Brian John is a Student Advisor at berkleemusic.com. He has a Bachelors in Piano Performance from Miami University of Ohio, and a Masters in Composition from Longy School of Music. Brian’s background is primarily in Classical music, but a 4 year stint in a home-grown jam band gives him a unique perspective on both genres. He continues to compose and perform for people across the US.
A common phrase I hear is ‘organized people are simply too lazy to look for things’. While this is amusing, and perhaps true, the flip-side to this statement is ‘disorganized people often can’t find things they are looking for’.
As a musician, I feel like I have about the same odds of winning the lottery as getting organized. For years it has been this unattainable goal, this ideal sitting high above me on a lofty pedestal.
The problem about getting organized is that, if you don’t start out organized, it can seem like an insurmountable task. I’ve been trying to dig myself out of a hole ever since moving to Boston 5 years ago, and while I’ve gotten started a few times, I’ve ultimately fizzled out. Being organized is not simply something that keeps you from finding an important document come tax time (although we’ve all been THERE). It has gotten to the point in my musical career where being disorganized is literally keeping me from moving forward, making connections, and potentially making money.
I’ve realized that there is no silver bullet to getting organized – it will take time and hard work. However, I’ve been working on a few steps that can be applied to anyone who is in my position. So far, it seems to be working out, and while I’m only on step 2 it is certainly better than doing nothing!
Step 1: Identify the areas of your life and career that need to become organized. For many, it could be finances – self-employed musicians need to track everything in order to not pay through the nose come tax time. For me, it is compositions – being a composer, it is important for me to have a comprehensive list of works with all of the relevant information in once place.
Step 2: Choose one of the areas identified in Step 1, and create a system that you can use to organize this area from today forward. For me, it ended up being a google document – it’s something I can update easily, quickly, and it’s always accessible. It also means I don’t need to worry about having multiple files and versions sitting around. By creating this system, you provide a way to start getting organized simply by inputting everything that is new. Don’t worry about the old stuff yet – establish good habits by updating this system regularly and not falling further into the ‘disorganization hole’.
Step 3: Start working through the back-log. This is the scary part, the part I’ve been avoiding. It’s also the most difficult part to tackle first, which is why my previous attempts at organization have failed. Most people who try to get organized think they have to have everything caught up before they can move forward with ‘being organized’. By pushing this bit to step 3, it allows you to form good organizational habits while actually making less work for yourself by the time you get around to this step.
At the beginning of this post, I mentioned that being disorganized is potentially costing me money. In terms of being a composer, I want people to buy and play my music. However, because I have never been organized I am missing critical pieces of information for every piece I’ve written. This missing information prevents me from registering music with performing rights organizations, from getting them copyrighted, and finally from getting them up on a website in order to make them available for other musicians to find/purchase/perform.
How is being disorganized costing you money? Remember, time is money – stress is money – missed opportunities are most definitely money. If you have other techniques or strategies to get organized, I’d appreciate you sharing below – I need all the help I can get!
New Project Management for Musicians online course is enrolling now
Berkleemusic’s next term begins on June 25th, 2012.
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