Slow Down and Smell the Roses

Just like soft running, sometimes you need a soft ride. I’ve been going hard these last few months, trying to lose weight, get faster, and all that other pretty fucking typical stuff. Then came a 10 mile trail race and I realized I didn’t have that much fun. It’s time to recalibrate.

Left the house and it was around 70 degrees, but sort of cool on the bike. I actually rode slow enough to be chilly; like, just riding so easy that I wasn’t really warming myself. It was a nice feeling. I slowed, looked deep into the woods, scanned the creeks, stopped to smell some pine trees.

Just like we can’t focus on work for 8+ hours, at least not in a healthy way, we can’t always workout hardcore either. I mean, if you’re young, cool! Do you! But it’s also nice to just switch it up.

Stop and smell the roses is cliche for a reason.

And I’ve discovered in my journey with outsourcing, there’s been some quiet time. There’s been moments in the day where shit is actually done, caught up. Nothing to do. It’s glorious, but also terrifying. It’s just not something I’m familiar with, having gone pretty much full tilt since 2018 when my Close Mondays operation really took off.

Tonight it felt unsettling to just get away on the bike, but it was absolutely everything I needed. The best ideas come in the shower, or those quiet moments just staring at the mountains.

Avoiding those moments isn’t advisable for me. I need to keep searching them out.

Stress is Real

Close that laptop and go for a long walk, run, dance, whatever. Move your bones, emails can wait.

I went through some dark harrowing times in 2014, 2015; broke as fuck, closed bank account, no steady work. Long walks helped save my ass (along with wonderful friends). Note that I’m not saying JUST GET OUTSIDE! DEPRESSION ISN’T REAL. Fuck that noise.

You can only answer so many emails, check off so many tasks. Eventually you’re making mistakes, resentment swells. Just get away. Law of diminishing returns. You’re not gonna remember those three things on your to-do list that you cleared on a Thursday night. Not compared to some walk where you might run into a great dog or two, or a gorgeous sun set.

Put on ‘Party Hard’ and groove.

Mid Day Shuffling

Work processes, funds, bills, invoices, filing receipts… generally the stuff to figure and manage on the weekends after working all week on work stuff.

Weekends have been good for this, though, as the flow of incoming requests goes to zero, and I can focus and get these important things done. If I don’t do them, they don’t get done.

A long walk helps. Heck, on Friday I ducked out for three short runs. I say “duck out” like I work full-time for some big company, but I’ve been a freelancer since 2006 and still feel like I’m getting away with something when I walk away from my computer for more than 30 minutes.

But I had my running shoes on, and when it was time to get the mail, I guess I just took the long way. Instead of refilling my coffee and nuking it for 45 seconds, in which I’d be able to walk to the mailbox and back just in time to hear the beeping microwave, I put on my sunglasses and cruised around the back road and alleys for a mile or so, just getting the heart going and the feet shuffling.

Fitting in these moments – just like the work stuff described above – just has to happen, as easily and as frictionless and scrolling through Instagram for 12 minutes.

Finally Working in Basecamp

I bit the bullet and signed up for Basecamp to better manage my work with Close Mondays. I didn’t even realize it, but I was sold on Jason Fried’s recent forward for a book:

People struggle to know where a project stands. People struggle to maintain accountability across teams. People struggle to know who’s working on what, and when those things will be done. People struggle with presenting a professional appearance with clients. People struggle to keep everything organized in one place so people know where things are. People struggle to communicate clearly so they don’t have to repeat themselves.

I didn’t need project management software, I needed all of the above.

I think the biggest thing is giving someone an assignment via the old way – emailing them, putting it in Slack, etc. That’s fine, but it’s hard to have a record of everything you asked. Or asked of one person. Or things you assigned that are due this week. Or next. And those things float in my head – is it done? Will it be done? Should I send an email about it to follow up? With Basecamp, I can answer all those questions with a few clicks.

I’ve used Todoist for years, but that was mostly just me. Now that things are getting busier, I needed to bring in some help, and managing all that was becoming stressful without a system in place. It took a few months, but I think I found a home with Basecamp.

Trust as an Asset

I love this, from Cindy Gallop, via James Clear:

You set out to find the very best talent in the marketplace, and then give them a compelling and inspirational vision of what you want them to achieve for you and the company. Then you empower them to achieve those goals using their own skills and talents in any way they choose. If, at the same time, you demonstrate how enormously you value them, not just through compensation, but also verbally, every single day, and if you enable that talent to share in the profit that they help create for you, you’ll be successful. 

My best work was when I was left alone to do my thing. Trusted to do the work I was hired to do. It’s fun being on the other side now, as I’m starting to slowly build a team at Close Mondays, but altogether trust is an amazing asset.

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!