Done Tracking Work Time

For awhile I swore by using Toggl, a tool that let me keep track of all the time I was spending on client work. As I moved between tasks, I was moving between tabs, making sure I’d start the timer. If I went to make coffee, stop the timer!

Come back to work, wait, a new email to check, which leads me to jump into another project – change tabs, start the timer with this other client.

I’m not sure if it was the constant timer going in the tab that wiped me out, or the number of times I’d have to switch tabs to start, stop, and manage my timer, but I quit.

Yeah, Parkinson’s Law says that work expands to the amount of time we give it, but fuck it… I’m tired of trying to super efficient, shaving minutes from tasks, or feeling guilty for only being so far into a task at the 10 minute mark, or the 25 minute work.

Things that usually took 15 minutes were now taking 30 – what’s wrong with my work ethic?! My productivity is lacking!

And then, oh yeah – we’re living in the middle of a pandemic. I can’t go out for an afternoon coffee, go to a show at night to see one of the bands I work, meet a friend for a movie, go to the gym – no, my entire social life and down-time activities have been eliminated.

No wonder I have a problem focusing, and I know others are feeling it, too.

So don’t beat yourself up if you’re feeling this. There’s nothing normal about this moment in history that we’re living in. And believe me, 2020 will be talked about for decades, adding to the horrible history of America.

Money Is a Game

In an episode of Akimbo (“Money Moves“), Seth Godin equates money as a game, not as a personal indictment on your self worth or status. (Permalink here to the time stamp of the below text).

All of the things I’ve talked about are strategies around the game of money. That money is always moving, that money grows, that money costs, that cash flow matters. But it’s a game, it’s not personal. And what we need to do as productive artists and professionals who create things, is to say, when money is involved, we have to put our game hat on. That this isn’t a personal referendum on who I am, and what I am worth. It’s a game, and I can play it to make more money, or I can play it poorly. But as soon as we conflate it with who am I as a human, what do I count for, what am I worth? Then we’re going to lose that game.

I’ve been there, and I know friends there now, and friends that have gotten out. It’s up and down, goes in cycles. But we have to be careful to not equate the lack of work, of money, with our own self worth.

Build That Email List

My buddy Bill Meis on Twitter:

Friendly PSA for young bands and artists.

Start your email list now and don’t stop.

No, seriously. The fact that even big bands don’t have landing pages feeding a general info mailing list is BONKERS.

Facebook and Twitter aren’t in the business of sending you traffic and clicks for free. And you can’t export those connections (hello, MySpace) when they go belly up.

Build. That. Email. List.

And Instagram is OWNED by Facebook. More algorithms. More noise. They’re 1000% gonna fuck it all up. But an email from a fan, someone who bought your album on Bandcamp? That is gold.

Your email doesn’t have to be ALL BUSINESS either. Remember – some people have left Facebook and Twttr. You can use the stuff you write on social media, repackage it, and send it to your list!

Hell, this post is just from a handful of Tweets, and can be found three years from now from a Google search, or linked to from another website.

Have you stuff somewhere, and not just sitting on social media sites.

Music is Still Needed

SOURCE

Here’s a post I made for some limited edition High On Fire records that we put out on 4/20 (of course), one of which sold out in less than 24 hours or so.

Facebook ain’t my favorite by any means, but damn if they don’t drive traffic still if you do it right.

If you want to take a look: the eOne Heavy online store, the Bandcamp merch page.

Music, art, video, stories – all of it is more needed than ever, as we’re all sitting at home waiting for things to get back to normal. Humbled and blessed to be working with some of the best people in helping make that happen.

Remote Working Tips

It’s been 10 years since I worked in an office. Way back in 2010 I was a contractor for AOL Music, and I pushed that work-status to the limits by saying “see ya, office,” got rid of all my stuff, and biked my way all the way down to Nashville, TN crashing on friends couches along the way while still working.

Okay, so that’s probably not what you might be doing now, but maybe some of the lessons from that adventure, and the entire decade, may help.

