I am writing right now. I am choosing to write to you, and to myself, because I think it is important. A catchall of days. A compendium of how a singer spends her time. When I’m not turning breath into sound or teaching others how to count and read music and experience resonance, I am here. I am writing to us because this is what I do. But truly, this is one of my favorite things that tells me who I am as a person. As Annie Dillard wrote in her incredible book The Writing Life, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour and with that one, is what we are doing.”
My Ultimate To-Do List
With a love for a quote like that, it is little wonder that I’m also obsessed with to-do lists. My Type A personality simply can’t get enough of them. I have written about my favorite form of the to-do list, which I call The 10 Minute Meeting on a number of occasions. The first time I introduce the 10 Minute Meeting was back in 2014:
We can spend our entire lives simply reacting to the incessant stimuli around us. This is one of the reasons why creatives hate email with such passion. That constant stream of communication takes you out of your zone and puts you into reply mode. You do not have to swear off email, though, to make a big difference in controlling the flow of your day. All it takes is 10 minutes.¹ At breakfast or first thing in the studio, block off 10 sacred minutes with yourself to outline your mission for the day. These precious minutes are time to make a to-do list, a GTD-style brain dump, brainstorm an important creative element, or whatever you need. The point is to do it regularly so that you have a course of action for the day. I find that it is extremely helpful for those moments when brain energy is low and you aren’t sure what to do next. Go back to your notes from your meeting and pick up a new task.
Share Your Work
I have been actively keeping track of my Ten Minute Meetings since before I first wrote about them here. I’ve tried one productivity and goal-setting app after another and nothing lights up the planning and brainstorming side of my brain better than ten minutes on the timer with a legal pad and a pen. We’ve been doing some cleaning at the house recently and I decided to compile my micro-actions into an online spreadsheet so I could recycle these old lists. I’ve decided to share that list here. Maybe you’re curious about other people’s to-do lists like I am.
When I create these lists, I set the timer for ten minutes and it is my intention to write out micro-actions that can be completed on that day. That’s why the ten minute element is so important. Ten minutes gives me just enough time to write all the things I know I need to get done and just a few extra moments to push me to come up with the next step. “What else do I want to get done today?” often springs to mind. Or, “What can I do today that will help with this other upcoming project?” My micro-action spreadsheet is just a record of all of the items that I wrote down; not which ones I actually completed (although given my check marks, 90% of these were.) So, this document is more of a list of how many times a certain action was on my mind more than anything else.
Keeping Track of To-Do’s
I kept a tally of how many times each micro-action showed up on the list. It made me feel good that “practice” showed up on the list more than anything else. Practice was followed shortly thereafter by “write thank you note.” In between those was “follow-up (anything.)” I think that is a pretty accurate outline for my career in singing:
- Show appreciation.
I really love seeing certain items on the list because it shows me the daily actions throughout a very full three years. Things like “quit job(s)”, “file change of address”, and “research apartments” help remind me of getting ready for the big move. Then, things like “start an ensemble”, “send performance rider”, and 41 instances of “make/check-in travel arrangements” remind me of just how committed to the work I have been recently.
Of course, the list does not include a lot of really important things. Or, there are some slight nods to things like family, friend, and personal time. It’s not that those didn’t happen. It’s just that I very rarely have to remind myself to include those as part of my business day.
I hope that you’ll share with me some of the items that regularly crop up on your list. Or, feel free to ask me about any of my micro-action is they don’t make sense. I’m happy to explain how they’ve figured into my business plans. Feel free to share in the comments below or find me on Twitter – I’m always @mezzoihnen.
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