Are you getting the RIGHT things done?


What’s your endgame for productivity?

Do you try to be productive so that you can get more stuff done?

Do you try to be productive to be free to do what you want?

Are you doing the things you really don’t want to do—stuck in your drudgery zone?

Which way is your freedom compass pointing?

These pretty heavy questions that have recently rocked my little world come from author and productivity guru, Michael Hyatt, in his book Free to Focus

Get it here and you’ll get all kinds of free bonus stuff and the audible book for free. 

Or, if you’re in a hurry, listen to this podcast of an interview with Hyatt. It’s all you need to get started with rethinking how you get stuff done and so much more.

Listen to this podcast:

What caught my attention in Hyatt’s interview is that he doesn’t just offer some life hacks so you can accomplish more. He really makes you think about WHY you want to be more productive—the endgame.

Productivity is NOT about getting more things done; 

it’s about getting the right things done. 

-Michael Hyatt

These “right things” Hyatt describes as “freedoms.”

What kind of freedom are you looking for?

Hyatt claims that being productive allows you to enjoy four kinds of freedom. Freedom to…

  • Focus without distraction—Are you interrupted every 3 minutes?

  • Be fully present with your family, friends, co-workers—Are you thinking about work when you are with family?

  • Be spontaneous without programing every part of the day—Do you have margin or whitespace in your life to be YOU? 

  • Do nothing because that’s when creativity kicks in—Are you always claiming you are “crazy busy” and feel guilty when you’re not?

Where is your freedom compass pointing?

Hyatt illustrates his ideas about productivity with the image of a compass built around two axes:

  1. The Proficiency Axis—what are you good at doing.

  2. The Passion Axis—what you love to do.

These axes divide the freedom compass into four zones:

  • South: Drudgery zone. Things you are not passionate about or proficient in.

  • East: Disinterest zone. Things you are good at but not passionate about.

  • West: Distraction zone. Things you enjoy doing but someone else could easily do them and most likely better than you.

  • North: Desire Zone. Things that you love and are good at. This is where you should focus the bulk of your energy. 

True North is where passion and proficiency come together.

Eliminate, delegate or automate everything that’s not in the desire zone. 

- Michael Hyatt

How can you move into your desire zone if you’re not there yet?

Hyatt’s book goes into great detail about the steps required to do this and the one step that jumped out at me was CUT. There are three ways to CUT—eliminate, delegate and automate—and I’ve made work of acting on all of them. Here are some examples.


Ex: Keep minimal records of Off Bench Time. 

Scores earned on iPad games during Off Bench Time are good as they motivate students to keep playing for a better or top score which can result in strong reinforcement of concepts. Teachers often ask me if I keep track of them all and I don’t. In the end, who cares what score was achieved? What really matters is if a student can demonstrate understanding of the concept at a lesson. If not, it means I need to do my job better.

Ex: Streamline studio incentives. 

I was so tired of setting up a store so that students can purchase items with their Music Money so now students keep track of their money with studio credit cards and earn gift cards. Read all about it here.


Ex: Hire experts and find help. 

Janna and Jeremy Carlson of recently moved my website from Wordpress to SquareSpace and now my son Levi is helping with the details in getting it up and running in style.

Ex: Divide and conquer tasks. 

As coordinator of the Piano Prep Program at the University of Denver, I oversee the intake of new students for our group and private lessons. Scheduling private lessons means pairing students with graduate teaching assistants and carving out a lesson schedule that pleases everyone. Even thinking about this puzzle makes me want to throw up! So, Casey, a graduate teaching assistant, has been appointed to take over the task and appreciates the opportunity. Ooooh…..


In my attempt to CUT, I delegated tasks at our 88CK workshop to Casey, Christy and Annette and they rocked!

Can’t thank them enough!


Ex: Subscribe to My Music Staff

After years—decades!— of Music Teachers Helper, I’ve moved over to My Music Staff. It was a big leap but Todd Whaley of MMS,  was so supportive in supporting me and moving all the information to my new home. 

And, although it took time for me to learn, my students signed up for lessons through a student portal this summer. This eliminated tons of emails and conversations! And thanks to the automated scheduling system, it’s easy for students to login and reschedule a lesson if they like and they never need to contact me! Ahhh….

If you said YES to finding YOUR freedom, is it time to say NO?

Are you a YES person? Whenever you say YES, think about what and who you are saying NO to.

For seven consecutive years, Bradley Sowash and I have hosted the 88 Creative Keys summer keyboard improvisation workshop in Denver. Because I’m the local Denverite, it’s been up to me to do a lot of the ground work. At the beginning of this summer I noticed that I was dreading the preparation for the workshop. Not the workshop itself, just all the stuff leading up to it. 

Encountering Michael Hyatt’s freedom compass was a light-bulb moment for me. It gave me the courage and the vocabulary to share why I don’t want to hold the workshop anymore. All the prep work, marketing, printing, emails are NOT in my desire zone. They hold a firm place in my drudgery and disinterest zone and have kept my freedom compass far from pointing north.

Here’s a time where my compass is pointing TRUE NORTH: explaining a group game at 88 CK workshop.

Here’s a time where my compass is pointing TRUE NORTH: explaining a group game at 88 CK workshop.


Bradley feels the same—the workshop is amazing when it’s up and running but the production work falls into his drudgery zone as well.

Saying yes to the workshop means saying “no” to our families and other opportunities and that needs to change.

So….there will be no more 88 Creative Keys workshops produced by Leila and Bradley.

That being said, we are open to offering the workshop content (in our desire zone!) in other locations. If planning and producing events for professional development is in YOUR desire zone, then this may be the gig for you and make sure to let us know.

The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say NO to almost everything.

-Warren Buffet

88 Creative Keys workshop teachers showcasing their freedom compasses.

88 Creative Keys workshop teachers showcasing their freedom compasses.


At this year’s 88CK workshop, a session was devoted to productivity and attendees even created their own freedom compass with old vinyl records.

They were pretty easy to make and I encourage you to do the same! Start by making a list of what you like to do and what you don’t like to do, cut out a paper compass, and attach it along with a foam arrow to an old record with a brad or round head fastener. Since every record has two sides, I’ve created a circle divided into four quarters to help you plan out your year.

Find an old record, cut out the circles and write in the tasks that fit in each zone, cut an arrow from foam paper poke a hole through the center of each circle and arrow and fasten all of them to the record with a brad.

Find an old record, cut out the circles and write in the tasks that fit in each zone, cut an arrow from foam paper poke a hole through the center of each circle and arrow and fasten all of them to the record with a brad.


Revisit your compass from month to month, adjust it to get the RIGHT things done and aim for TRUE NORTH!

To learn more, purchase Michael Hyatt’s book  Free to Focus: