Some Thoughts on Work Prioritization

So, I’ve got four bands that I need to prep for.  How do I do it?  First I need to look at the volume of work in relationship to when I need to be prepared by and then I can set my prep schedule accordingly.  Fortunately one of the bands is pretty much set.  For that one I can show up when we have a rehearsal scheduled and I’ve already got much of what we’re doing under hand.  It’s really almost a show up and gig band as it stands, with nothing actually on the books right now.  Another one is a start up that just lost the drummer, so it’s in a holding pattern.  No problem.  The other two, on the other side of the coin, are where I need to focus right now.

The one, which I gigged with last weekend, just handed me five cds with a total of 75 tunes on them.  About twenty of those really need my attention because I’m not familiar with them, can’t hear them in my head if I push play on my internal stereo system, and really need to get the under hand.  I have a rehearsal with them tonight.  Tomorrow night I have a rehearsal combined with a keyboardist coming in for an audition.  I’ve got about four tunes to get in hand for that and a gig with them Friday night.  So between the two of these is where I need to focus my woodshed time.  We’ll see how I divide the time from there.

Often I find myself in these situations prioritizing based on which fire needs to be put out by when and allocating time accordingly.  I’ll put some time in for rehearsal tonight, but what is going to get real priority is going to be the band I have the gig with Friday. I need to brush up on the material we’re performing then as well as nail down the tunes for the audition so I can focus on appraising the keyboard player.  The other band I’ve got a few weeks before the next gig so I can pace myself a bit easier there.  I’ve also got other irons in the fire, which need their own prioritization, not the least of which is finding a more reliable source of income to support my family with, as well as keeping up with my writing responsibilities.  So the pressure is on from multiple perspectives.

My situation here is far from unique; in fact it’s a pretty common one with players who are trying to make a living doing what they do best, performing.  Juggling multiple bands, their repertoire, rehearsals and performance dates can become quite the complicated process in itself.  It requires constant attention, keeping an accurate date book, constant sharing and updating your booked dates with your colleagues, and making the best use of the time you have available to meet your obligations and show up prepared for the rehearsals and gigs that are scheduled.  This is also while keeping in mind that you have other important obligations as well, such as your family, doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning and all of the other things that go into having a complete life.  Sometimes it can become overwhelming and requires a step back to reassess and breathe.

You also have to ensure that you work in time that is entirely for you in some shape or form.  You might need some time where you actually don’t even do anything, some time to download and process or simply sit and breathe, meditate, check out for the moment.  This is reasonable and quite often required in order to be able to maintain a positive attitude and be able to actually make progress with the seemingly impossible pile of work in front of you.  That being said, there are also times when you have to be able to accept that perhaps you have bitten off more than you can handle, which requires tough decisions to be made in order for you to create a more manageable balance.  Everyone should be able to handle periods of “oh my God, I’m so busy I’m pulling my hair out,” without coming unglued.  It’s when there is no ebb and flow that we need to make changes.

Currently I still have hair left and I can make the balance work, as long as I stay on top of it, and don’t zone out, get distracted or start ruminating on the ills of the world too much.  I know that on good days I can really get quite a bit done, so I need to take advantage of them.  The bad days I still usually get something done despite the emotional drag.  It really does boil down to planning and prioritization, preferably before it gets to the putting out the largest fire point.



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