3 ways to stop procrastinating as a classical musician

Season 1 - Episode 5


Michelle Lynne: Hi everybody and welcome back to The Fearless Artist podcast. My name is Michelle Lynne and I am your host for today. If you missed any of the previous episodes, we would love for you to go back and listen and then you’ll get to meet my best friend and co-founder Deanna Petre who started The Fearless Artist with me back in 2020, one month before lockdown. We had no idea what was coming, but we knew that we wanted to start an online initiative to help freelance musicians build the careers of their dreams. Why? Because we did not learn this in school. We were not taught, although we went to very prestigious universities… Dianna having studied at Juilliard and CNSM in Paris as a violist, and I was at the University of Montreal doing my Masters in piano performance… and nobody prepared us for what was waiting on the other side of these studies.

We had safe little bubbles where we just thought that if you practice really hard and work really really well at your instrument. Then one day you’re going to finish and there will just be a job waiting for you. And guess what? That didn’t happen. And if you’re listening to this podcast, then that is probably a similar story that you have.

If you have been following us for awhile, probably on Instagram, Then, you know that we work with musicians all over the world to help them take initiative, build the careers that they want, find support, accountability, training, information and learn skills that we didn’t learn in school about how to run a business. Because you are your own business as an artist.

And with a business comes marketing, branding, social media, networking. public relations, administration and that admin includes more than just taxes and invoices. Although, I have to say, sending an invoice, it’s always a good day when you send an invoice. Can I get an amen? All right. So, we’re going to get started with today’s episode.

Today I wanted to talk about how to overcome procrastination. We work with people all over and then we have the ability to see what are some of the patterns or the common threads of problems that people face. The first thing is just to know that you’re not alone… pretty much nothing new under the sun when I’m on a coaching call with one of my clients. And they can be… obviously the details are going to be different, every situation is a little bit different, can be more complicated… or there’s different factors. Probably there is a lot of fluidity or flexibility in their schedule, different things that are influencing it.

They might have a relationship. They might have kids. They might have multiple jobs that they’re juggling. But essentially it all boils down to… life as a freelancer can be chaotic. It is unpredictable. It is not scheduled the same way, every day can look different. You’re probably nodding along as you’re listening to this, whether you are on a walk or at the gym or in the shower or whatever it is… you’re like, yep, that sounds like me. I’m about to run out the door to a rehearsal, or I’m literally listening to this as I drive to my next rehearsal, you’re probably feeling guilty for not practicing if you’re not practicing. So just to reassure you a little bit… whatever it is that you are struggling with, whatever you think is holding you back, there are other musicians who are also feeling these things, thinking these things, no matter what they post on Instagram.

Let that just be like your little juicy bomb for today. Remember that… there’s always a behind the scenes of what you see someone posting. I try to be very authentic with my content. If you don’t know me, I’m a pianist. My Instagram is always been about trying to inspire and encourage other musicians. But recently my fan base turned mostly French… I think because I’ve had a great privilege of touring France the last year or so. I play for Candlelight Concerts and they have sent me all across France. So most of my following, or at least the recent ones, are French people who have come to a concert.

Therefore, they are not necessarily interested in content forentrepreneurial musicians. But all that to say is my content has primarily been always about encouraging other musicians, seeking to inspire them, talking about common issues that we all share. And with that, I have always tried to be quite open and vulnerable… and sharing my own struggles and my own thoughts and my process.

Because I was one of those people in compare and despair all the time, you know, I was scrolling and not to say that I don’t struggle with this currently sometimes as well. It hits me now and then depending on how tired I am, or how long of a day I’ve had or something like… my emotional state. But I have much better control over when I used to, which was, it was affecting me much more seriously where you just scroll through Instagram. You find someone who has a nice venue, a nice dress, they look perfect, they sound great. And you just think, wow, I could never do that. And that was me, that was really me. I was stuck. And now I have to laugh because I’m sure that many people are looking at my Instagram and feeling that same thing.

I want my message to be to everyone listening to this that you can build the career that you want to build. And the only person holding yourself back is you and whatever it is that you want, whatever dream that is in your heart, whatever matters to you, then that means that there is a way for you to build it. There’s a way for you to craft it. There’s a way for you to develop that. And whether it’s that you need some skills that you don’t yet have developed, whether it’s that you need training, whether it’s that you need a supportive community, accountability, a coach, I’ve invested in all of those things for myself because I could not do it alone.

