Smart ways for artists to prioritise and stop cherry-picking

Sheila Chandra - Thursday, December 12, 2019


Do you find yourself cherry-picking or deciding which tasks to do based on how you feel? Are you finding it hard to stop, even though you know you should be giving priority to the tasks that are going to make the most difference to your career? Here’s the secret to doing just that….


As an artist, are you too busy to prioritise?

Many artists do everything themselves. If you’re a musician then I’m guessing that you’re probably your own promoter, booker, PR person, stylist and tour manager. Wearing these hats is exhausting! So, how do you decide which tasks have priority? Making time to set up a values based system to help decide will save you time overall.In fact, artists don’t have the time to NOT to prioritise.


“Artists make smarter decisions when they have a system based on their values.”


How to find your artist priorities

Business books are full of ways to figure out the urgency and importance of a task. Unfortunately for us artists, these books usually target the business world. So, we have to adapt the available systems to make them work for us. Stephen Covey’s quadrant is a classic time management system from his 1994 self-help book First Things First. Using this will serve as a blueprint for working out your own individual priorities.


An artist’s values determines their priorities

Knowing your values is essential. Your values are your compass. They’ll guide your decision making and determine your artistic career path. Let’s say you’re a photographer whose values are to produce high quality nature photographs, receive accolades and critical acclaim. Knowing this, you can make sure that every task you do is aligned with your values. Picking out your priorities is easy because you have a brand focus and know where you want to go in your career. From which people you meet professionally, to which jobs you chase, or reject.


Your values are your compass.”


Four categories for artists to prioritise

Stephen Covey’ priorities quadrant has four categories of tasks. Number one tasks are those that are both ‘urgent’ and ‘important’. These tasks usually cannot be avoided or prevented. If they can be prevented (e.g. running out of camera batteries, having an unreliable car etc.) then you must take the preventative action. Number two tasks are important but not ‘urgent’ e.g. building up your prices, or building your fan base. They build your power and profile in your field over the longer term. These tasks are what you should spending most of your time doing. All the tasks in this category should reflect your artist values. And remember, doing these tasks moves you closer to your goals.

Number three tasks are urgent but not important. Be aware that they may seem urgent, but look deeper and you’ll find ways to avoid them or delegate. To begin with you may place many tasks in this category. As you learn to prioritise you’ll whittle them down. Number four tasks are neither ‘urgent’ nor ‘important’ – and this is where we artists spend most of our time procrastinating. Sadly, some of us become stuck here. Distraction and time-wasting stops us from prioritising and leads us further away from our goals. Here are the four categories with artist examples to help you create your own versions and add your own definitions:



  • Emergencies (being involved in an accident and having to cancel a recording session)
  • Urgent messages and calls (taking a call from Beyonce)
  • Meeting deadlines (ensuring your album is recorded in due time)



  • Career planning activities and opportunities (e.g. planning a campaign to promote your next tour)
  • Research and relationship building (e.g. pursuing a collaboration with a well-known artist, finding a mentor, making important contacts, mining peers for useful information, planning your career strategy)
  • Developing & refining your skills/craft (e.g. updating your studio software & understanding it, putting in some focused practice every day)



  • Doing work for others that isn’t your responsibility (e.g. unpaid favours for friends or fixing others mistakes)
  • Being conned/taken for a ride/others wasting your time (e.g. fixing the fallout from working with unprofessional or flaky people)
  • Doing work which you hate doing and have no talent for (e.g. cold calling, marketing – when you can afford to pay someone to do the basics)



  • Gossip (e.g. listening to a fellow artist complain about your peers)
  • Working inefficiently (e.g. recording vocals at home all day with bad results instead of paying for a proper studio and doing it in 2 hours with much better results)
  • Indulgent escapism (e.g. watching youtube cat videos for two hours, when you should be scheduling blog posts)
  • Excessive socialising (e.g. often attending aftershow parties under the guise of networking but not building any important contacts)


Are you looking to refine your values and make both time management and decision making easier – day to day? You’ll find lots more tips in my book ‘Organizing Your Creative Career’. A new revised print version – including a whole new chapter - is out on 14th January 2020.

Or work with me via Skype to discover and eliminate the things that are holding you back. Contact me at for a free 30 minute consultation via Skype to find out how I can help you – or read some of my success stories here

Post has no comments.
Post a Comment

Captcha Image


Recent Posts


theft artist collaboration 2020 goals imagination time clutter new revised print version clarity of thought artist mornings getting ready for work anxiety work efficiently prioitising copyright creative identity letting go appointments procrastination innocence proposal writing exhaustion pop culture business-speak partners business-like compulsion singer being tripped up well curated closet fall of innocence resentment symptoms of creativity good friend stop cluttering 2018 goals buy fewer clothes collections creative career visualising creative wellbeing professional creative career clearing as you go car buying wealth organizing for creative people vulnerability work priorities guilty purchases self promotion career strategy productivity options how it feels to be coached living mess free business trope writer emotional resilience hobbies buying stardust how to save time popular culture friends cleaning your desk clear outs diary commitment childhood lazy email bankruptcy wardrobe slow and steady low maintenance just in case good health for artists pricing effortlessly tidy tidy good creative habits peer-to-peer networks too many commitments staying in control proposals myth why organise clutter free mature artists mess organisation coaching tidying much better friend cupboard of shame under-confidence green room slim-line wardrobe email overload clear desk sheila chandra coaching hijacking creativity cherry-picking artist mentors : clothes saving time chaotic dynamic spaces streamlining routines tortoise and hare stay on top of email tidy people static spaces critical acclaim magic artist goals spree overwork . audience solving creative career problems business interface to creative businesses tidier working with other artists hotel room making decisions subconscious mind buying hope networking negotiating sacrifice work/home life balance VIPs stardust loss culture focus self-care well organized stop hoarding stuff double standard hoarding smart artists touring clutter addict display items inconvenience warm down quality temperament binge social media networking nascent artists housework much quicker professional encouragement concentrated creative time musician introverts creativity diary new year grief nurture creativity clearing in short bursts storage emotional support artist studio artistic conviction the void organise author artists home organising artist workspaces motivation hostile clutter working class culture cry control parent inspiration artistic chaos work trips lifetimes goals Sheila Chandra author multiple lifetimes pop music creative spark low maintenance strategies living clutter free great art buying happiness feeling creative criteria for letting go of stuff tidy desk morning routines network professional mentors celebrity endorsed products brands peacefulness creative organising creative magic domestic life diagnosis long-term artistic development creative people branding fine art ‘creativity’ confident in clothes crowdfunding precious memories platform successful artist too busy good art work brilliant creator minimalists creative commissions to do list loving your audience networking effectively creativity clutter vocation new chapter nurturing creative work friendships working class artists artist workspace creative culture jealousy creative person workspaces home care artist mentoring work life clearing clutter sustainability writing funding campaigns nipping things in the bud emotional balance buying youth feel like creatiing clearing how to be naturally tidy ‘stories’ about your possessions elevator pitch target market efficient work patterns absences wind down values clean desk card normality funding social media stay tidy automatically disorganization tips for clearing communication organizing your creative career home life emotionally secure artist how to work efficiently tension artist materials creative ambitions boredom creative career coaching tidiness in living spaces creative confidence 20202 goals arrogance great artists missed opportunities bulk buy being organized cleaning email artistry