It is not the critic who counts …

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt, 1910.

Email Overload – Take control of your inbox

How many emails are in your inbox right now? Yes, it’s probably 80% spam, but that leaves 20% that’s not. How many missed opportunities are in there? How many irate people are waiting for your reply?

Every day you wait it gets worse. If you have 400 email messages, do the math – if you spend only one minute reading / answering each email, that would take almost 7 hours! And when you add in the fact that you probably already read some of them but didn’t respond/address it then, you’re doubling your email time. The trick is to deal with emails regularly and completely and immediately.

You need a system.

Clear your in-box of all messages, daily. The goal is an empty email inbox at the end of each day. The inbox is for temporary storage only.

Use the touch it once strategy as much as possible. Try to respond immediately when you read an email for the first time so you’re not wasting time rereading the message.

If you can’t deal with the email right away, send a quick response telling the sender that you received their email and will take care of tomorrow (or whenever). Then set yourself a reminder on your todo list or flag it. That way they won’t bug you until your new deadline and you can focus on to the next task/email.

Ways to clear out your inbox:

  • When you check your email, first delete all spam so that all you have left are things you need to attend to.
  • Use subfolders to move emails to that you have responded to or need to keep. Some folders I use: Orders (for receipts of online orders), Client stuff, personal, look later, good jokes, website.

Outlook tips:

  • keep your Mail Folders sidebar open at all times and drag and drop messages into the appropriate folder.
  • Move an open message to a subfolder directly without closing it – add “move to folder” to your top menu in the message screen.
  • Move emails with appointments/events to your (Outlook) calendar (yes, you can drag and drop) or to your (Outlook) Task Pad.
  • Microsoft’s online course to dealing with email overload, including setting priorities and organizing emails: http://office.microsoft.com/training/training.aspx?AssetID=RC100647451033
  • Set up automatic message rules that deliver emails with certain words in the subject or to/from a certain email address directly to subfolders.
  • Keep your spam filters current and train the Junk Mail feature. But do check your junk folder daily to be sure nothing important ended up there.
  • If you are more of a paper person, print out the email right away and put in the file that relates to that. Then move the email to a subfolder.
  • Forward it. If you can’t deal with it right away or ever, forward it to someone who can.
  • If you can’t do it, respond to the sender that you don’t think you can.
  • Considering using the PHONE to respond to an email – cuts down on the back and forth of emails, and can take care of the issue right then and there so you can delete/file the email out of your inbox. This is especially helpful when you have an email conversation going into its fourth or fifth round and you’re not getting anywhere.

Keep things from coming in at all:

  • Unsubscribe. If you are receiving regular newsletter emails from a subscription, determine whether you are really reading/using those emails. If you want to remain on the list, but the subject is low priority, set up a subfolder and have all incoming messages from that source automatically routed using rules for you to read through later (in your “spare time”).
  • Keep business and personal email accounts separate and only “send/receive” for one account at a time. Have an email account for business only and a separate email address for personal correspondence. That way you can let the personal emails sit on the server until you’re home or off. You can even set up a separate email address for low priority stuff like newsletters.

Schedule time or set a reminder to go through and respond to emails you’ve moved to subfolders.

Use “follow up” flags to remind you to deal with an email.

Color code messages. You can either do this manually when you read it for the first time, or set up a rule (“automatic formatting” in Outlook) to automatically set a certain color depending on who it’s from or what it’s about. Then, when you scan your inbox, all greens will pop out at you even if they’re not next to each other. I like to set certain senders as red if I need to be sure to respond immediately.

SORT your email messaged differently occasionally. I usually keep my inbox sorted by date, but every so often when messages start piling up I sort by sender which reveals extra messages I either missed or forgot to move to a subfolder. then I can delete/move a bunch at a time. If you use follow up flags or categories, sort that way too.

Learn the keyboard shortcuts for your email program. For example, Control R is resply in Outlook. I also set up hotkeys for my categories (now if I can only remember them – note to self – tape shortcut and hotkey list to monitor).

In conclusion – once you take control of your inbox, you will feel better, be more productive, stop missing opportunities, and prove yourself to be a reliable person to work with.

Now, I need to get back to clearing out my inbox. Only 1,234 messages to go.

More resources:

Youtube has lots of training videos about using Outlook and organizing emails.

Take yourself out of the equation

When faced with a dilemma you just cannot seem to figure out or decide on, step out of yourself. Pretend it’s a friend or co-worker struggling. What would you tell them? What words or guidance would you offer? What suggestions would have have for them? When you remove your own emotions, things can appear clearer.

Attitude is Everything

Warning: planning creates problems challenges. And when you look for problems, you will find them. And when you find them you will make them bigger.

Before you start looking for problems, remember:.

  • What we focus on becomes our reality.
  • Search for solutions that already exist
  • Build on what is working.
  • Every moment we spend focused on a problem is a moment not spent on moving forward.

