Every morning, after drinking too much coffee and hopefully reading or writing for a while, I head down to my studio/home office. I go in with a mission. I go in focused. I open a little page with my top goals on them. Then it all goes to hell in a handbasket. 🙂
I’m not doing rocket science down here. I make my pitches; I talk to management and other artists, fans, sponsors, agents, and music sups. I answer questions about bookings and licensing, plan upcoming videos, ways to promote our upcoming record; I do interviews and podcasts; I check social media (which is taking more and more time and becoming more fragmented), and when I’m done doing what I can to make sure the band is gonna make some kind of a living on the road, I turn to my studio and record/engineer and mix.
The only problem is that in between accomplishing these things is where most of the day can get gobbled up if you don’t relentlessly guard your time and KEEP A FIRM EYE ON RESULTS. Otherwise, you spend half the day putting out fires. Or, as I recently heard it called, “roach stomping.”
Do you ever open a search window, maybe something like Facebook or LinkedIn pops up, and something catches your eye. You read a quick article, click a couple links, you give and get some likes, and before you know it, you can’t remember what the hell you originally came there to do? You are down the rabbit hole.
I have pushed myself to pay attention to that lost-for-the moment/how-the-hell-did-I-get-here feeling and know that it is a sign that I am letting some company CONTROL MY LIFE AND TIME AND I AM NOT TAKING MY LIFE WHERE I WANT IT TO GO.
I had a young and brilliant intern back in Los Angeles who eventually worked full time for me. He did not have the years I had pre-social media. It was natural and fun for him. He signed up for everything and let the alerts fly (I just counted and facebook alone now has 53 different items that can alert you if not turned off). I would watch him work, and every minute a new alert came in on his phone. Concerts. Food. News. Friends. Ads. He was constantly multitasking. He was good at it (I would have lit the phone on fire), but I can’t imagine that every one of those alerts needed tending to. And eventually his work and his mood started to suffer. I know that for myself, Apple News alerts alone can eat the better part of my day. I know that sometimes I annoy close friends and family because I have to turn off my phone to get any real creative work done. Texts alone (especially when you are put on a group text) can steal half your focus.
What is the point of being plugged into all of things at all times if we are not creating anything of value ourselves, or helping someone else, or at the least, enjoying our time on the planet? I think we enjoy our time the most when we get just a little bit better at something. Step by step. Growth and progress. I’m not convinced I’m growing from news headlines, ads, and one billion social media updates flying across my screens.
On the smallest level it’s annoying and wasteful, and on a bigger level the constant bells and alerts sell you crap you don’t need, pull you away from loved ones who need you to be present, and depending on how upset you are with the other party, sow discontent and anger.
I sent a message to a friend to like the band’s Facebook page. This friend actually runs a tech company that helps artists monetize their YouTube pages. He responded to me with this…
xoxo thanks for the invite..but I follow no one on social media. My tiny lizard brain is no match for the Facebook loooords whom desire to ensnare me their web. But I’ll lurk from time to time and I promise to find you in real life so I can hug your neck.
This is honest. It’s right. It’s kind. Some days I think it’s where we should all be.
A week later he mentioned our charity, Funding The Future, and put a link to us playing on CNBC in his newsletter, which goes to God knows how many people. He was looking for VALUE. For real CONTENT. For MEANING. He cut right to the heart of the matter. When I asked him to like the band page, I was asking for support—which we all have to do, and there is nothing wrong with that—but he knew he could give support without having to spend time on a decision he had already made. He kept the space that he carved for himself while still being helpful and kind.
I’m a songwriter and a musician, and sometimes I forget to keep the music first. When I do, my soul feels terrible. Whatever the music is for you, keep that first and foremost.
Here are some little things that I’m trying that are helping—let me know what helps you!
- DELETE YOUR NEWS (it’s a feedback loop of what you already believe anyway). Check out this article from the Guardian—this is brilliant: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/apr/12/news-is-bad-rolf-dobelli.
- Don’t give your email to anyone (except me—I will never sell it, and YOU GOTTA HEAR THE NEXT ALBUM AND SEE THE NEXT BLOG, ha ha ha). Seriously, when you buy something, don’t give them your email or number. Decide what you want—don’t let someone constantly make you feel like you have to “keep up with the Joneses.” Best Buy. Home Depot. DO YOU WANT YOUR RECEIPT EMAILED? A resounding NO. Hell NO.
- Get off all junk mail: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-to-stop-junk-mail-forever/.
- Stop direct-marketing calls. Register with Do Not Call by going to www.donotcall.gov or by calling (888) 382-1222 (voice) or (866) 290-4236 (TTY). You need to call from the phone number you want to register.
- Turn off your alerts. All of ’em. Turn ’em off. Every company in the world is competing for our time. If we need to know something, we can easily search and find it. Also, if the world is gonna end (and yes, these days it sure feels more possible than ever), someone is gonna text you, call you, find you. You’re gonna know, honey.
- Once we have done all this, let’s consider which charities we believe in and get on THEIR LISTS instead. Let’s decide what matters and let people doing meaningful work contact us. If we are spending all our time trying to make money, it’s nice to have a reminder to GIVE. It’s the right thing. Let’s do it. Even if it’s just a little bit—you’ll feel better making that decision than seeing what another friend ate for breakfast or bought at the mall.
We can’t create if we can’t focus. We can’t focus if we have garbage being thrown at us throughout our entire day. This may seem like fortune-cookie wisdom, but it’s true—OUR BIGGEST ASSET IS TIME. Time to do meaningful work, to be with loved ones, to make music or listen to music, to read, to learn, to GIVE.
Henry Rollins said it perfectly: “You are stabbing me with a million little tiny time knives! STOP!”
Death by a thousand cuts.
What you let into your world and how you spend your time is the best indicator of where you are gonna be in a year, five years, etc. I’ll go more into this in terms of people and overpromising (a huge weakness of mine) in an upcoming blog, but for today let’s control how much tech holds our hearts.
I want to take back control of my time. And while social media is incredible for putting us all in touch, it’s not the same as looking into someone’s eyes and truly sharing something. Without the filters, without the edits, without the overthinking or the agenda. I think social media has given us too much too fast. We have to all decide for ourselves how meaningful we think our lives are and where to put the breaks on to protect meaningful work and interactions.
The millions of impressions companies try to make on us each day, the constant negativity of the news, the short-term thinking, the retail coma of everyone putting you on blast mode 24 hours a day—none of this leads to any real fulfillment, at least for me. Are you happier than you were years ago when things didn’t move as quickly? When we were slightly less connected to our devices?
Let’s give it a shot. Let’s spend an afternoon cutting back everything. We might find it a little easier to breath and to think clearly.
I’ll close with something that really helped clarify all this for me. A hero of mine, John Hope Bryant. said that early on in his career he met a CEO with nothing on his desk. He remarked to the CEO that he couldn’t believe that desk wasn’t full up with papers, things to do, obligations. The man said something along the lines of… “My job is to sit here, read the newspaper, think, and make the right decisions that will affect everyone else in the company.” Basically, to get clarity and to lead.
This may be an oversimplification for a working artist or anyone not at the top of their company, but there is a huge truth in this story. Without the space to stop and reflect, we are spinning our wheels. We are just putting out fires. Without the silence to hear our own internal voice, we are always a little lost. I believe that space and quiet will give us the calm, confidence, and time to be a little more kind to one another—and hopefully create something wonderful.
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