As a musician, how do you think about focus?
Would you consider yourself a focused person? Or do you feel like you’re a little all over the place?
Be honest here. Do you have songs sitting on your hard drive you’ve never even released? Do you have hundreds of audio memos and lyrical snippets you’ve saved over the years?
Welcome to being an artist. This is what it’s all about!
We’re all a little scattered, and that has its advantages.
But used the right way, focus can be a powerful tool to achieve more of the right things in your career.
Why Focus is Challenging for an Artist
I probably don’t even need to tell you why.
We’re artists! We’re always interpreting life. Looking at it from different angles. Thinking about the way things are, and how they got to be the way they are.
Doing this type of thinking often inspires new ideas and new songs. So, it’s worth engaging in this type of thinking.
But the challenge is that we make a mess of projects and ideas. Be honest. Don’t you have post-it notes, notebooks, legal pads, and binders scattered all over your house or creative space?
If not, don’t you have notes stored in your phone in text, audio, and video form, saved across a variety of apps like Dropbox, Google Drive, and Evernote?
If not, you’re probably one of the most organized artists there is.
Or, as many artists, it’s possible you’ve already gone through your “organization phase”, meticulously cataloging all your ideas (by promptly shoving all of them in a drawer), so you can focus and finally finish that epic song you dreamed up years ago.
Bottom line – as artists, we’re natural dreamers. We come up with a lot of ideas that, in the moment, sound incredibly exciting. Then, we end up committing to those spontaneous ideas, and over time, find our schedules so loaded up with ongoing projects that basically nothing gets done.
Focus – a Powerful Tool for Achieving the Right Things
Have you ever noticed how certain activities in your career or life produce disproportionately better results than anything else you do?
If you haven’t, then it would be a good idea to start paying attention to that. Because those are the things that are going to move the needle on your career.
True or untrue?
I respect the fact that a proper digital marketing strategy revolves around maintaining a presence on social media, and that requires creating content and rolling it out on a schedule.
But if you don’t post to Facebook today, and it means you’re able to finish your next song, release it, and impact more fans, wouldn’t it make more sense to finish the single?
What I’ve just described is called prioritizing. It may seem obvious, but we don’t all do it or even do it well.
If you’re treating every task on your to-do list as equal, you’re not achieving peak productivity.If you’re treating every task on your to-do list as equal, you’re not achieving peak productivity. Click To Tweet
Tactics for Achieving Peak Focus
My business coach, James Schramko, often instructs people to do less. But what does that mean, and how practical is his advice?
Doing less doesn’t necessarily mean spending less time at work (although it could). It means spending time doing the few things that are going to produce disproportionately better results.
Many entrepreneurs say they wake up, choose the three things that are going to make the biggest difference in their business, and ignore all else. No wonder they’re so effective.
I’ve also heard podcaster John Lee Dumas say “go an inch wide and a mile deep instead of going a mile wide and an inch deep” (summarized).
That basically means you can be good at a lot of things, or you can be incredible at one or two things!
I’ve always been a big fan of this Bruce Lee quote:
I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practice one kick 10,000 times.
Oh, and if you think it’s weird that I’m pulling examples from the business world, take a close look around. You’re on Music Entrepreneur HQ, friend!
One more example and then I’ll get into a few tactics to help you achieve peak focus.
Remember magnifying glasses? Nothing special about them, right? Just a piece of glass that allows you to zoom in on the object you’re looking at.
Yet, it can harness the energy of the sun to light objects on fire!
That, my friend, is the power of focus!
Clarify Your Brand
This might seem like an odd thing to say, but if you know your purpose for existing, the difference you want to make in the world, the impact you want to have on your fans, everything else tends to fall into place.
This “why” is your brand. And when you wake up every day having identified exactly what you’re about, it shines a spotlight on every next action you must take.
This basically echoes what author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek shared in his book, Start With Why.
No one understands branding for musicians better than my friend Greg Wilnau at Musician Monster. Get his free cheat sheet to see exactly what I mean.
Ask Yourself This Critical Question
If I died tomorrow, what would I regret not having done?
I’ve gone through a course called The Gold Within, and I was required to ask several questions just like this one.
This helped me achieve 100% clarity on the things I needed to do next if I wanted to live a fulfilled life.
Stop and ask yourself this question and write down your answer NOW.
Identify The “Big Domino”
In between projects, author Tim Ferriss thinks long and hard about what to work on next.
He considers what the “big domino” might be. He knows that if he knocks down the big domino (the most important, epic project), all the small dominos (tasks and projects of lesser significance) will go down with it.
Figure out what your big domino is and stop worrying so much about the small dominos. You can easily knock those down if you choose well.
Best Focus Quote
There are a lot of great quotes out there, but I love this one via author Paulo Coelho:
Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your eyes open, concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want. No one can hit their target with their eyes closed.
You’re probably thinking of Dutch progressive rock band formed by keyboardist, vocalist, and flautist Thijs van Leer.
Their music is out there but it’s super cool!
The reason I even found them is because one of my favorite bands is called Harem Scarem, and Focus happens to have a song called “Harem Scarem.”
You can have a listen for yourself here, and see just how insanely talented and weird Focus is:
Best Books About Focus
There are a lot of great books about focus, so I couldn’t recommend just one.
Here are the main ones I think are worth a read:
The Slight Edge
Jeff Olson’s The Slight Edge is a book about consistency as much as anything else.
But what we often underestimate is just how powerful consistency is. Lately, I’ve been walking for 30 minutes, and doing 20 pushups, 60 squats, and 100 sit ups every day. Doesn’t sound too overwhelming right?
But I’ve been stunned at the results. So, fitness and health aren’t just about coming home from the gym two or three times per week unable to lift your arms. Consistency is what matters.
So, if you want to see just how powerful this concept is and see the compound effect at work in your life, pick up a copy of The Slight Edge.
Darren Hardy’s The Compound Effect is also a great companion read.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Practically everything in this book is about focus!
But the main thing you want to take away from Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is Covey’s four quadrants.
That will teach you most of what you need to know about prioritization.
Getting Things Done
Know it or not, many aspects of focus are counterintuitive. It’s not just about getting things done. It’s about knowing how to sort your various projects and tasks in a way that allows you to do what you need to do now, and strategically procrastinate what you can procrastinate until later.
David Allen’s Getting Things Done is a thorough paper-based (not digital) methodology for focus, productivity, and effectiveness.
Some of what I learned in the book is still a part of my process today.
The ONE Thing
What happens when we get unfocused and try to do too many things? We end up letting things fall through the cracks. We break promises. And we end up disappointing ourselves and others, which erodes our self-image.
Gary Keller’s The ONE Thing reminds us that, to get extraordinary results in our lives, we must find our focus and shut out all distractions.
Everything you’ve dreamed about is possible.
You can create music that’s appreciated and admired by your fans. You can impact and make a difference in their lives. And you can create the life you want through music.
But you can’t do it without focus.
Shiny objects will come along and distract you from your goal. I’m speaking from personal experience here.
But you can learn this lesson the easy way or the hard way. The easy way is to internalize everything I’ve shared in this post. The hard way is to keep doing what you’re doing, and discover through experience that if you aren’t focused on specific results, you won’t be exceptional in any area of your career or life.
I wish you all the best in your efforts to harness the power of focus.