[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Angela Mastrogiacomo.]
Being a musician or an entrepreneur doesn’t exactly come with a guide book, does it? Truth be told, I spent a good chunk of my early years building my business thinking, “I wish someone would just tell me what all of this is supposed to look like.” Trying to figure everything out on my own was exhausting, and really not all that productive.
Let’s rewind a few years. There I was, exhausted and burnt out from trying to do it all, while not actually doing much of anything. I was moving the needle, but it was so slow that it was hard to feel any kind of progress or find any energy to do the things that I loved. You know, the things that got me started on this path in the first place, as well as the motivation to learn what I needed to move forward. Maybe you’ve been there? Maybe you even feel that way right now.
I remember that feeling all too well. It’s grueling. But it doesn’t have to be, and I don’t want it to be for you. If I could go back to the early stages of my career where I was just starting out and trying to figure out where to focus, this is what I’d ask myself:
1. Where’s your heart at?
Never forget why you started this.
It’ll be easy as your career grows and as things get more hectic to get sucked into the day to day and forget why it is you started this venture in the first place. But you have to hold onto that and you have to be sure you’re always making time for it. Trust me on this, I’ve been there more than once—if you let yourself get so sucked into what you feel like you have to do to succeed that you forget to do what brought you here in the first place, you will get burnt out, lose your focus, and stop having fun.
So much of the process is the journey itself, so if you can learn to incorporate the things you love into that journey and make it an integral part of your focus, not only will your chances of success increase, but you’ll honestly just be leading a better life.
2. What’s the #1 thing you can do right now to move the needle?
You might be feeling a little overwhelmed with what to focus your attention on.
Is it building your Instagram followers? Is it playing as many shows as possible? Maybe it’s touring; or maybe it’s getting a new album recorded and released; or maybe it’s all about re-doing your promo photos or redesigning your merch. See what I mean?
And it’s true, all these things might just be important, but only one of them is likely to really move you forward in your career right now.
So what do I mean by that? Simply put, there’s likely one thing you can focus on right now that will get you closer to your goals. Here’s an example.
Say you want to: record a new album, start a mailing list, and go on tour. They all feel equally urgent, but there’s only one that’s going to set the foundation for the rest—your mailing list. Your mailing list is going to be the number one way to get in front of your most loyal, interested fans, and build up a following so that when you release that new album or go on that tour, you have a base that’s eagerly awaiting your next move.
Try to narrow down your focus to two or three things maximum and from there, ask yourself which one sets you up for success with the others. It’s a simple but powerful move that will help you prioritize.
3. What do you want this year to look like?
As this past year ended, I thought a lot about what I wanted my next year to look like. What I wanted to feel, what I hoped to accomplish, and what I hoped to look back on once I do my reflecting for this year. I had a lot of different paths I was exploring and to be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted my focus to be. So, I decided that would be what this year was all about—narrowing my focus for a more productive next year.
I narrowed my interests to three main ones and put into action a plan for testing each of the three ideas out throughout this year. That way, I’d be giving each one a chance and seeing what worked for me, what I thrived in, what I struggled with, and what I truly wanted to focus on for next year.
This has worked incredibly well for three reasons. The first is I didn’t force myself into something I wasn’t ready for—I took small steps that allowed me to explore different areas and see what worked best for me personally. Second it forced me into action. I think oftentimes we get stuck researching things so much that we never really come out of that phase and just put things into action. And third, it had a deadline. I didn’t give myself an endless amount of time to figure things out, I gave myself an objective and a deadline and then went to work putting it into use.
This has allowed me to set the foundation for the year, and life, that I truly desire. Try to remember that although it can seem tempting to simply try to leap from one giant task to the next, there’s power in stepping stones, and in taking your time to do things right, rather than just trying to rush through. You’ll get so much more done if you can simply take your time, narrow your focus, and work in steps.
Angela Mastrogiacomo is the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR, where her artists have seen placement on Alternative Press, Substream, New Noise, and more. She’s also the owner of music blog Infectious Magazine.