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Habit Changes: Anchor the Non-Negotiables

Updated: Jan 27, 2020

This is part 2 in a series of articles entitled Too Busy for a Real Vacation? Streamline Work and Buy Time for YOU.  The articles discuss habit changes and strategic projects designed to equip you to maximize your working time.


Ever finished an extremely busy day and wondered how you could have been moving at such a frenzied pace, yet never managed to sit down and do that really important, time consuming thing?  I have. It’s called life. It’s called starting the day with emails. It’s called ‘hoping’ I’ll get through the to-do list… with lots of good intentions, but no concrete plan. 

So when I mentioned this to a friend from graduate school who has always managed to balance her many high-level commitments with grace and excellence, she suggested to me that I anchor my days with my “non-negotiable” tasks.  This has been extremely helpful. Turns out that this friend, Sarah Whitney, has more than an instinct.  She is quickly becoming a resource to many musicians as the creator of The Productive Musician blogette and a musicians coach.

Posed with Sarah’s challenge to anchor my days with non-negotiables, the people-pleaser in me had to stop and realise something truly significant: I was waiting for permission to acknowledge the fact that there can and should be non-negotiables in my life.  I’m driven to take care of others in my life (at work and otherwise), and that’s an important and good part of being human. 

However, if I don’t intentionally set the important things that fuel me or my profession in their place of priority, then ultimately I’ll be less helpful to the people around me... and my overall impact will be significantly less than my potential.  

My non-negotiables are practice on my instrument, and time for writing, planning for students,  and time for any other shorter term project that might require a period of in-depth preparation.  Some of these things are important but don’t need to be touched every day, while some benefit from regular attention (like practicing).  If I plan my weeks to ensure that I schedule meaningful time as appropriate on all of these important priorities, nothing will be overlooked and all of the ‘big balls’ will get pushed consistently.

Returning to Sarah’s image, I love thinking of an anchor -- its massive weight holds the boat in place underwater.  The boat cannot move without hoisting the anchor back onto the boat, which requires significant intention and effort.

The lesson to learn? Learn to put a few things first. Fix them to your workday like an anchor -- with weight and determination… and watch as the consistency wrought by your persistence brings on notable progress and creative breakthroughs.


If you haven’t already signed up for BackstageForum, I recommend you do that here so that you can get first-dibs access to the resources in this series.

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