Managing Your Music Career’s Infinite To-Do List

I had an epiphany last week.  It’s one of those realizations that’s so simple and obvious that I almost hesitate to even tell you about it.  And some of you might think it’s even a bit pessimistic!

But because it helped my sanity, I’ll share it with you.  Maybe it’ll help your sanity too.

Being a full-time musician these days typically requires creating several income streams, which can generate a seemingly infinite to-do list.

Myself, I play three instruments and I sing.  I have been in as many as four bands at a time.  I write for music libraries with several different composers, and have other original projects going on with three or four other people.  And I teach.

…In other words, I tend to overcommit myself.

Even if you focus on one instrument and one project, it’s easy to feel like you face an infinite to-do list.  You can always practice more, network more, go watch live shows, create another product, update your web site, write a new song, learn new technology, do some ear training, start a band, work on your live show, book some gigs, update your promo kit, do a photo shoot, go to a conference, follow up on contacts made at the last conference, update your bio, record a new demo, submit your music to licensing opportunities, make pitches to music industry people, review the graphic design for your album, read industry publications, listen to songs for inspiration, work on your songwriting skills, learn to mix…  [ catch your breath here ] …Oh, right – and make some money in there somewhere, too, right?

Are you like me?  Every single week, do you start out with caffeine-fueled energy, meaning to catch up on that to-do list and maybe even get a little ahead?  And by the end of every week, do you get less done than you hoped?  

I hate looking at that to-do list and seeing that half of the items are sliding to the next week because I simply ran out of time.  

It makes me feel like I’m making no progress.

So, here’s my simple epiphany:

The things you DON’T do will always number more than the things you DO do.  

Obvious, right?  There is literally an infinite number of things you could be doing to further your music career.  With an assistant, a virtual assistant, or a staff, you can get more things done.  But the list remains infinite.

This epiphany made me realize that there’s never going to be a day when I look at the infinite to-do list and see that I’ve done everything.  

So, instead of creating endless to-do lists and being disappointed when we can’t squeeze 150 hours of work into a week, we need to just stick to our priorities, and recognize what DOES get accomplished.

This shift of perspective helped me go from feeling frustrated about what wasn’t getting done, to satisfied with what was getting done.  

If you feel that, in spite of your best efforts, you’re always behind and never getting enough done, try looking at what you DID get done.  That’s the real measure of your progress.  Not looking at the infinite number of things you DIDN’T get done.

(c) 2011 Adrienne Osborn

Adrienne Osborn is a vocalist and performance coach based in Colorado.   For more free articles and tips, visit