Vision is, by definition, currently impossible.  Otherwise you’d be doing it not just dreaming and talking about it.  You accomplish your vision by solving all of the things that make it currently impossible. It’s called reality. – 60 minute strategic plan

Before you go any further, avoid using words like PROBLEM and IMPOSSIBLE. These words create a negative, self-defeating mindset that will actually hamper you and take all the fun out of your journey. We can take a life lesson from athletes. Sports are based entirely in overcoming obstacles and challenges and excelling despite of them. The hurdles are the point.

Until 1953, no human had been able to crack the four-minute mile. Some physicians claim that humans were anatomically incapable of doing so.  Or if they tried there would be physical damage. Roger Bannister, an Oxford medical students and a world-class runner, put himself through intense physical training to overcome what actually turned out to be a psychological barrier and not a physical one.  Within one year, 35 others did what was universally and historically considered impossible. – 60 minute strategic plan

Choose different words that better describe what you are dealing with : challenge, obstacle, issue, stepping stones, goal or project. When you stop using the word Problem, suddenly you have no problems, just opportunities to grow, learn and move closer to your goal – and to enjoy the journey.

Problems are just:

  • Results of other things happening
  • Warning signs of directions not to go
  • Goals to achieve
  • Puzzles
  • Detours
  • Issues
  • A starting point for something you want to change
  • Solutions waiting to be discovered.
  • Decisions you haven’t made
  • Opportunities

Would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?

Success Planning
for Musicians and Bands

“Would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?” asked Alice.
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where . . . ,” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

Lewis Carol – Alice in Wonderland

Planning is for

 Dreamers who decide it’s time to start doing.

People who are feeling their lives are out of control

People whose to do lists are several pages long.

Entrepreneurs who wear a lot of hats and are juggling lots of duties.

People who have discovered that what they are doing isn’t working.

People who are at a major transition point that they need to reevaluate where they are, where they want to go and do now such as times of catastrophe when you might be having a hard time setting priorities such as after Katrina, a band member quits or you have a new baby or when something major breaks in your career such as one of your tunes being featured in a commercial.

Planning will

help you face each new challenge with confidence, clarity and success.

get you thinking

help you generate more ideas, clarify your thoughts.

generate excitement, enthusiasm and motivation

act as a catalyst for your ideas.

quickly and concisely crystallize your vision.

help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, obstacles and problems, opportunities, set priorities.

help you order your thoughts, set goals and identify milestones.

help you use your time more effectively

help you decide whether you are doing the right thing

get you moving on your dream.

Help you avoid mistakes and wrong directions

Help you succeed.

A plan is like a song

Luckily, most musicians are already used to transcribing something from their head to paper – lyrics, a tune, an arrangement. Yet, they often fail to write down the most important words that will let them succeed – their master plan.

Writing something down makes the intangible real. Musicians know that a song in your head, like a breeze through your hair, is useless beyond the fleeting sensation of emotion and memory until you write down the notes and the words. The next step might be to record a rough version into a tape recorder. Then you go back and tweak and refine. Then you record it for real and voila – you have a song that other people can experience and reproduce and play along with. Planning is the same process.

Why You Need a Plan

Musicians make music, businesses make money. Like it or not, musicians must also act like a business if they want to make money making music so they can keep on making music. Bands and musicians operate with a combination of luck and planning.

Musicians often confuse dreams and hopes with plans. A dream is something in your head. Hope is an emotion. Neither is a strategy. The plan is what makes the dream a reality. Hope is what keeps you going.

There are many types of plans. The typical business plan, written to obtain money, is what we usually think of. But that doesn’t fit most musicians’ situations. Most traditional business models don’t translate well for the music industry, although many of the concepts must and should be considered and followed. Most business plan tutorials start you out with the question “What business am I in?” This may sound elementary and common sense, but doesn’t quite fit the musician or band model because musicians are in a lot of businesses, and that’s where typical business plan models break down. The musician is not only the singer and guitar player, he is the record producer, the promoter, the website developer, the marketing director, the roadie, the tour manager. The musician is pulled in twenty directions at once, often unprepared and uninformed about what is involved, what his options are and even how to start.

Myth: Business plans are long tedious documents filled with numbers and projections.

I’m sure someone told you somewhere along the line that you needed a business plan. Unfortunately, as you started learning how to write a business plan, you probably were confronted with instructions on writing pages and pages of economic projections and market analysis. While these can be important things to know, most musicians don’t need this, and won’t do it, and don’t care.

A strategic action plan, on the other hand, is intended to be an internal document created to focus and guide you. It is a repository for your ideas and resources, and, if integrated into your daily activities, is a powerful tool along with your guitar and computer.

What you really need right now is some direction to get you on track, keep you on track and help you achieve your dreams. Do you need to just tweak what you’re already doing? Or do you need to find a whole new direction and literally change how you’re doing things?

Right now you need to

  • get focused fast
  • figure out where you are going
  • identify what you need to do now and later to get there
  • figure out what NOT to do