We’ve all been there.

Maybe you have kids to take care of, or maybe you have dozens of errands to run during the week. Maybe your job sucks all of the life out of you.

You start each day with the best of intentions, but time gets away from you and you don’t feel like you’re making progress on the things that really matter to you – your music, specifically.

So what do you do when you feel like progress is elusive, and you just can’t seem to get on top of things? What do you do when you feel like you’re stuck in a rut?

Here are a few tips for you to consider. Read on.

Tip #1 – Take Some Time Off

This is going to seem counterintuitive, so before you cry “heresy” and hit me over the head with an American Fender Stratocaster Deluxe, answer the following question:

When are you least productive?

The answer is simple, but it might not be what you think it is.

Some of you may have answered “at night”, “when I’m sleeping”, or “during the weekends.” Or, maybe you gave a more philosophical answer, like “when I’m doing things I don’t like to do.”

None of those answers are wrong, but the reality is that you’re least productive when you’re tired. Yep, that’s it.

And I don’t mean the kind of tired you feel when you come home from work every day. I mean the kind of tired that has built up over weeks, months, maybe even years. The kind of tired that lingers and doesn’t go away after binge-watching Netflix for 48 hours.

If that’s how you’re feeling, then you need to take some time off to clear your mind. Free up some time in your schedule, get away from home, and just relax for a while. You’ve been working hard.

The irony is that – if you do take a break –  you’ll likely come back to find your inbox full of new opportunities because you haven’t been pushing so hard for them. The things we want tend to come when we’re not striving for them. In this way, progress becomes effortless.

Tip #2 – Re-Frame Your Perspective

This is a mental tweak more than anything else, and applies specifically to people that have been diligent in following through with their commitments every single day, best to their ability.

You might think you’re not making progress. You might even feel that way.

But there is a big difference between feeling and knowing, and that difference tends to be lost on tired souls that are confused, frustrated or depressed.

You probably aren’t celebrating your victories often enough. Most of us don’t. You’re probably not seeing the forest for the trees. Again, most of us don’t, especially when our nose has been to the grindstone for a long time.

What’s needed is perspective. Also see tip #1, because that totally applies here.

If you can’t take an extended break, what you need is a timeout. You need time to think, to journal, to get away to somewhere quiet for a while, and just reflect. That’s something else most of us don’t do enough of – reflecting!

Learn to reframe your thought process. For instance, if you put out three new albums in the last two years, but you haven’t met any of your sales goals yet, instead celebrate the fact that you released three new albums in two years! That’s a major accomplishment.

Those who’ve had some practice with this can often re-frame the situation within minutes or even seconds of it happening. That’s why they’re able to keep their composure and stay happy.

Tip #3 – Reevaluate Your Priorities, Schedule & To-Do List

Even the best of us are aware of the fact that we waste time, and it’s the only luxury we’ll never be able to afford.

You may have heard entrepreneurs and executive level people talk about how they spend too much time on low value tasks when they could be doing higher value tasks.

A lot of people don’t really like that way of thinking, and may even think it’s unrealistic, but it’s absolutely true. We don’t automate, delegate and eliminate enough!

There’s a huge difference between being “busy” and being “productive”, and most people will tell you that they are busy. Unless the person saying that is an athlete, runs a company, freelances on the side, or makes a lot of art, there should be sirens firing off in your brain!

Most people are not busy. Their lives are filled with activity, and they prioritize going fishing, drinking beer with a buddy, watching the hockey game or going to the swimming pool. You can still do all of those things if you want, but if you’re using them as an excuse to not work on your art, then you’re just fooling yourself.

Take some time to think about whether or not everything that’s on your schedule or to-do list actually needs to be there. And then consider whether or not you can automate or delegate whatever cannot be eliminated.

Also see Musicians: All The Productivity Advice You Need For 2016.

Final Thoughts

Give yourself some grace. You’re doing the best you can at your present level of awareness. Sometimes life really does get in the way of the things we want to do. When that happens, it all comes down to our values and how we respond to the situation.

Our values dictate our actions – always. How we respond to a situation is entirely within our control – always, even if we can’t control the situation itself.

It’s important to realize just how powerful you are. If people are pushing you around and telling you what to do, then you haven’t found your inner fighter yet. You can’t let other people run your life when you have big creative goals you’re trying to achieve.

When progress doesn’t seem forthcoming, remember to stop and disengage. Take a break, and when you come back, take a look at the situation from a new perspective. If something needs to change, then begin making small changes. If a break was all you needed, then dive back in.

Author: David Andrew Wiebe

David Andrew Wiebe has built an extensive career in songwriting, live performance, recording, session playing, production work, investing, and music instruction. In addition to helping musicians unlock their full potential, he also continues to maintain a touring schedule with multiple bands.

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