Monday, January 02, 2017

2016, the year I started saying "No, thank you"

Last year, my real New Year's Resolution came quite clear around February. It became evident that I
had agreed to take on too much, and my own health and sanity were the victims. During February, I was conducting a musical, composing a commission, getting ready for the Atlanta Flute Fair, finishing an Atlanta Flute Club newsletter, updating their websites, and performing several concerts when I wasn't conducting the orchestra. Let's not forget I still had a full load of private students, and my school sectional obligations. I wasn't sleeping well, and pretty anxiety ridden. It wasn't healthy, and I needed to make some changes.

I took hard look at a long list of my obligations for the concert season, and decided I needed to make some tough decisions in order to keep this from ever happening again - which was going to require me to disappoint some people. I'm always flattered that people want me to be a part of their projects, but I can't do everything. So I had to decide how I was going to untangle myself from which projects, and how I would determine which projects to turn down in the future.

It turns out I was doing a ton of stuff for other people to help their organization or careers, with not much to boost my own or even getting paid for it. I decided that if I wasn't getting paid then I needed to decide if a certain project was helping my composing career. If neither were true, then I had to decide if I was going to enjoy the project.  I found that made my decisions incredibly easy.

After CHAMBERlain MUSIC concert
It turns out saying no isn't hard, once you start saying it. Actually, it got pretty addictive. By May I had managed to give clear intentions about the responsibilities and obligations I would no longer be able to continue. It was plenty of time for the other groups to find my replacements. In fact, it was easier to find people to take up the torch than I initially thought it would be. Of course people were disappointed, but because I gave references for other people and plenty of notice I managed not to burn any bridges. The key was that I was clear, adamant, kind, and prompt when addressing concerns about me leaving organizations. Most people are put out when notice or help to find a replacement isn't offered. I gave help, and a deadline when I could no longer help.

By summer, I found myself composing more, and when I did perform it was music I enjoyed. I no longer do any web or print design, which makes me immensely happy. So here we are about the same time as last year, and I am looking ahead to February. With all of the other time consuming obligations from last year obliterated, I now have a schedule that looks more like I care about my composition goals.

2017 is starting to show the fruits of some hard labor since I quit the old day job in 2009. The tough decisions I made in 2016 really did kick start some other things and help me focus on my ultimate composing goals. Now its time to buckle up and start the daily hustle, and remembering sometimes saying no is the best for everyone.

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