It’s Labor Day—perfect time for this confession because it’s all about creative labor. First off, I admit it: I love finding tools to help people manage their projects and their time. And I’ve worked with many musicians teaching them methods to help them get past their Resistance so they can get more of their best work out into the world. (Instead of simply taking care of the urgent things on their to-do lists.) So here’s to life’s ironies — it’s my epic procrastination story: This is so embarrassing . . .

The Productivity Planner: the answer to my prayers?

Let me tell you straight out: I bought the Productivity Planner more than 7 months ago. Several people I know and trust gave it rave reviews. I’d looked online at a range of other planners and liked what I saw about the Productivity Planner best.

Productivity Planner

When it arrived I was excited. Here I had what looked like the perfect tool to help me get more focused and to lean into the scary things I’d been avoiding. I was already recommending it to my clients. And I thought I was ready to dive in using it, too.

What’s not to love?

The planner is beautiful—the binding feels good, the size is great, the paper quality and the layout are excellent. The whole premise of the planner is to help you focus on what matters most. So it’s all about helping us zero in on the work that will make the biggest impact. Everything pointed to me having a great experience with it.

Productivity Planner page layout

And yet  . . .  this is where it gets embarrassing . . .

Maybe you can relate? Procrastination on steroids.

My beautiful planner sat on my desk, unpacked but unused: week after week, month after month.

It did make periodic appearances on my to-do lists, but it never even got opened, let alone used.

Why?

There was always something more pressing that needed to be done first. At least that’s what I told myself.

Ironic, right? I’d bought the planner to help me get more work done but I wasn’t making the time to use it.

What I wasn’t admitting to myself was that . . .

I was afraid to use my planner.

What I finally realized was that I was afraid of what using the planner would reveal. That it would show me exactly which tasks I’d been actively avoiding—the things I most needed to do for my business and for my future.

On some level, I wasn’t ready to call myself out on my “hiding” behind being busy with less-important items.

I was so intimidated that I couldn’t even get myself to read the dozen or so pages at the start of the planner that  explain how to use it.

But something forced my hand.

What did it take for me to start? Peer pressure.

Thanks go to my colleagues in my mini-mastermind group (we’re 3 and we’re about as far apart geographically as you can get: Boston, Milan, and Brisbane!) We’ve been daring ourselves to do the scary things on our to-do lists over the past month. We’re using our weekly online meetings plus What’sApp and a shared Google Doc to keep track of what we accomplish and to get ourselves to admit to what we’ve been procrastinating doing.

This has been enormously helpful. And it got me to finally crack open my Productivity Planner this week and get going. And I’ve found that it’s . . .

Scary but it’s REALLY effective.

What I LOVE about the Productivity Planner is that it forces you to write down what the most important thing to do is each day (it’s usually the scariest). And as predicted, this gets me to admit what I’ve been avoiding. But it also helps me not get overwhelmed.

The planner lets you prioritize just 3-5 things for the day and write those down. Not that you can’t do more. But you need to prioritize what the MOST important handful of things are to do that day. So you end up putting the energy where it makes the biggest impact.

And guess what? In this first week of using it, my work has been more energized, a LOT more focused, and yes, far more productive in terms of what really counts.

It’s also made me get clear on when I’m not working. So once I’m done for the day, I can actually unwind without feeling guilty.

The Productivity Planner works in tandem with the Pomodoro Technique—to help you segment time blocks and be intentional about your focus.

And the planner asks you to first guesstimate how much time each task will take. Then once you’re done with the task, you log in how much time it actually took. I find I often need twice the amount of time I imagined for writing projects. So through this process, I’m learning to plan better.

Happy ending to my epic procrastination story . . .

The good news is the planner got me to do the scarier things this week: the emails I was afraid to write, the curriculum revisions for my online program that seemed impossible, and solving some scheduling issues I didn’t want to face. Whew.

Here’s what I can report: when you start doing the scary things you’ve been avoiding, you feel good about yourself! You get to be the hero of your own story. And that is priceless.

Find what works for you—and make it a HABIT.

I found I need colleagues to help me be accountable, I need the habit of writing and planning, and I need predictable scheduling for priority projects. These are the habits that are helping me move the needle. And I LOVE that my Productivity Planner is bringing it all together.

The take away: We all need help getting our scarier, most important work done. The work that will most help us develop as artists and grow our careers is always the work we fear most—it’s the work we’ve been avoiding.

What’s helping you?

Please share what’s working for you in terms of productivity, time management, and planning. Add you thoughts in the comments in our Musicians Making It Facebook group. Welcome to the conversation!

Looking forward,

Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well
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