hour or so planning and scheduling your social media posts you'll free up a lot of time and reduce the stress of trying to keep on top of it all during the week. Give it some thought, I'm sure there are areas of your life where you can say no.

Since I started this blog my whole mantra has been about making your life easier to free up time to allow you to be more creative and make better music. There are so many things we can do which may seem insignificant but when you start putting them all together, you'll find you've got the ball rolling and the difference it will make will be astonishing. What one thing can you say no to this week?

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