I was paralyzed by fear for years. I was stuck in comparison as I’m sharing now. I was constantly worried about not being good enough. I was so scared to put myself out there. What are people going to think of me? What are people going to think? Oh, who does she think she is that she has a website? These are like crazy thoughts that you can have. Because you’re just so worried about your colleagues, you’re worried about… essentially the wrong people. Instead of focusing on the people who do love you, want to hear you play, are asking when are you coming back? And this is the privilege that you can have for yourself.

This is what I personally experienced now withmy fan base developing over the last 18 months or so that people are literally reaching out and asking, when are you coming back? Beause we want to come hear you. And I thought, wow, this is such an honor… and these are the people that I want to focus on.

And that is available for you too, because you are a musician. You have an audience, there are people who want to hear you play, there are people that your music touches them profoundly. And that is who I want you to focus on. So that’s a little bit about how I want my content to be. But also this podcast, I shared this in the last episode, I just intend to be a little bit more vulnerable on here because I want anyone listening to know that nobody has it figured out from day one. We are all in process. We all have mess. We all have safe people that we can share the real nitty gritty with. Deanna is that for me. And you have to also be aware that you need to protect yourself online because it’s a public platform. So you’re not going to share everything. That’s why when we have things like coaching calls or our membership calls, that’s where we can really be deep and share things that we’re going through, share things that we’ve learned.

And just open up a little bit because we’re in that safe space, that trusted space. So I hope that you have that in your life. I hope that you have people in your life that you can talk to you about these things. And that’s really my heart for this podcast, but also this episode, to just be real.

Let’s just be real. Being a freelancer is not a joke. It is hard work. It’s going to take grit, determination. It’s going to take you believing in yourself over and over. It’s going to take you choosing to say yes to the right voices and no to the wrong voices. The people who laugh at your dreams or the people who say… how do you pay your bills or how are you going to make it or, that sounds crazy or your schedule is so chaotic or, you’re always running around or, that project doesn’t pay enough or whatever it is… those negative little voices that get in your head. You have to just really learn how to filter out all that stuff and keep going back to what is in your heart… and what are you trusting and what are you going after… and what is your message for the world and your world can be your small town community.

I come from a very small town, Northern Alberta, Canada. And,I’m not saying that you need to be famous. You don’t need to reach millions, but there is a group of people out there that you are called to serve. And that you are called to reach as a musician. Why? Because you have art and art is meant to shape people, and give and touch them, and inspire them, and bless them and make them feel something.

I heard the acting world talking about this recently. Your job is to make people feel and that is something that we have as musicians. So I just really… maybe that’s just how I wanted to start this episode is… who are the people that you are trying to reach? And who are you trying to serve and let’s focus on them today. 

Okay back to today’s actual content, which is how to overcome procrastination. 

So, at The Fearless Artist Mastermind, we have a membership, which is monthly calls… we get on there and we share what’s going on. We do goal updates, people chat, check in, ask questions, learn from each other. It’s awesome. It’s laid back. It’s fun. It’s a really great supportive community.

People usually leave feeling really inspired and refreshed. And then we also do Mastermind is more intense. It’s really, access to Dan and I as coaches. It’s accountability. It’s really pushing you to reach whatever goal it is that you have immediately in front of you. Our participants do everything from grant applications, to websites, to creating content strategies, to pitching… a lot of pitching comes through our mastermind because people are looking for things. They’re looking for concerts opportunities, they’re looking for funding, they’re looking for projects, building their network, building their followings, those kind of things. So how do you reach out to people? How do you create collaborations?

All of that stuff are things that we discuss. 

So one thing that comes up whenever you’re going to try something new is our not best friend, I’m going to say best enemy – procrastination. Okay. Obviously there’s multiple takes on this… some people say procrastination is actually a superpower because some of us, like me, there’s like that tipping point where you’re gonna, you’re gonna wait to start something until you wake up and sheer panic. And then you realize… I need to start this right now. Maybe you’re like that and then you thrive under the pressure, and you go 200% and you end up being able to pull it off just because of the sheer adrenaline that carries you through. I don’t know. Anyway, maybe procrastination can also be used for your benefit… let’s just say for today’s purposes that it’s something that we would like to not have playing us for our lives.

Okay, let’s go from there. So as busy performing musicians, we know that we are constantly juggling a bunch of different things. I already mentioned all of the different schedules that you may have, depending on what the factors are in your life, the ingredients as you say, whether you are performing, gigging, teaching, rehearsing, kids, relationships, traveling, booking the traveling, all of that stuff.

That’s, there’s a lot of headaches in there, right? So we work with hundreds of musicians to help them get unstuck as they pursue these different things, pursue projects. So how can you avoid procrastinating something that is getting way too big in your head? The first thing you’re going to want to do, and you’ve probably heard this before, but hear me out.

