Prioritize, think small, create.

June 9, 2011

I’ve been thinking over the past couple of days that my to-do lists are too long. If you are an artist/musician, your lists are most likely similar to mine and include some or all of the following:

  • Practicing or work in studio, prep for concerts/festivals/gigs/auditions/exhibitions, etc.
  • If a private studio teacher, thinking about students and their progress
  • Maintaining private studio (taxes/budget/music library organization/marketing/recitals, etc.)
  • Considering collaborative or other projects of interest
  • Networking, checking email, social media
  • Researching grant/funding ideas for projects, writing grants
  • Exercising, taking care of well-being
  • Tending to household (shopping/cleaning/budgeting/paying bills/organizing)
  • Taking care of family (kids/ spouse/partner/extended family/pets)
  • Having a social life (staying in touch with friends)
  • Being involved and/or volunteering in the community (religious/spiritual/political/social activities and organizations)
  • Tending to other things as they arise that require attention

This list could continue on.  It certainly gives an idea of the different hats we wear on a daily basis as artists/musicians, balancing personal and professional sides of our lives.

This morning I was reading several posts that struck a chord with me as I was feeling over-loaded and over-whelmed with all that was on my to-do list.  I was reminded that we create our own messes, our own over-loadedness, by not prioritizing what is most important to us to do right now, or maybe sometimes we don’t have clear goals or we’re feeling a little stuck in where we are.  Looking at the big picture that is our lives, are we living what we believe?  Are we really pursuing what is important to us?  Are we living according to our values, and our strengths?  Are we reaching our goals?


I’ve had the good fortune of discovering Astrid Baumgardner’s blog and also having the opportunity to speak with her too.  Astrid is a pianist and also a coach, and she’s spent a lot of time thinking about what makes musicians tick.  She’s helped me to see that we need to know our strengths and values and build our goals according to them.

About values, Astrid writes:

Values are the core principles that run your life.  They are the key to your authentic self. One of the best ways to create success in your life is aligning your life with your top values and making decisions that honor those values.


In my experience, the more your goals align with your values, the more motivated you are to pursue those goals.

And about strengths:

My message to clients is to play to your strengths.  It is one of the keys to creating success in your life. In my experience, you are more likely to reach your goals and be a success if you are doing things that you are good at. It’s much easier to play to your strengths rather than compensate for weaknesses. The more you develop your natural talents, the stronger they become.  And, the more you use your strengths, the less of a struggle life becomes.

For figuring out what your strengths are visit her post Play to your Strengths.  I’ve used both the Strengths Finder (you have to buy the book unfortunately because if you check it out of the library it doesn’t come with that special code) and the VIA assessment which is free.  They both were very useful for me.  In discovering my main strength is “Input” I understand how I enjoy sharing good ideas with others and how this also gives me strength back.

And for your values the blog Learn This has some tips.

Knowing my strengths and values more clearly has helped me set goals and consequently, prioritize more efficiently and according to what is most important to me.  I’m deciding not to do certain things that aren’t directly connected to what I’m trying to achieve.  I’m trying not to let myself be sidetracked.  And I’m setting goals today, next year, five years and also 10 years down the road, to help me get to where I need to go.  In her post How to Turn Dreams of Success into Reality,  Astrid describes a student who decided in 20 years that he would be the music director of a big name philharmonic, and so everything he does from today on is a step in that direction.

Armed with our strengths, values and goals, it’s time to prioritize.  I really like these ideas from Organize It!

They suggest dividing the to-do-list into these three areas:

  • Need to do
  • Should do
  • Want to do

On a side note, I think we are all overloaded with too many emails, too many posts to read, too many twitters to catch up on.  I started my morning today by unsubscribing to a number of emails I just end up deleting anyway.  I don’t NEED to receive all those emails, that’s for sure. It’s some mental energy saved, I think.


How often do we get stuck not going forward with our ideas because we think they aren’t grand enough?

David Cutler’s post Want Big Impact, Think Small is right on the money.

If you really want to make a difference—and reap the accompanying rewards—think small-scale.  Make profound connections with the handful, rather than superficial ones with the masses.  Changing fifteen lives dramatically is much more valuable than barely making an impression on 3000Find ways to create relationships that are personal, deep, meaningful, and ongoing.   

And from Astrid: A musician client told me recently that he had so many ideas for his freelance career that he did not know where to start.  The result was that he did nothing because he was so overwhelmed.

So start thinking how you can make a small difference within your community with the ideas that move you and make you wake up early in the morning!


Now we are clear so that we may create (Adam Shames has a post worth reading on this topic!)

Enjoy the process:  prioritize, think small, create! (And then…..DREAM BIG!)

A word of thanks to the following authors:

Astrid Baumgardner, JD, PCC is a professional life coach and lawyer and the founder and President of Astrid Baumgardner Coaching + Training, which is dedicated to helping musicians, lawyers and creative professionals take charge of their lives and experience authentic success.  In addition to her individual coaching practice, Astrid presents workshops at leading conservatories and law firms on topics including Career Planning, Goal-Setting, Time Management, Dynamic Communication, Conflict Management, Personal Branding and Networking.  She is the author of numerous articles on the various aspects of how to achieve and live authentic success.

David Cutler balances a varied career as a jazz and classical composer, pianist, educator, arranger, conductor, collaborator, concert producer, author, consultant, speaker and advocate. Dr. Cutler teaches at Duquesne University, where he also serves as Coordinator of Music Entrepreneurship Studies.

Adam Shames is the founder of the Kreativity Network and Adam Shames Consulting. Based in Chicago, Adam is an innovation consultant, facilitator and speaker specializing in leadership retreats, learning seminars and teambuilding events that help organizations build cultures of innovation and collaboration. His main blog, Innovation on my Mind ( offers insights, tools and reflections to bring more creativity and innovation to our lives, organizations, education and culture.

Laura Lentz ©2011


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