Feeling like you’re stuck in a never-ending cycle of deadlines, putting out fires, and zero progress? It’s the absolute worst. How are you supposed to get ahead and thrive if you’re constantly struggling just to get your head above water?
I’ve been there too. In fact, I’ve been there a lot, and I still feel that way all the time. There are only two things that get me out of that funk: the first is taking a break — stepping back and deciding to have a little fun and stop worrying so much (because nothing kills creativity like worry), and the second is getting decidedly clear on my goals, and — this is the key — mapping out how exactly I’m going to get there.
So how do you do that?
In this article, I’m going to share a really easy way to get yourself set up with a goal-oriented action plan. Because everything becomes so much easier when it’s broken down into steps.
The first thing you need to do is figure out your goals. Try not to have too many for this exercise — we’ll be breaking them down one by one anyway, but you want to make sure the goals you’re setting are both realistic and attainable. So if you’re a new band just gaining a following, something like “sign to a major label” might be unrealistic, but things like “put on a show people rave about” or “play X medium-sized venue” might make sense.
Pick a time frame (no more than a year, preferably more like six months) and set your one goal. For this example, let’s say you have a bunch of recorded music that you’re just sitting on, waiting to release, and your goal is to release that music as an EP in six months.
Six months from now is November. At this stage, your goal-setting paper probably looks something like this:
- November: Release EP
Begin to work backwards and set mini goals that will bring you closer to your main goal. These goals should always exist as a stepping stone for the bigger picture, so it’s important to stay focused.
In this example, the first thing you’d do is brainstorm all the things that need to get done in those six months prior to the EP release. Try not to overwhelm yourself with a million little tasks, and instead just think of one overarching theme for each month.
Maybe you realize you need press photos, a new bio, to book a release show (or an entire tour), and to pump up your audience and future fans about the release (that last one is really important!). Your new monthly goals might look something like:
- June: Relationship building / nurturing fans
- July: Social media cleanup
- August: Book release show
- September: Solidify EPK / begin press outreach efforts
- October: Continue press outreach efforts / last-minute efforts
- November: Release EP
Start with the one that’s going to take the most time. In this case, it’s probably going to be relationship building within the industry and nurturing fans, so we put that one in June, so you have plenty of time to work on it. The next thing would be getting your social media in order. This means creating engaging and non-salesy posts that hook fans in and give them something to look forward to. (Here’s an article on figuring out your brand, and here’s one on conveying that through social media, to get you going.)
After that, you’ll want to start focusing on booking your show, because venues tend to fill up fast. Then you can begin to focus on your EPK (electronic press kit), as well as bio and photos. By the time September kicks around, you’ll want to make sure you’re beginning your publicity outreach efforts (or if you’re hiring a publicist, you should have hired them by now, so they can start eight weeks ahead of release date).
And voila! Your next six months are beginning to take shape.
From there, you can break it down into even smaller goals, month to month. I prefer to do a week-by-week breakdown, sometimes even day by day, but others might prefer to just have three to four goals for the month that they tackle at their own pace. You know yourself best, so just do whatever makes the most sense for your system.
So for June, relationship building might look like:
- Join five Facebook groups and engage with them three times per week.
- Find and interact with five new artists per week (total 20 artists for the month).
- Seek out new fans and engage with them on social media five times per week (total 20 new fans).
July might look like:
- Do a brand-building exercise to get clarity on your brand.
- Create a social media schedule and stick to it.
- Brainstorm brand-driven content.
- Engage with fans.
- Check your analytics once a week to see what’s working (and what isn’t).
And so on and so forth.
Once you’ve broken down your method, you can begin implementing. It can feel overwhelming to sit down and map out everything that needs to be done, but trust me, once you have the formula in front of you, it’s so much easier to accomplish your goals.
Instead of running in circles trying to figure out what you need to do next or how you’re going to fit it all in, you’ll have a game plan in front of you that tells you exactly what to do and when. The best part is that it can be worked into your current schedule. The time each of these things take will vary, but in general, it shouldn’t take more than an hour or two a week. You’ve spent more time than that binging your favorite show — you’ve got this!