"Now what?" That question is asked by every musician at least once every other day it seems. You’ve finished recording a new song – now what? You planned out your next three months of newsletters – now what? You finally hit your first 10,000 followers on Instagram – now what?
Reaching a goal is great, but what’s next? It’s important to always be thinking of your next steps while you work at completing the goal in front of you. It can feel daunting. (As if you don’t already have enough on your plate, amirite?)
Luckily, I’ve broken down this process into three easy-to-follow steps when it comes determining what to do next. They may seem obvious or basic, but when you’re knee-deep in deadlines and completely stressed out with a lack of confidence, you’d be surprised how powerful “procrastination paralysis” can be.
When we are overwhelmed, and find ourselves too close to a project, it is easy for us to forget to think logically and see things clearly.
Before we jump in, should you ever lose sight of where to begin (let alone what to do next), always go back to your “why” or mission statement. Be sure to check in with your brand and what it stands for regularly in order to make certain you’re staying consistent and on the right path (or to ensure you know when to pivot).
Now, let's take a look at how to figure out those next steps.
1. Reverse engineer
This is another way to say, “Start with the end in mind.” If you finished recording a song and you’re not sure what to do next, think about what you want to happen from releasing the song. Is it to increase streams on Spotify or to license to TV shows and commercials?
Write down the end goal and work backwards. What is the last step? What has to come before that last step in order for it to happen? What has to come before that second-to-last step? Keep going until you arrive at your first step, and your plan will be sketched out in full.
If your goal is to use the song to land a licensing deal, the steps may look like this (from last to first):
- Land a licensing deal
- Pitch to intended publishers/music supervisors
- Research to find contact info for intended publishers/music supervisors
- Determine what types of media/visuals the song makes sense to sync with
You’ve got your list of next steps written out, and yet, you may still find reasons to busy yourself with anything but the tasks on your list. That’s because those tasks above are vague.
Humans don’t respond to vague; we avoid it. We respond to specific, digestible pieces of information. So it’s time to get specific and super small – micro, if you will.
Once all steps are written out, break down each step into individual micro-tasks until it no longer makes sense to break them down further. For instance, using the licensing example above, we would start with breaking down step number four (determine what types of media/visuals the song makes sense to sync with):
- Create a spreadsheet to organize information
- Write down every genre that can be identified in the song
- Write down themes/messages expressed through the lyrics
- Write down environments/settings this song would be played on in real life (i.e., dance clubs, romantic dinners, weddings, car trips, etc.)
- Write a list of current TV/films/commercials that the song would work in if they were being remade today
- Determine the genres/companies associated with those listed (i.e. teen reality shows, rom-coms, detergent commercials, etc.)
- Determine which publishing houses/music supervisor teams work on those types of projects/genres
That then brings you to step three from our second example (Research to find contract info). That would break down into:
- Search IMDB and LinkedIn for intended contacts
- Determine who you already know who may know intended contacts
- Email contacts to request referrals/introductions to intended contacts
...and so on until you get to the pitch step.
3. Give yourself a time limit
Looking at the first set of the micro-tasks on your list, start deciding how long each individual micro-task should take, and write your estimate next to each task. Do you think it'll take 10 minutes? An hour?
The importance of this step is that it gives more specificity to each task, plus it allows you to more clearly see where you can fit each micro-task into your calendar. Once you get it on your calendar, you’ve committed to making it a priority and getting it done.
While this may feel all very obvious after reading through it, in the moment, it’s very easy to panic and not think logically and linearly. Following these steps will allow you to more easily focus on what’s expected of you to reach a goal and when you’ll be able to get it done.
So, what’s next for you? Tell us in the comments what you’ll be working on and what you’ll do next!
Suzanne Paulinski is a mindset coach and founder of The Rock/Star Advocate. She helps music industry professionals gain confidence and clarity in their goals with a healthy work/life balance. Her book,The Rock/Star Life Planner is now available on Amazon.