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Feeling Overwhelmed? How To Take Charge Of Your To Do List

by Chas Castell (

Who’s heard the advice “you need to be a CEO, as well as an artist, to have a successful music career”? If you haven’t yet, you will. It’s good advice, a reminder that to succeed in music, it’s not enough just to have talent, you need to have what CEOs have - a vision for success, and the ability to set up and run an effective business. But the reality is, even this is not enough.
On a day to day basis, what’s most important is acting not just as a CEO of your own brand or company, but as a COO – a Chief Operating Officer. Traditionally this is the person responsible for what’s called ‘operations management’ – specifically, setting goals and ensuring the company meets them successfully. While many artists succeed at the macro level of laying out visions for their career, many struggle at the micro level; with generating specific and focused goals and developing strategies to achieve them. They’ve got the CEO role down, but the COO role needs work.
After ten years building and selling products in the digital world - which is the world we all now inhabit as musicians - I’ve seen how critical the allocation of resources and organization of tasks are to the ability of companies to launch successful products. As independent musicians launching ourselves, our resource is our time, and our tasks seem endless - we are our own engineers, producers, marketing directors, sales people, researchers, booking agents, webmasters, managers, accounting assistants and para-legals. This may feel overwhelming, and difficult to balance. But by putting our COO hat on, we can manage ourselves so we work more effectively, focusing in on the tasks that will best build toward our own long term success. 
So how do we start?  Well, let me start with a disclaimer: putting the COO hat takes some effort: organizing your plans and tasks is time consuming. But you will make back that time many times over, as you move from an adhoc approach to your giant list of tasks, to a focused and clear one.
Like any well-run company, you need a “road map” – that is, a business plan for the long term, mid term, and short term. Writing one requires putting pen to paper (or, rather, fingers to keyboard). Programs like Powerpoint and Excel remain powerful tools to organize information, so don’t be afraid to use them. Once you’ve picked your program, step one is to write down your goals, and break them down into what you hope to achieve in 10 years, in 5 years, in 2 years, in 1 year. Then start by focusing in on your 1 year goals, and laying out the strategies to achieve these goals.
Suppose one goal is to sell 100,000 downloads by this time next year. What are the strategies that you have to employ to achieve this goal, and what specific goals can be set for each of these strategies? Each strategy - digital, social media, marketing, PR, promotions, live, syncs, etc – should be entered as its own category on your plan. And each of these strategies can then have its own sub-categories. For example, social media would be its own strategy, and twitter would be a sub-category. So in this example, the overall yearly goal would be to sell 100,000 downloads, and the twitter sub-category goal, within the social media bucket, might be to reach 200k followers. You can arrive at the estimation of twitter followers not by putting your finger in the air, but by making calculations based on researching how social media likes/follows convert into sales.
By repeating this process for all of your year 1 goals, you can lay out all the strategies you have to employ to advance your career. From there, you should determine quarterly goals (sometimes this is as simple as dividing by four), and then break these down into weekly tasks, from which you can make your daily action items. Suddenly, instead of huge, overwhelming goals, you have simple, achievable tasks, and you know when you have to do them. The structure is there in front of you: the unmanageable has become manageable.
Finally, sit back and take a well-deserved breath. Now that you are thinking like a COO, you need not be overwhelmed anymore: your company has just taken a giant step towards its success.
by Chas Castell
Copyright Chas Castell 2015

Chas Castell is 7 foot tall, English singer songwriter, executive producer, and entrepreneur, who has worked in the digital world for over ten years. His current EP, “Take A Breath”, was recorded with all the DIY tricks in the book….all the way down to using his daughter’s hair clips to stabilize his Neumann mic in its shock mount.

Feeling Overwhelmed? How To Take Charge Of Your To Do List

Reader Comments (1)

"Suppose one goal is to sell 100,000 downloads by this time next year. What are the strategies that you have to employ to achieve this goal, and what specific goals can be set for each of these strategies?"

This leaves the mystery unanswered: How does one make something like this, which is really beyond one's control, a goal at all? How to attain a goal which involves the actions of other?

August 2 | Unregistered CommenterSasha

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