Boost Productivity W/Out Going Nuts

Who doesn’t want to do that, right?

Actor Megan Corse and Phil Circle

There are so many ways people say we can do this. One that popped up in the 80s, when I was first a music entrepreneur, was multi-tasking. People still attempt it. I remember trying to do it and feeling immediately like I wasn’t doing justice to any one task. I figured I must be an idiot or just not cut out for it and never tried again. Then recently, I was browsing one of my daily reads and saw a study some group of study people (the “they”) did about multi-tasking. They discovered that people who attempt it are 20% less productive and more prone to mistakes. So, I guess I’m not an idiot. My younger self had a rare moment of clarity and realized a minor truth. That is, focus on the one thing you need to do now and get it done right. And to get it done right, spend the appropriate amount of time on it to pay attention to detail. Cool.

I look at these various tips and tricks of the trade, attitudes of highly successful people, and how to crush it as an entrepreneur, as just what they are… tips. As with anything I give to my students regarding understanding the material they’re working through, tips are meant to be adjusted to an individual’s particular means of learning. There’s no one tried and true approach that works for everyone. Not exactly. It’s expected that we’ll adapt the ideas we’re given to make them work in the best way possible, functioning within our existing aptitudes.

Another tip I ran into was regarding the difference between “urgency” and “hurrying.” Basically, when you’re in a hurry, you’re rushed and in a sort of panic mode that assumes everything is going to crumble at any moment. It’s loaded with possibilities for total collapse, and so is also a mentally unhealthy approach to use of time. Having a sense of urgency, however, puts you in a mindset that lands you in a flow. You maintain a distinct focus and attention to detail (there it is again), and somehow manage to get this thing done that you never thought you’d accomplish in the allotted time. Urgency is also a key ingredient to succeeding at something over a slightly longer haul. It means the thing you’re involved in matters. You’ve decided it needs to be done right and soon. Hurry is frantic and even self-centered; Get outa my way, I’m in a hurry! Semantics? Maybe. But words and our choices with them dig much deeper than we realize.

Something I’ve become much better with is mindset. These tiny changes in my thoughts and mental attitudes have changed things on the outside in a large way. I’m finding myself getting more done with less time and doing it better. I’m seeing the fruits of my labor not rotting for lack of nurture. In other words, I’m not pushing things away with some frantic “gimme” energy. I’m carefully (the root of the word being “care”) giving each project respect and focus. As a result, the pride I enjoy in getting things done carefully and done right propels me to do more. There’s a lot less “screw it” when you see things working more smoothly and can live with whatever the outcomes, because you know you’ve done your best leading up to them. It’s a helluva lot more relaxing, too.

Arianna Huffington is one of the more influential women in the world, by many counts. She gets a ton done. She also is a huge advocate of sleep. This came as a result of her having suffering exhaustion from lack of the aforementioned rest. She was so delighted at the after-effects of getting enough sleep, she wrote a book about it! It’s called The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time. She’s not the only person I’ve seen declare loudly the benefits of rest. Once again, studies have been done. We’re less productive when we’re tired and more prone to mistakes. Are we seeing a trend here? Could it be true that our beloved “sleep when you’re dead” multi-tasking American approach to life could be faulty? Could it be that siestas, and the idea of letting your life guide you quietly, truly are a wonderful and workable thing? It would appear so. It’s been working for me.

Anything else? Well, yes. My favorite means of being more productive is this; Do what you are meant to do. Stop slogging through some work you can’t stand because it’s “secure.” In fact, nothing is secure in this modern world (especially since COVID has upended everything) and this will become more and more the case as we move forward. Scholars and educators are talking about focusing on critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity, and adaptability, as the most important skills one can build toward the future of humankind. It’s interesting to note that music deals with and improves on all of these directly or indirectly (remember, I’m a musician). That last one, adaptability… this may be the most beneficial of all. If you’d like security, learn to adapt quickly in our changing world. Overwhelmed? Stop and meditate on some favorite tunes or just plain meditate (I chant).

I’m secure in my work. There’s always going to be a need for music. Unless people take a particular liking to AI-developed tunes. Either way, I’m constantly on the lookout for what I need to adapt to or learn from, in the fast-changing business side of things. Since this is often directed by technology and record companies remain fairly clueless, I keep a close eye on tech. It would feel comfortable in the moment to lament the good ole days when CDs were selling online without much effort and curse these streaming services. I hear and see people doing this. Sure, you’re right. Let’s get back to wax cylinder recordings. It’s not gonna happen. Look for new answers. My vision for Guilt By Association Records and Patreon as a means to develop, cooperatively, the careers of myself and anyone who’d like to join me, is an adaptation to the alterations we see in income sources in the music business. I’m delighted to find that I can work constantly in multiple mediums without getting signed to a record deal, hired by a newspaper or magazine, given a show on the radio, or asked to host a TV special. Instead… and I have complete control of the creative process and production… I can release music whenever I want and have it up online in a matter of days; I can write blogs to my heart’s content and spread them everywhere; I can start a podcast and release audiobooks; and I can have a clever thought and share it through an impromptu video free of a production crew, writers, or censors. And all of this is stuff I was already doing in some form and loving it. Now, I’m just capturing whatever I create quickly, and literally clicking a button or two. Now I’ve released it upon the world. Most or all of the places I’m putting my work out to can be set to monetize in some form, or I can ask you and whomever else feels so inclined to become a patron or buy a product… This blog was sponsored by Phil Circle Music and Guilt By Association Records: Providers of high quality music education and the best in independent music for 25 years!

And if you’re not a Millenial or someone born to tech savviness, don’t give me any line about being too old or not feeling comfortable about the widespread use of technology and social media. I was born in 1966. I turned 54, ten days after getting over a mild case of COVID-19 while Chicago was in lockdown and every musician I knew was out of work. In the 1994, I couldn’t use a computer. By 1996, I was a self-trained Mac tech. I was in my 20s, sure, but that youthful attitude has driven me all my life. In fact, at my age… ours if you’re with me… I’m far more suited to dealing with change and the vicissitudes (I love that word) of life than someone who’s 20. I have experience that tells me I’ll make it through. I have reason to believe it and reason to mean it when I say, we’ve got this.

By utilizing my moderate comfort with technology and interest in modern entrepreneurial tools, and aligning them with my ease of mind over getting things done with accuracy and ease, I’m more productive than ever and generally more relaxed about it. I’m also a work in progress. I still stress. But I’ve got a much better handle on that than I used to. Find your passion intentionally or accidentally. But keep your heart open to it. I swear it’s worth any trouble. You don’t need to be famous to make a difference. You don’t need to be a star. You already are one. Thanks for sharing this moment with me.




Phil Circle is a Chicago-based singer-songwriter-guitarist, award-winning music coach and author, and the founder of Guilt By Association Records.

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Phil Circle

Phil Circle

Phil Circle is a Chicago-based singer-songwriter-guitarist, award-winning music coach and author, and the founder of Guilt By Association Records.

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