While not having enough time might be difficult, having ‘too much’ time can equally pose difficulties in terms of creativity.
There are a variety of time management tactics out there that can help you orient yourself toward productivity, whether you have very little free time or are trying to successfully employ a surplus of it. I’ll look at four of the most effective techniques for keeping creative and productive while managing your time below.
1. Be deliberate about how you set aside time
Set aside time to listen to music on a regular basis, even if it’s only for an hour every few days (or any other activity of your choice). Rather than making a mental note, write it down in some physical form, such as a calendar block or a phone alert. If possible, make that time a regular block (for example, the same day and time every week) so that it gets engrained in your daily pattern. Close that YouTube tab, put your phone on the other side of the room, etc. During the time you’ve set apart, eliminate anything you know to be your biggest distractions. When it comes to time management, it’s less about the number of hours you have and more about how you spend them.
2. Don’t let a single project stifle your creativity
Sometimes we get stuck on a single component of a project we’re working on, whether it’s an unwritten bridge or a difficult mix, and the creative aggravation prevents us from opening our DAW at all. If you find yourself sliding into this trap, either put that job on hold for a while and attempt something else, or make a creative conclusion, take a big breath, and move on rather than tweaking constantly.
If you have trouble committing to creative decisions, try taking part in recurring challenges with short deadlines, such as remix contests, Songwriting Club, or Weekly Rhythm suggestions. These kind of tasks will teach you to finish musical ideas, or at the very least to be alright with going on with something that isn’t your (likely unreachable) definition of “perfect.” Due to the fact that time is a finite resource, deadlines will naturally encourage you to be more effective with it.
3. Find a partner who will hold you accountable
Find someone to whom you can routinely report and celebrate your success, whether it’s another musician, a partner, or a completely non-musical acquaintance. Tell them about what you want to do and when you want to accomplish it by, and ask them to do the same for you, if it makes sense to them. You’ll discover that you have greater incentive to finish the task at hand now that you have someone other than yourself who is aware of your objectives and a deadline that isn’t completely in your mind — for better or worse, many of us will work harder to avoid disappointing others than ourselves.
Finding the right personality may be more important than finding someone who shares your exact goals when it comes to finding an accountability partner; make sure the person is someone who genuinely pushes you to succeed while also not beating you up if you don’t quite achieve everything you hoped for. Find someone you truly want to see succeed and aren’t hesitant to (gently) intervene if they require assistance. Begin by holding each other responsible to modest, short-term objectives (for example, “By the end of the week, I’ll finish recording vocals up to the first chorus of this new demo”), then work your way up.
4. Don’t be scared to step away for a while
Procrastinators understand that if you aren’t productive, you won’t be able to truly appreciate the creative process or whatever you’re doing to avoid it. While it’s crucial to push away distractions while working, after you’ve put in the hours, find some time when you can relax and unwind without having to think about anything else. Whether you’re watching Netflix, reading a book, meeting up with a buddy, or plunging into the newest game you’ve been longing to play, fully immerse yourself in whatever leisure activity you’re doing. Remember to keep an eye on the clock and schedule your breaks ahead of time, but don’t be hard on yourself if you need to take a break — in fact, often the things you like doing outside of the DAW are the same things that spark the inspiration for your next magnum opus.
Do you have any techniques for keeping creative and productive while managing your time that we didn’t include that have worked for you? Please let me know in the comments section below.