’Tis the season for setting goals for your personal, musical, and career objectives. It doesn’t have to be a complicated process, but you need to take it seriously.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
The end of the year is here, and it’s time for some planning for the new year. What do you want to accomplish with your music in the new year? How do you set yourself up to make your music goals a reality?
As an aside, I recently read a piece about time — the passing of time — and, when you think about it, the new year is actually an interesting construct. I mean yes, we’ve completed another cycle around the Sun, but New Year’s Day is a day just like any other. We haven’t added a year, we’ve just added a day.
Now, although we only advance a day and not a year when we go from December 31st to January 1st, it is helpful to have these markers of time to measure ourselves and our progress by. Many of us do this, whether it’s at New Year’s or maybe on our birthday, because it’s a natural time to do some reflecting, planning, and goal setting.
Track progress in the calendar year
For me, the time I do my personal planning is always around the new year because it’s just easy for me and for those around me to keep track of goals during the calendar year. And since I run Disc Makers, the calendar year for our business is also our fiscal year.
Now, I’m not focusing on business planning here. Our business planning at Disc Makers usually begins in late summer, with a strategy planning meeting and forecasting and budgeting that can last for a few months.
I’m talking about your personal planning and setting career and music goals. I’ve been doing this for years for myself, pretty informally to be honest, and it has led to some very positive changes. So I want to share my steps for my yearly planning, what I do, with you.
Find some alone time
My first step is to set aside some time to be alone with my thoughts. For me, my planning is pretty casual and it doesn’t actually require that much time. In fact, this whole exercise for me usually takes no more than one hour.
Find a quiet place that’s comfortable and conducive to reflection. I usually spend the holidays in Aruba, which is where I grew up and where my extended family lives. While I’m there, I walk to this one rocky spot on the coast and sit by myself, looking over the calm ocean, and I reflect.
I start thinking about what happened over the past year. What worked, what didn’t, what was I happy with, proud of? Where was I disappointed, where did I achieve what I wanted, where did I fall short? It’s just a quick assessment.
The most obvious achievements and failures of the past year will come to you pretty quickly. And I take all that into account and then I consider the upcoming year. What do I want to accomplish? Do I need to get in shape, eat healthier, spend more time with my kids, or make some changes in my workplace or my work habits?
Family, music, and self
To keep my thoughts organized, the stuff I think about usually falls into three main buckets: family, business, and self. For you, that may mean family, music, and self. Or, if you’re like many independent musicians, there may be four buckets: family, job/career, music, and self.
As I think about each of these buckets, I find that the things I want to accomplish or need to change or focus on become evident pretty quickly. And I like to think I’m a fairly pragmatic person, so I like my goals to be achievable.
However, if you’re a person who’s motivated by stretch goals, then by all means, go for that. Now, one tip: as you’re thinking through music goals (or any goals), try not to set too many of them. Focus on what’s most important or what will make the biggest positive impact. That probably means two or three tangible goals for what you want to achieve with your music.
Set measurable goals
It’s best when you can set goals that you can easily measure. Maybe it’s hitting a certain number of Spotify followers or co-writing with a well-known songwriter. In my case, I usually have a few big, simple goals, so I don’t usually write them down. But if that’s a motivator for you — to see your goals in writing every day — by all means, write them down. Many experts advise it.
Finally, if your goals involve or require the help of other people, then you need to discuss and clarify them with those other people. If you’re in a band, for example, you certainly want your bandmates to be aligned with your goals so that you can work toward them together. Also, sharing your goals with another person, like your spouse, can work as a real motivator and help with accountability.
Keep it simple
A couple of final pieces of advice. First off, don’t overthink this process — keep it simple. Settle on just a few big goals that can move the needle for you. Resist the temptation to set too many music goals and overcomplicate things.
And final finally, for this first goal-setting exercise, don’t worry too much about how you’ll accomplish your goals. This is just a goal setting exercise. After you’ve sat with your goals for a few days, and they still feel right, then you’ll need to plan all the steps and activities required to get you from where you are today to achieving your goals.
Take this seriously
Just so we’re clear, despite my comments that setting your high-level goals can be a pretty casual process, they are your music career goals and you need to take them seriously. You’ll need to work on them throughout the year if you want your career to move forward. If you don’t work on them consistently, you won’t hit your goals, and that would be a shame.
Do you have a goal-setting routine that works for you? Share it in the comments below for others to see. I hope you found this helpful. Now, go set those goals — and then go crush them!
Watch more great videos on the Disc Makers YouTube channel.
Tony van Veen is the CEO of DIY Media Group, the parent company of Disc Makers and BookBaby. As a college student, he played in indie bands, created his own LPs, cassettes, and t-shirts, and sold them at shows. Today, he collects CDs, vinyl LPs, and concert t-shirts to support the artists he loves.
How to build a music career (and hold down a day job)
Why you need to rehearse your live performance
Your #1 job as a music artist? Create demand for your music.
Five steps to becoming a great musician
How to fail as an indie music artist (in 7 easy steps)