We see this happen over and over in our calls… just because you know something doesn’t mean you’re actually going to do it. That’s what I can tell you. So you’re going to break your goal down into small manageable steps. Now you’ve probably heard of a SMART goal and you’ve probably tried to set SMART goals, but I promise you that you can always go more specific.

So a SMART goal means – Specific, Manageable, Achievable, Relatable, Time based. So when musicians say, I want to play more and teach less. That is not a smart goal. Because what does more mean? If you get one more concert this month, that is more. Is that your goal? And if that is, then great. No problem.

I’m just asking, what specifically do you want? Because then we can make a very clear strategy, right? So if you want to get more concerts, then let’s say you want 3 a month, how many people do you need to reach out to in order to get 3 more performing opportunities per month?

Maybe it’s 4 times that number. Maybe it’s 5 times that number. Okay. Now we need to know that means you need to be crafting 15 pitches per month in order to have that booking of 3 a month. So now do you see how by breaking something down into what specifically do you want, you can start to make a plan like, Oh, my, my focus isn’t actually on getting playing more playing. My focus is finding 15 organizations a month that I can then craft a pitch to. So then you see the goal is not even the pitch. The goal is finding the 15. And that is a very clear, specific goal that you can make. And then that’s just something that you’re going to be able to block out in your calendar and say, all right, let’s go find, let’s get to Google or let’s go creep my colleagues on Instagram and see where they’ve all been playing.

And let’s get a list and Excel sheet going, write down all the venues, find some contact details and start doing my research. That is a very different strategy than saying, I want to play more. And this is what we work with people all the time to help them break down how exactly to get what they want.

Here’s another way to stop procrastinating and it is a game changer. This literally changed my life. I use it probably daily and it’s called the 2 minute rule.

So the rule is you only have to do the thing for two minutes. And it is not a joke. There’s no catch. You are literally allowed to stop after two minutes. Whatever it is that you’re avoiding, let’s say that you need to reach out to a theater director because you want to pitch them a proposal or whatever.

Okay. You grab your phone, you set the timer for 2 minutes, and then you just go as fast as you can. 2 minutes, open your computer, open the email thing, brain dump, whatever it is that you want to say, because honestly, probably you already know what you want to say. You just don’t know exactly how to word it, which is where you’re getting stuck.

Okay. So you just dump out whatever you can think about, and then your timer is going to go off. You’re going to look at it and 85% of the time you’re going to say, actually, I’m in it now. I’m going to be able to keep going. Okay. Once I did this with a Rachmaninoff prelude that I was avoiding practicing and I literally practiced for 45 minutes and it was awesome.

And I had been avoiding it for so long because I don’t know… whatever dumb excuse I had in my head. So set a timer for two minutes. And then I’m like, wait a second. I love these octaves. I actually really love practicing when I know the notes. That was a personal revelation for me. It’s not that I hate practicing, it’s that I hate note learning.

Can I get any other pianists out there chiming in? Yes, I know, right? Too many notes. 

But once you know them, it’s fun. Anyway, 2 minute rule, it’ll change your life. I want you to try it today and then DM me on Instagram. Then it also changed your life. We have people telling us this all the time, Oh, I actually did my dishes or… whatever it is that you’re avoiding.

I actually got my rehearsal planning in order because I finally sat down and looked at my schedule because you were allowed to walk away. And then sometimes when people will say, you know what, I did two minutes and I just couldn’t handle anymore. But what it does is it creates an open loop in your mind.

And so you’re going to sleep. And then the next day, you’re just going to be a little bit more inclined to pick up that task again, because at least you got your foot in the door. Promise you it’s a game changer. It’s going to help you. 

Last thing I’m going to share today is, how to schedule the task in your calendar.

This is something that I picked up from a podcast one day, as I mentioned on an earlier episode, like I listen a lot, especially when I’m at the gym. And so you’re going to want to take whatever task it is. Let’s go back to our example of finding 15 venues to pitch to. 

You’re going to go to wherever you have your next free block of time where you like to be at your computer. For me, that’s usually afternoons, later afternoons. And I work with Deanna cause she’s in the States now. So she’s on a morning time schedule. And you’re just going to put in one hour in your iCal. And there you write… research 5 potential venues. We’re not going to do 15 because that sounds like a big number and you might look at that and get scared, right? So you’re just like, no, I’m just going to look for 5. And then for that hour, it is now an appointment with yourself. You are literally merging your to do list with your time.

