Summer is officially here! For many of us, it means a change in routine and the opportunity to do things that we do not have time to do during the rest of the year.
If you are like many musicians I know, you may have an active teaching schedule that is geared to the academic year. Perhaps you go on tour for several months or you actively freelance in New York during the performance season. Or maybe all of the above!
In the summer, things change. The academic year is over so your teaching obligations (whether you teach institutionally or have a private studio) are different. The performance season calms down. On the other hand, perhaps you attend summer festivals or go on a summer tour. And maybe you have some stretches of down time.
How do you make the most of your summer so that it is both productive and restorative? How do you plan on achieving balance this Summer?
It starts with setting inspiring goals and then learning how to prioritize so that you can focus on the most important things in your life in the marvelous three- month period from June to August.
Here are 5 steps to setting yourself up for a successful summer!
1. Set your big-picture goals
Successful goal setting begins with knowing what you want to achieve in the long-term. It is your big-picture vision of what you want your life to look like. So before deciding what you want to achieve this summer, take a moment to reflect on what you want to accomplish in your lifetime.
Start by deciding what are the most important areas of your life. Consider the following:
- Health & Wellness
- Personal Development
Select the top areas for you. If it helps, draw a circle and divide it up into 8 sections of a pie. Label each section so that it looks something like this:
Consider how important each area is to you and then rate each area on a scale of 1-10, with 1 meaning “not important” and 10 meaning “vitally important”.
Now, write down what you want to accomplish in this area within a specified time period. Think long-term: 5 years, 10 years, 20 years.Be sure to make your goals inspiring! This is your chance to dream big. It helps to tie your goals to your values, the principles that guide your life and tell you what is most essential. Indeed, the more your goals are in alignment with your values, the better you will feel about the way you use your time because these choices reflect what you consider to be the vital part of your life. And that means you will be more motivated to pursue those goals.
For example, what do you want to accomplish in the next five years?
- Start a summer festival for adult string players?
- Create your own chamber ensemble that commissions and performs new work from your composer friends?
- Buy a house?
- Get married?
- Have a close circle of friends and collaborators?
- Be financially secure?
- Maintain a regular exercise and meditation program?
- All of the above?
Be sure to consider how these goals reflect your personal values!
Now you are getting a picture of what you want your life to look like.
2. Zero in on what you want to accomplish this summer
Let’s now focus on this summer.
The next step is to break down what you want to accomplish over the next 3 months. You want to keep a balance so that you are tending to the most important areas of your life. Remember that success is holistic. If you neglect important areas, it will breed resentment and ultimately hold you back.
Take a look at your big goals. If you like visual representations, go back to your pie chart and rate yourself on how satisfied you are with your progress towards achieving those goals. If you see a gap of 3 or more points between how important something is and how satisfied you are, that’s your opportunity to do something about it.
To help you zero in on your priorities, answer these 4 questions:
- What is the most important thing in my life for this summer?
- Where would I want to spend more time? Less time?
- What areas need my attention now (e.g., career, health, relationship)?
- What do I keep putting off doing that I long to do?
Now, write down all the activities that come to mind and tie them back to the gaps on your pie chart.
How many of you zeroed in your career?
What can you do this summer to further your career?
Perhaps there is a new ensemble with whom you have the opportunity to perform. Or you now have time to make that recording your work.
Maybe it involves revamping your website to add in your newest work.
Maybe you want to expand your professional network and feel stuck because you don’t have the time or the inclination to go out and meet new people.
How about relationships?
With your busy life during the performance and academic season, summer could be the time to rekindle those friendship!
Health and wellness?
If that’s a 10 for you but you can’t find enough time to work out during the performance season, take advantage of the summer! Not only is weather is more conducive to being outside but you also have more free time to devote to your health. Plus, if you create the exercise habit during the summer, you are more likely to prioritize it when things heat up in the fall.
If that area is important, what does that mean to you?
Learn to cook?
Go to the theater or to other types of performances outside of your genre?
Travel to new places?
Summer is your time!
3. Create 3 specific and realistic summer goals
In writing down your activities, perhaps you have a long list of appealing activities. This is very common. Yet, if you spread yourself out too thinly, you will find yourself overwhelmed and unable to focus. That only leads to frustration.
Instead, select 3 new areas on which to focus. Be very honest! Go back to your pie chart and zero in on what is really important.
Now, write down a goal for each of your 3 areas. Be specific about what you want to achieve. And be sure to use the time period of June1-August 31. Goals without a time period are merely a wish list!
Here are some examples of specific time-related 3-month summer goals:
Career: In the next 3 months, I will record 10 tracks for my new CD.
Relationships: In the next 3 months, I will go out to dinner one evening a week with friends and spend two weekends a month with my buddies.
Health & Wellness: In the next 3 months, I will work out for an hour 5 times a week.
Moreover, be realistic about how much you can really achieve in a three-month period! In your zeal to make the most of your summer, you may be overdoing it. For each of your goals, assess how realistic it is in the context of your life and then scale it back to fit the realities of your situation.
If you have never recorded any of your work, how realistic is it for you to record 10 tracks? What about spending a few weeks learning how to record and then recording 5 tracks?
If you have already booked a lot of professional engagements this summer and will be out of town a lot, how realistic is it for you to go away on two weekends a month? You may be better off shooting for 2 weekends away over the course of the summer.
If you have not exercised very much during the year, how realistic is it for you to start an ambitious exercise program now? How about starting off with 3 20-minute workouts and then increasing the frequency and the length of time of those workouts?
It’s up to you to make this goal realistic so that you will not be so overwhelmed that you call it quits.
4. Anticipate challenges
Setting goals is not that hard. The tricky part is sticking with them. That’s why it helps to foresee the challenges that may get in the way of achieving your summer goals. We have already done the reality check in formulating your goals. But what else might interfere?
Go back to your desire to see your friends more often. Maybe you balk at the thought of spending money to go out to dinner every week with your friends out of concern over your finances. In that case, what about taking turns hosting potluck dinners instead?
Or maybe you are worried that you really “should” be practicing instead of hanging out with friends. If relationships are important to you, honor your intuition and make the time!
What about the person who wants to expand her network but is uncomfortable meeting new people? That type of challenge may very well require a separate goal. We know that networking is very important to creating a successful music career. But some people have an aversion to it. So use the summer to figure out what are your specific challenges and then create an action plan so that you can improve your networking chops.
5. Just say no
There is one more essential ingredient of staying in balance over the summer.
Once you have created your list of 3 summer goals, say no to anything that is not on the list.
As hard as it may seem to turn down a seemingly appealing opportunity, remember that you have set goals that reflect your important goals and values. We often say yes to other people and take on commitments that we really do not enjoy for fear of disappointing others. Yet, that means spending time on activities that are not our priorities.
Before you take on anything new, consider the following:
- How does this activity advance my goals?
- How does this activity align with my values?
- How does this activity reflect my passions?
This should help to filter out activities that are not yours. And if the new opportunity is appealing AND is in line with your personal goals and values, great! Change your goal and eliminate something else.
Remember that when you say yes to other people, you may be saying NO to yourself.
Summer is your opportunity to honor the important areas of your life that may suffer the rest of the year. It is also a time to develop the new habit of staying in balance.
Staying in balance over the summer means that you are focusing on the most important areas in this period of time. Priorities change depending on the period of time and your life circumstances. Look at your list of priorities every few months and adjust according to what is the most important thing for you at that time. Be sure to keep track of what is working and what can be discarded.
In this way, you are creating a new habit of prioritizing the things that matter most AND building towards your future success!
Have a great summer!