In Making Your Life as an Artist, Andrew Simonet writes, “Most artists spend the vast majority of their time dealing with immediate problems. The PR package that was supposed to go out two days ago. The grant that’s due Friday. The communications that stream in all day every day.
Planning lets us spend a small amount of time on the big, long-term things that are most important to us. And that means those big things will actually happen. Planning shifts artists from reactive to proactive.”
Is it Urgent or Important?*
* this is a short riff from my book, “Beyond Talent”
An urgent task is one that requires immediate attention. Like you need to pay the electric bill because the company has threatened to shut off the juice, or you need to do laundry because you’ve run out of clean socks and underwear.
Important tasks, on the other hand, are those non-scheduled activities that are necessary to achieve your larger goals. These are the things that you need to make time for, such as grant research, sending email pitches for performances, updating your mailing list and promo kit, and networking. These tasks are easy to push aside unless you make them a priority.
Designating Time for the Important
Making them a priority means actually scheduling specific times for these activities in your daily and weekly calendar. And making a commitment that you honor. So you don’t treat these time blocks as optional flex time that can be used to take care of something more pressing.
This can, at times, feel selfish. Making your long-term goals a priority often involves having to say “no” or “not now” to others. Ultimately it’s about respecting your priorities and investing in your future.
Are you worth it?
It’s all too common to have your schedule get out of control, because you’re frantically taking care of the urgent at the expense of important. This is not only an issue for individual artists, it’s also is the sad truth about how most arts organizations are run.
But with planning, you (and any organization you help run) can better manage both kinds of business—the urgent and the important.
It’s the unconscious choices we make, day in, day out: the urgent or the important. Seth Godin explains “The reason we go for urgent is that it makes us feel competent . . . [The] important, on the other hand, is fraught with fear, with uncertainty and with the risk of failure.
Now that you know why, you can dance with it.”
Having courage doesn’t mean you don’t feel the fear; it means you feel the fear and you act anyway.That idea of dancing with our fears is really what the creative process is all about. If we avoid the fear involved in working on what’s important, we avoid learning and growing as artists and as people.
Here’s a terrific interview with Seth Godin on Dancing with Fear. It’s 27 minutes of your time; an investment in your future.
Question for your week: what’s the top fear eating at you these days? How can you dance with it? Can you acknowledge the fear and wade into it to get going on the work it’s pointing to?
As always, I love getting your feedback and suggestions! Reach me at angela@BeyondTalentConsulting.com.
And if you’d like help designing a practical plan to self-manage and move ahead in your career, let’s talk! I’m at angela@BeyondTalentConsulting.com.
Looking forward to hearing from you,
Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well!