Shit Will Get Done, and It Will Be Fun—2017

Kat Downs - Pyragraph

Photo by Kat Downs.

As much as I hate to admit it, I do sit and reflect when the New Year comes.  

There was a lot of change for me this last year but one thing stayed the same. There has always been a huge ebb and flow when it comes to what I refer to as the “admin” part of my music career.  

I will go gung-ho at all the necessary behind-the-scenes bullshit and get scores of things done and then it’s like I burn myself out at which point I drop everything. Nothing gets done and crickets and sagebrush take over all social media streams. This goes on long enough that by the time I pick up the reigns again I feel so behind that I have massive anxiety attacks, immediately get overwhelmed, and feel like a total failure. It’s been going on for YEARS. And seriously, I’m fucking over it. But I also wasn’t sure how to change it. 

Breaking the cycle will take some getting used to. Worth it.

I gave myself half an hour to panic and feel bad about myself after which I stepped back and pretended I was a time management consultant sitting down with a new client. “Let’s take a real look at what’s going on here.” 

I started by drawing a week-long calendar on paper and applied a standard American nine-hour work day (eight hours plus lunch) five days a week. Then I started filling things in. 20 hours a week I work a non-music-money-only job. So I jotted those hours in on their corresponding days. Then I teach piano and flute lessons, so added those hours. I have to commute to teach so added my driving hours. Weekly rehearsals, weekly therapy…. When I was done I found that out of a 45-hour work week 33 of them are already claimed by standing obligations. Two days are claimed from sun up to sun down. That leaves me only 12 hours a week to fit in:  

  • Practicing 
  • Marketing 
  • Filling six social media streams
  • Content schedules for my Patreon page
  • Research on long-term projects
  • Career development
  • Show promotion 
  • Blogging 
  • Teaching prep

Oh—and, you know, writing music.  

And then toss in that I’m an artist with wild emotional swings and occasional depression.  

Oh. OH! It doesn’t just FEEL impossible. It IS impossible. Oh thank God. Here I thought I was just a lazy pile of shit.  

I also looked at my past attempts to wrangle all that crap and saw that when I take it on I DO try to do everything at once and I DO burn myself out and then I DO drop it all because I AM exhausted.  

Not making that up. Real. 

Taking five minutes to figure that out blew. my. mind.  

So now what?  I have to figure out how to do all of those things in 12 hours?  

And here’s the very true answer that I didn’t want to hear. No. One human artist with all the feelings and occasional depression and anxiety cannot—CONSISTENTLY—do all of those things in 12 hours. What you CAN do is figure out how to use your time without burning yourself out.  You will get done what you can get done and let the rest go. This is the only way to break the cycle.  

Here’s another hard truth. I am not able to change myself in order to accomplish all these things. That’s what I’ve been trying to do. I’ve been telling myself I have no limitations and I should never get tired and there is no reason I cannot accomplish all of the things. Which doesn’t work because it’s not true, and I’ve proven it over and over. However, if I custom design a plan taking who I am into consideration and creating a workflow around THAT—now that’s a plan for actual success.  

Holy crap. I might be getting smarter with age. 

I know me. Change that sticks, for me, has to be:

  1. Easy. Or at least logical.  
  2. Routine. Routines are great for me because I can run on autopilot when I have bad emotional days. I also love knowing what I need to do without looking at my calendar. 
  3. Fun. This is easier than it sounds because I find accomplishment fun. Like checking everything off my to-do list, for me, is like Disneyland.   
  4. Manageable. I’ve proven time and time again that when I get overwhelmed I just drop everything. And that’s what we’re trying to prevent here. 

So if I can create an easy, manageable, repetitive routine where I feel accomplished at the end of the day—I will see that as fun. And shit will get done.

NEW PROJECT TITLE: Shit Will Get Done, and it Will Be Fun—2017

Back to the paper calendar. I set limitations.  

  • I am not allowed to work more than nine hours a day.
  • Practicing and exercise are “me time” and outside of work hours—mainly because I could blow through 12 hours practicing with my eyes closed. That’s fun saved for the end of the work day.
  • The weekends are for art. Whatever the fuck I want even if that’s crocheting while watching crappy documentaries.

Then I look at all the projects I have and what hours I have available on what days and just start entering hours in. Three hours on Monday to focus on X. Two hours on Thursday to focus on Y and then one hour focusing on Z. It doesn’t matter which hour of the day, or if I even do the hour in one sitting. Just a full 60 minutes of doing that thing on that day. It doesn’t even matter if I start my nine-hour day at 8, 9, or 10. As long as I put in the full day. Even if that means a two-hour nap in the middle. 

What I noticed doing this exercise is that I didn’t get overwhelmed. I got excited. This plan has a “flexible structure.” If a song starts being born, this plan has room for that so it won’t fuck my entire week. It also doesn’t demand what actual task I must work on during a particular time, just the project I’m focusing on. This allows me to prioritize in the moment giving me a greater sense of accomplishment. (Disneyland.) 

Have I finally done it?  

I caught myself trying to sabotage almost immediately. My first thought was “Okay, so I’ll drop everything and just focus on getting all the social media stuff up to speed over the next three days and then take it from there….”

Oh no, you’re not. You will chip away at it starting right where you are right now. You can’t do everything at once, so don’t even try.  

Breaking the cycle will take some getting used to. Worth it.  

Kat Downs

About Kat Downs

Kat Downs is a musician, artist, teacher, composer and performer originally from Green Bay, WI. She began studying music at the age of 6, continuing on through high school and college earning a BA Degree in Music from St. Norbert College in DePere, WI. Now based out of San Francisco, CA, Kat’s current projects include the powerhouse Hard Piano Rock duo, Sit Kitty Sit, and the goth rock band, Saints of Ruin. She is the staff composer for Wily West Productions, the Music Consultant for Blue Scorpion Dance Theatre and has an exclusive studio of piano and flute students. Best known for her intense piano playing style and exceptional lyrical compositions, Kat tours nationally and has shared the stage with such names as LP, The Memorials, Chris Wyse, En Esch, Mona Mur, Erica Dilanjian, Shannon Curfman, Lennon, Javier Mosley and WASP.

1 Comment

  1. lick me on March 24, 2017 at 6:32 am

    faggot ass bitch

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