And this is how you can make sure that nothing else is going to get in the way. This is a version of time blocking we’re going to talk about in a future episode because time blocking has changed my life. And this is how you can start to make sure that the things that are on your list are actually going to get done.

Now there are different methods to this. Some people don’t like writing the to do list in their actual calendar, but the point is that you’ve got that time blocked… and you know that task is going to get done. And if we go back to breaking things down into small manageable steps. Once you get five venues, then you can start getting to work on your pitches.

So now you’re in a momentum energy flow. And how awesome is that? Because now you’re actually working towards your goals. They have that saying Rome wasn’t built in a day or like a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.

I am the first person to roll my eyes at that kind of nonsense. I’m like, give me a break, people. I want Rome and I want Rome now. Okay, I don’t have time for brick by brick. That was a lesson I had to learn as a recovering perfectionist. Unfortunately, we got to work in bricks. Okay, when you’re trying to think, I need to play more, I need to play more, oh my gosh, everyone else around me is playing so much, how does she get so many concerts? Oh, look at this person on Instagram, oh my gosh, I can’t believe that I’m so behind, and I’m never going to be anything. Before we spiral, okay, I really hope that’s not your thought process… but if it is, then let’s talk about bricks… and we’re going to break it down… and then we’re going to just do the first thing.

Then that’s going to lead to other things. Then you’re going to come into some kind of community, like fast forward or membership, and you’re going to share with people, this is what I’ve been working on, or you’re going to hear someone else talk about what they’ve been working on, which is also super inspiring because, it’s a healthy community and no one in there is trying to prove themselves.

And then you think, wow, this is so great. Look at all these other artists going after their goals. And this is literally you chasing your dreams and it is awesome to be around other like minded entrepreneurial people where you can celebrate them. You can get excited when they get opportunities where you understand that their success doesn’t take away from your own, right?

This is another huge lesson that you have to learn as a musician that people can get concerts… that you never even would have had a shot at getting. Because you’re literally not even in their city or you didn’t know the person, right? So it’s, is there even any point of being jealous of them?

Because was it even an option for you? No, they have their field to harvest and you have your field to harvest. So let’s focus on the field in front of you. Focus on what’s in your hand. Just use what is in your hand. That’s a lyric, from a song that I wrote during COVID because I was so overwhelmed at everything that had been lost.

And I was completely devastated and there was so much loss around me and brokenness. And people were talking like, are we ever going to be at live concerts ever again? There, there were literally people believing that we would never be in a live concert hall ever again. And it was just like, where do you go in your mind at that point when you think I’m a musician, what is my future?

So it was just use what is in your hand. What do you have in front of you? Back then, what I had in front of me was a grand piano and an internet connection. So I started doing live streaming and I started doing online one on one concerts. And I offered that to my Instagram audience and I did 30 of them where people came and they paid to have 30 minutes with me.

I gave them a rep list that they chose from a menu andeasy listening stuff, Chopin nocturnes, Eric Satie, Moonlight Sonata, different things that an average music lover would just love to listen to. And that’s what I did. you just got to use what’s in front of you. And that will lead to other things.

That led for me to performing a quick, obviously live came back, but just the keeping up the performance practice that when concerts did come back. I was ready to go back on stage and I didn’t have to rebuild myself. 

 Those are three ways that you can overcome procrastination. If you want the other three ways, then you need to head to our Instagram – @thefearlessartistmastmind and in our link in bio right there, you can download six ways to overcome procrastination and you’ll get the other three.

And then from there, you’ll be able to see all of our content, come get to know us, come on over and join us in our membership or our mastermind. We would love to get to know you and meet you and work with you.I just want to say thank you so much for listening to this episode. Just as we wrap up. Andagain, the purpose is for you to feel empowered and always, we want to always have a takeaway at the end of the podcast.

So the takeaway for today is you’re going to try the two minute rule and you’re going to send us a DM at The Fearless Artist Mastermind and tell us what you did for two minutes. And if it carried you through, if it gave you some momentum and energy.If you enjoyed this episode, I would like to ask you to screenshot it, share it to your stories and we’re going to repost it, leave us a review.

It helps us to be found by other freelance musicians who need this message of what it means to be fearless,and subscribe, obviously. And you can also find my Instagram – thisismichellelynne. It has been an honor to have your ears for a few minutes, and I just really hope that everything that you have here is valuable and that you’re going to feel empowered and inspired as you pursue the career that you want.

Remember you have what it takes to build the career of your dreams. We will see you at the next episode of The Fearless Artist Podcast. Thank you to our producer, Pokie at PH Media Studio and be fearless. See you next time.