Having a Plan – 2016 Playing Resolutions

Welcome to the New Year’s Day edition of Flute Friday. Happy 2016 Everyone!

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Last year at this time I wrote a blog about setting New Year’s Playing Resolutions that was very helpful not only for myself and my own flute playing goals but also for many of my readers. See https://racheltaylorgeier.org/2015/01/14/new-years-flute-playing-resolutions/ . Over the course of 2015 I read (and thanks to my Audible subscription, listened to) several books, journals and websites, attended conferences and reviewed a number of productivity apps addressing the goal setting process and how we can achieve more in our lives using organized planning and strategic motivational techniques designed to help us initiate, review and attain our goals. I found some of these tricks to be very effective in my quest for a better work/life balance between many of my music and non-music pursuits and am happy to say that as I review goals set at the beginning of 2015, I have successfully achieved many of the items on my list (including publishing an article and updating my blog once a week) and have made major strides on other longer term goals. I hope some of my findings will aid in your own goal setting process and help you achieve more in 2016 than you ever dreamed possible in 2015.

12-Week “Year”

One of the best books I reviewed this year was The 12-Week Year by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington. The basic premise behind this book is that if we think of the calendar year as 4, 3-month chunks (or mini-years) rather than 1 long 12 month period, we can set several shorter term, easier to digest goals that bring us closer to our longer term objectives. This method helps us to review our goals more often and encourages us to design alternative action plans to those that are not being met by the conclusion of each 3-month period. It is very easy to create a list of 20 New Year’s Resolutions in January only to dig them up on December 31st and realize that no progress has been made. The 12-week year keeps us on track through regular review and restructuring. You could plan a recital in 3 months. You could design a conference talk. You could finally tackle that Anderson etude book that everyone told you was “impossible.” You could select 3 works to have memorized by March 31st. Mini-years make all of these objectives realistic and easy to build upon at the conclusion of the “year.”

Mini years are broken up as follows:

January 1st-March 31st

April 1st-June 30th

July 1st-September 30th

October 1st-December 31st

Monthly groupings are a bit more realistic than the typical 12-month yearly journey. Shorter periods of time + smaller objectives = better rate of success. This plan has worked wonders for me in all areas of my musical and non-musical development and I know it will for you too.

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Categorize Your Objectives

I found it very helpful this year to create categories for each group of objectives and focus my attention primarily on one category for each mini-year based on which deadlines were looming during that period. For example, during the January-March mini-year I focused on polishing orchestral music (as the conclusion of the Spring concert season inched closer), developing creative ideas for conference abstracts and working with my students to set long term playing goals. From April-June I turned my attention to developing my Mozart workshop presentation for the Canadian Flute Convention, rememorized the Carmen Fantasie, Nielsen Concerto and both Mozart Concerti in G and D and worked with my students to creatively listen to flute works and outline playing elements used by professional that they would like to explore in their own playing (ex. vibrato styles, improvisational techniques, tone colors). During the July-September period my objectives were to recruit new students (I had moved to Houston during this time) and focus on overall health, wellness and new approaches to combating performing anxiety. I also used this time to really focus on sound improvement and prepare competition audition material. Finally, between October and December I turned my attention to writing and developed an article on relocating your studio for an upcoming publication (will post more info when the ink is on the paper – please stay tuned). I also turned my once-in-a-while blog into a weekly Flute Friday series. Finally, I made huge strides in the development of a flute etude book that I hope to publish early this year.

Some of the categories you may use specifically for your musical development may include:

Performance Goals (Solo)

Orchestra Goals

Teaching Goals

Job Hunt Goals

Competition Goals

Sound Goals

Technique Goals

Repertoire Goals

Memorization Goals

Networking Goals

And for the rest of your life, you may want to create even broader categories:

Career Goals

Educational Goals

Family Goals

Health Goals

Household Goals

Public Service Goals

Finance and Savings Goals

The sky is the limit when it comes to compartmentalizing your long and short term objectives. The point, however, is to clarify exactly what you would like to achieve in each of these areas and construct bench-marks that can be measured in each 12 week segment to take you from where you are to where you want to be. Organizing your thoughts and thinking creatively about your action plans is not easy but it is vital in your development as a musician and a human being.

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Long Term vs. Short Term

It is very important to come up with a list of longer term goals (where do you see yourself in 10 years) and shorter term goals that relate to your long term objectives. What many of us fail to do, however, is to simply write these down. Goals that remain as pictures in your head are difficult to measure and their steps clouded by idealism. Set up an excel spreadsheet or, if you prefer to keep it old school, take out a notebook with dividers. On the first tab or page, write down long term goals that you would like to achieve over the course of the next 10 years (ex. purchase a gold flute, set up a wildly successful flute studio, purchase a house, write a book, travel to France, write a dissertation, obtain a DMA). On the next tab or page, create a list of yearly goals (or your typical New Year’s Resolutions) – what do you need to accomplish during this calendar year to bring you closer to your long term goals (recruit 10 more students, draft the first chapter of your book, audition for that symphony job). On the next tab or page list your mini-year/3 month goals (save $xxxxx for your trip to France, research dissertation ideas) and on the subsequent tab list your monthly goals (practice XXX hours each week, prepare first piece on recital program with piano accompaniment, perfect that difficult Firebird solo for your orchestra concert). Finally, each Sunday night, come up with your list of weekly goals. I love setting these up on Sunday nights before the chaos of the week ensues and I have the opportunity to reflect and select the most appropriate actions for the week when I am relaxed and thinking clearly. You may also wish to create a tab for daily tasks but I find that a simple pen and paper list (or one recorded on a to-do list iPhone app) created at the end of each day works best. Schedule once monthly, once mini-yearly and once calendar yearly dates to review and revise your list and compare to your longer term goal list. Give yourself a pat on the back when you achieve your goals and tweek your approach when you fail to meet your objectives (there is no such thing as failure – setbacks are problem solving opportunities to make important and relevant changes that bring you closer to success). Achieving your goals takes persistence, organization and forethought. Remember: none of us became successful musicians overnight.

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The Creative Process

Those of you who have seen the movie or read The Secret by Rhonda Byrne may recall the discussion on the Creative Process. Simply put, the Creative Process involves asking the Universe for what you want (or, as it relates to goal setting, coming up with your list of goals), believe that you will obtain your goals (faith, persistence, planning, action) and receive what it is you are wanting (or meeting our goals). Many of us may create a plan for our development as musicians but when we put our noses to the grindstone we realize it is more complicated and exhausting than we imagined in our heads. We may also wrongly believe that we are not talented enough musicians to perform a successful recital, win the audition or publish that article. The Creative Process tells us not give up! That is the whole point of the goal setting process – don’t give up. Change your direction? Yes. Reevaluate where you wish to place your focus? Sure. Abandon ship? No. Stick to your goals like glue otherwise they will remain as cloudy pictures floating in your imagination without a place to land in reality.


How do you achieve your goals? What do your long and short term goals look like? What methods have you used to obtain your musical and non-musical objectives? Have any of the above techniques helped you in your development as a musician. Please comment below!




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