In my practice as a life coach for musicians, one of the issues my clients frequently bring up is a lack of energy, and so I recently began a list of all the ways we constrict, repress or dissipate our energy unnecessarily.
Do you have as much as energy as you’d like? With a packed teaching and/or performing schedule, it’s easy to end up feeling tired all the time. Fatigue can be physical, emotional, mental, creative, or even spiritual.
This month, I’m looking deeper at the causes of mental and emotional fatigue, and offering some tools to assist you to step free.
Organize your home and studio. Can you easily find what you need? How long does it take you to track down a particular piece of music or CD? Are you surrounded by piles of papers and magazines? Visual clutter can easily sap your energy. Maybe it’s time for a clear out. I like the designer William Morris’s dictum: “Have nothing in your house that you do not either know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
Have good organizational tools. Do you always have your calendar, PDA and/or notebook with you at home and on the road? I’m amazed at how often I meet people who are trying to keep all their appointments in their heads. One morning, as a student, I arrived at my college professor’s house for a makeup lesson, only to find him in his pajamas, and very embarrassed. And I still cringe when I remember the day, many years ago, when a student arrived when I was in my oldest jeans and covered in dust, clearing out all my music, and there were dozens of piles of sheet music all over the living room floor. Trying to keep information in our heads that could easily be written down takes up valuable RAM, adding to fatigue and overwhelm. For a great organizational system, try David Allen’s Getting Things Done—simple and very effective.
Keep your commitments. Lack of organization can lead to broken agreements—commitments you have made to yourself or to someone else, like “I’ll have learned the repertoire by the weekend”, “ I’ll fit Josh in for two extra lessons before the recital” or even “I’m going to lose four pounds this month”. Not keeping these type of agreements can undermine your self-confidence, your trust in yourself and, of course, your reputation as a professional. Likewise, keeping commitments enhances self-esteem, self-trust, and encourages others to trust you.
Be kind to yourself. It’s easy to become very self-critical if you do find yourself caught in a pattern of broken agreements. Watch what kind of conversations you are holding in your mind. Are you constantly berating and judging yourself? Is nothing ever good enough? It’s extremely easy for professional musicians, brought up to be hyper-aware of the smallest musical detail, to be unreasonably perfectionistic with themselves (and sometimes others). I’ve found it useful to imagine one of my students and ask myself if I would speak to them in that way. The answer is always “No.” I have discovered that just as encouragement boosts confidence and results in the studio, rather than rapping knuckles the way teachers used to, the same principles also work on myself.
Be clear with others. How do you decide what agreements to make? Is it difficult for you to say “No” to other people? Do you constantly over-estimate what you can achieve in a certain time frame? Having clear boundaries is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned—and am still learning. What has worked very well for me is a simple tool: when a parent or client asks you to do something, don’t feel you have to respond straight away. It’s perfectly acceptable to say, “May I call you back about that after lunch/tomorrow/after the weekend?” Then you have time to decide if the commitment works for you. I’ve learned the hard way that it’s better to say no than to over-commit, however pressing the other person’s need appears to be. As Gandhi once said, “A ‘No’ uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or what is worse, to avoid trouble.” Needless to say, it’s essential that you follow through with the call, as promised.
Take time out. Lack of clear boundaries can lead to over-working, which all too frequently leads to burnout, stress and potential injury. Not allowing time for rest and rejuvenation is tempting, particularly as a freelance professional with bills to pay, and it is amazing how long one can get away with it. However, eventually there is a cost. I would strongly recommend keeping one day a week minimum completely work-free, and taking that annual vacation. Both you and your students will notice the difference.
Now it’s your turn: how do you boost your mental and emotional energy? I’d love to hear your ideas, so please do comment, below.
Next time, we’ll explore ways to boost your physical and creative energy. Until then, be well!