  1. Comfort – Yes, this is #1 because I wish I had paid attention a decade ago. Get a real computer chair. Make sure your arms are supported. Get an ergonomic mouse. If you don’t have an external monitor, prop your laptop up so the screen is at eye level and get a good external keyboard. Trust me, your elbows and wrists and back will be happy.
  2. Have a space to work. Your bed is for sleep, your kitchen table is for eating. Don’t cross the streams. Heck, don’t sit on the couch and work – remember, you’re working. Once you start overlapping leisure time (sitting on the couch, laying in bed) with work time (working from the couch, working in bed), everything gets messy.
  3. Try to work at a standing desk. I know, easier said than done, but if you got a keyboard and a mouse, you can find a way to make it work. And then just try it for 20 minutes in the morning, or in the afternoon.
  4. Wake up early and eat the frog. The biggest, hardest, most challenging thing? Get it done right away. Early in the morning helps, too, because you won’t have co-workers messaging and emailing you.
  5. Take breaks. Walk away from the computer and make coffee. Do some push ups. Do the dishes. Take out the garbage. Go for walk. Being able to do these things during WORK TIME does wonders for your brain.
  6. Put on pants. Believe me, I’ve done the whole working from bed, wearing sweatpants till 3pm thing, and it was murder. These days pants go on right away when I get to work, because I’m working!

My Favorite Slack Feature

Since a lot of people are starting to work from home, and maybe starting to work in Slack for the first time, I wanted to share my favorite feature; “Remind me about this.”

Best used on a Friday afternoon, when someone sends you something and you know it can wait, you just have Slack remind you Next week.

Now, where you go from there is up to you. I sometimes make notes in my paper to-do planner, or make a note in Todoist, BUT… having Slack remind you of a thing, rather than relying on a Calendar or Reminders app is super solid.

Do Your Work

I stayed up late on Wednesday night, watching all of the commentary about the NBA game cancellations. Since Thursday morning, things have been hazy. My head just feels in a fog, with so many reports, stories, and noise.

What’s the best course of action? What to do next? Should I get extra cat food?

Then a Friday call with a good friend set me at ease; “just do your work.” I’m paraphrasing, but the first thing I need to do is my work, because it needs to get done, so I can send an invoice and get paid.

Does it NEED to be done? In the grand scheme of things? Doesn’t matter. Now isn’t the time for grand thinking, and figuring things out. Do the work, then do what else needs to get done.

Clients

Spoke with a good friend today about being our “authentic self” online, and sometimes fearing the vibe we give off could lead to lost work, as maybe a potential client is turned away by the way we carry ourselves.

One lofty client came up, Starbucks, of course. They’re top banana, sure. But who’s the #2 coffee company? Who’s the #8 coffee supplier on the East Coast? I bet they have a budget, right?

Meg Lewis comes to mind when thinking about this sort of thing, as she is so amazingly herself. Such an inspiration, and a reminder that playing the part is just sort of playing yourself. Be who you are, and you’ll attract your dream clients.

Make Yourself Obsolete

Quote of the year so far, from Bobby Goodlatte:

https://twitter.com/rsg/status/1228487241556586496

Love that last line: You should be so much less focused on how hard you work, and so much more focused on how to automate / make yourself obsolete.

I admit I got caught in the habit of grinding. Cranking. Just apply more focus, keystroke commands, turn off Slack, roll up the sleeves and just ATTACK.

Or pay someone on Fivver $5 to do it.

Because now that 45 minutes of work I didn’t really wanna do now becomes free, and my brain gets to focus on bigger problems. Bigger challenges.

That’s what $5 buys me – the ability to use my near 20+ years of internet smarts on something that might make me $5,000.

Keep The Store Open

Had a great talk with a buddy I met through Seth Godin’s “Freelancers Workshop” today. They’re a freelancer, and they’ve been sick this past week. Too sick to really work.

When I’m too sick to work, I think too much. Fret. Worry. Think of the worst possible outcomes – missed emails, uncompleted tasks, work piling up. I’m not just bad at my job, but now I’m bad. My work is me, and I am my work. So without it… without about being able to work, what does that say?

It made me think of our how our work is like a store front, and if we’re not working, the store is closed. A sign in the window says “NOT OPEN.” People walk by and mumble under their breath about our closed business. Did they not pay their electric bill? Health code violations?!

Being so connected to work is scary, and so many of us in the freelance world are one stomach bug or flu virus away from being knocked out of commission for a week.

For the past few months I’ve been experimenting with outsourcing some of my more administrative tasks via UpWork and Fiverr. It’s virtual assistant type of work, and by paying someone else to do it, it gives me time to work on bigger projects. Though Close Mondays isn’t some automated machine just yet, it’s good knowing that a handful of my daily tasks are now taken care of by someone that’s not always me.