Why you need to do LESS to accomplish MORE.

We live in the age of multi-tasking.

I hear so many emerging and experienced artists and entrepreneurs say, “Sure I can handle another project, another show, another job . . . just pile it on, I’ll figure it out.”  And don’t you worry, I’ve got my finger pointed right at me too on this one.

While this “I can do it” attitude is a 21st century world wide phenomenon, it’s especially true in the entertainment industry.  Because we never know which project will be “the one” to propel ourselves into the success stratosphere, we play the numbers game.  You don’t want to say no to something and miss out, right?  Oh the horrors of hindsight if something you say no to hits.  So we just say, “Ok, I’ll just stretch myself a little more.”

And maybe you can handle a lot.  I’m actually a bit better when I have multiple projects in the air.  And Cy Coleman did say you have to plant a lot of seeds in this business, because they’re not all going to grow.

Cy was right.  You do want to plant seeds.  But you can’t care for/water/fertilize every one.  Many will die in the process.  And the truth is . . . some will die not because they deserve to, but because you were watering something that you shouldn’t have been watering in the first place.

See, you may think you have the time and energy to accomplish everything you want to accomplish.  But here’s what I find with myself and with others: when we’re deciding whether we’re going to take something else on, whether it’s writing a new show, producing a new show, or renovating your bathroom . . . .we always imagine the project going perfectly.

And it never does.

There are always complications in every new endeavor.  There are always unique circumstances that you’ve never come across before that are going to cause some delay.  This is especially true in the arts, but applies to everything . . . why do you think contractors are always behind with their renovations, and why do you think the costs go up?  It’s not because they’re crooks (not all of them anyway), it’s because once they open your walls, they always find some kind of surprise.

Think you’ve produced a show before so it’ll be easy to add another one to your docket?  Ha!  Think you’ve choreographed some musical before, so why not do it again at some summer stock theater even though what you really want to do is direct?  I promise something about it will be different.

Here’s what I do when I’m thinking about new projects now.  I imagine how much time it’ll take . . . and then I add another 25% to that.  Something that I think will take 4 weeks is probably going to take 5.  A year is a year and a three months.

It may still be worth it.  Heck, it may be worth it if it takes 10 years of your life.

But understanding that everything takes more time or more energy than you’d like may help you be more discerning as you decide to take on new projects.

And it may allow you to focus on “the one” that is just sitting there on your desk, waiting for you to have more time to get to it.


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  • Frank says:

    In addition to all you’ve said on this topic…

    When you spread yourself out, you often sacrifice quality. You might make 20 things that are good, but none of them are great! Specialization exists to create the great, not the simply good.

  • Rick says:

    This got to me….
    It may still be worth it. Heck, it may be worth it if it takes 10 years of your life.

    ….Well I tell the students in school… “I am 56 years old …Oh… and have…dyslexia.
    So I have a good 30+ years to work on my “Labors of Love”!!!…Thanks Ken!

  • Martha says:

    I put more into less instead of less into more.

  • Jennifer says:

    I needed this…..TODAY!

  • Ken, “WHY YOU NEED TO DO LESS TO ACCOMPLISH MORE” is right on the money, and so relevant to our own interests today. I knew Cy and his horrible hairpiece a bit. The Overture curtain design for “SEESAW” copied an effect right off our of our LightWorks Studio screens, courtesy of Eric Kolodny, Cy Coleman’s nephew and head of Notable,’ Cy’s music publishing company back around “Seesaw” and “BARNUM.” As a favor to Bruce Hart, one of the lyricists to “SESAME STREET,” we gave Eric a private performance as an audition, and, in return, got robbed. I was also familiar with Cy’s project philosophy, which you quote so succinctly. Ken, where is that from? Thanks. Bobb Goldsteinn

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