There’s got to be a better way than back-to-back meetings.

I think we’ve all experienced days of back-to-back meetings, proceeded or followed by time when we actually “work.” This feels like the norm, but it doesn’t work.

In a typical workday, I need time to collaborate with groups and individuals; time to plan, monitor, and implement projects; time to reflect; and some time to respond to urgent requests. But I’m talking to dozens of people a day who have their own needs, and it’s hard to get aligned so that we can make the BEST decisions and do our BEST work. I’m not sure if we’re trying to do too much, if we have too few people, or if we don’t know how to use the tools we have (or maybe some mix of all three).

It’s a wicked problem, but I think the teams that figure it out can have more fun at work and will be able to get more done. It’s a win-win for organizations and individuals. I like how Cal Newport thinks about these things. The solutions still need to be designed, and he admits that they’re challenging to implement, but I think his ideas are worth a listen.

Using PM Tools w/ Piano

I don’t want to find the “perfect” project management (PM) tool; instead, I want to find the best tool for my specific needs. Sometimes finding the solution first and looking for the problem second is fun, but I want to be more linear for a change.

I have been practicing piano consistently for about a year. The piano and I have an on-again, off-again relationship, but I’ve played at least some each year for the past 10 years. What seems to happen is that I prepare for a recital or performance, and then I drop it. So, what ends up happening is that I get a piece performance-ready (i.e., memorized, fully polished, and ready for Carnegie) and then drop it after the performance. Some pieces take a long time to get there – and that’s just for my amateur level of performance-ready. As one’s musical intuition and technical prowess advance, even more exposition can be done to an even greater level with the music. But I never achieve this level. In part because I have had the tendency of always wanting to move on to the bigger, badder piece.

There’s a constant pursuit for more challenges, but the challenges start to be too much at some point. Because the pieces get more demanding, I make progress slower. And the slower progress makes me less motivated, and I want to play less. And then there’s a downward spiral to the point where I just don’t play at all. Then when I’m not playing, I lament over how I don’t have any repertoire that I’ve consistently expanded over the years because I learn a piece and then drop it. Sometimes I get bored and want to move on. Sometimes I think I need a break. Getting a piece performance-ready is hard work and requires a lot of dedicated focus. I think it’s fair to take a break, but I have to return from the break.

With my most recent return to piano performance, I’m focusing on music that inspired me to stick with the piano. I’m not trying to be competitive, and I don’t want to be showy or virtuosic. I just want to sit down at the piano after a hard day at work or on a peaceful Saturday afternoon and just play a half-hour of beautiful, relaxing, heart-warming piano music. I’m talking Bach, Grieg, Debussy, Yiruma, etc.

The goal was to play for an hour, but I’m cutting all my goals in half so that I don’t get burned out. The little boy in me who needs validation wants to over-achieve so that he feels accepted, but that shit is exhausting. I want to play piano for me, first. At least at this stage, it’ll be a bonus for other people. So, how do I monitor my progress towards this goal? It’s been swimming around in my head, but I’ve not really put it down into a plan.

Enter project management!

The first thing I want to do is determine why I have this goal, which I shared above. The next thing is to be more specific about the plan. I need a start and end date. And some criteria to determine whether the goal is met. So, let’s say today is the start date, and I want to do my concert on Friday, February 11, 2021. 

What are the steps?

  • Fill up 30 minutes with music I enjoy, allowing for breaks in between pieces. 
  • This is for me, but my partner is welcome to listen
  • No talking, just playing.
  • I can choose music from any genre and any period.
  • The music must be memorized

The criteria:

  • How many pieces can I play now, and how much time do they take?
  • What other pieces do I want to focus on to finish the 30 minutes?
  • How do I prepare those pieces?
  • When do I schedule a dress rehearsal?
  • How many dress rehearsals do I want?

One of the things I want to track is how much time I spend practicing pieces. I’ve been doing this on paper, but I want to see it in a chart. I want to learn, on average, how long does it take me to remember certain pieces. It often feels like it takes forever to learn a piece, but I think that’s because I only play a little of each piece every day. I want to see how long it takes to learn a piece, not in days, but in actual minutes.

The first piece of PM software I want to use will help me track my time practicing. I use Toggl for work, and I like it. Really easy to use. But I want to try a different one for piano to see how other tools work. After skimming some articles and watching some YouTube videos, I ultimately decided to go with a tool I learned about in the AppStore – ATracker Time Tracker. I’ve already practiced today, so I will track the rest of the time I spend blogging to get started.