When you’re a parent or have a demanding full-time job or both, it’s hard to find time to work on music.
In fact, it’s much easier to forget about music for weeks at a time and only wake up every few months feeling discouraged and defeated because, despite all of our efforts, it looks like we’ve made no progress…
Here are 4 techniques that helped me stay focused and move forward with my music career WITHOUT affecting my day job negatively.
I used these 4 techniques to write 56 tracks in 6 months while I was traveling and working full-time as a contracts compliance auditor for a Fortune 500 company. Here’s what I did…
Not sure it’s wise to start with this one because it’s one of the scariest thing I ever did but let’s go for it anyway! If you’re still around for technique #2, I’ll know you’re a true warrior! :)))
So…. the switcherooooo…. what’s that?
It’s when instead of going to bed late (say 2AM) and waking up late (say 1PM), you start getting up at 5:30am every morning and recording music before heading to the office….
I promise it’s doable and not even painful!!!
Let me explain how I did it….
First thing you need to know: I consider myself a night owl and a BIG sleeper. I like to go to bed late (say 2-3am) and I like to sleep A LOT (10-11 hours is far from unusual).
I’m not exaggerating. I’ve been this way since I was a kid.
So when a mentor of mine suggested I try working on music BEFORE going to the office in the morning, I was willing to try but not super confident I could pull it off….
Here’s what made it work
1. I said I would wake up at 5:30am for 7 days in a row, no more, no less.
That seemed a small enough commitment. If he was right and it could change my life, it was worth a shot.
2. I went to bed early. Lights off by 10pm to be precise.
In order to help me actually go to sleep around that time and not just lie there, I would follow 2 rules:
no screen time after 8pm
read a book for a minimum of 30 minutes (I set a timer and everything!!!)
Well guess what?
Now it wasn’t easy and the first 5-10 minutes after getting out of bed stung! BUT….
♦ after a nice shower and good breakfast, I was ready to go and record music.
♦ by the time I had to head down to the office at 8:30am, I was full of energy!
I can’t even begin to describe the feelings of pride and contentment and accomplishment that I would experience on my way to work.
By the time I opened my inbox in the office,
I had already completed the most important task of my day!
Now I’m not saying you should wake up at 5am for the rest of your life….
I go in and out of this particular habit. Sometimes it’s just not the right period for me because my family needs me awake at 11pm or I just want to enjoy a lie in.
All I’m suggesting is you give it a try for 7 days in a row and see how that works out for you and your music.
The ONE Thing
As you know, being an indie musician can be very lonely and overwhelming.
One book that has helped me IMMENSELY along the way is The ONE Thing, by Jay Papasan and Gary Keller.
It’s one of those rare cases where I think the audiobook may actually be even better than the paperback (although I still purchased the paperback!!!)
I enjoy the audiobook because the message that’s pushed across the book bares repetition and it’s nice to have someone whisper it in your earbuds every now and then!!!
So the core message of the book is fairly straight forward:
“What is the ONE thing that I could do that would make all the other things either EASIER or UNNECESSARY?”
I’ll let you read that sentence a few times before moving on…..
So this is sooooooo obvious!!! Right?
It makes so much sense!
Yes, OF COURSE! I should focus on the ONE thing that makes everything else easier or unnecessary!
And yet…. we keep forgetting this.
We start with great intentions but get lost along the way!
Ok so maybe you’re not quite sure why this concept is so powerful and how it applies to you as an indie musician….
Let me give you a few examples:
Task 1: managing social media
We’ve all been there… staring at our Twitter feed feeling…. uninspired….
Here are a couple of things you could do:
you could use services like Buffer, Meet Edgar, Crowdfire or Promo Republic and dedicate ONE afternoon a week/month to find inspiration and schedule posts (becomes a little easier)
you could take a couple of hours to review your experience with these platforms (personal enjoyment, analytics) and decide to focus on 1 or 2 instead of ALL of them (becomes much easier)
you could give up on social media all together and go 100% local. It’s been done before! Remember? The 1990s weren’t that long ago 😛 (becomes unnecessary)
Task 2: uploading your tracks to stock music libraries for licensing opportunities
This can easily take one hour PER TRACK if you’re not organized. You spend at least one hour coming up with the right keywords and track description every time you upload a track to a new production music library for licensing….
Here are some things that you could do that would make everything else easier or necessary:
you could hire someone to do this for you (becomes unnecessary)
you could create a catalogue tracker where you’d write down all the metadata information for each track so that next time you upload a track in a new library, all you have to do is copy/paste the information instead of going through the exercise all over again (becomes easier)
Task 3: recording a great vocal
This one’s coming from personal experience! It used to take me aaaaaages to record a good vocal. So, so much time!
It was incredibly time-consuming and energy-draining BUT, most importantly, it kind of killed my confidence…
I’d feel bad because I just couldn’t quite make my vocals work and that loss of confidence started impacting my entire creative process.
So…. what’s the ONE thing I did to make recording a great vocal COMPLETELY unnecessary?
I decided I’d focus ENTIRELY on writing, recording and producing instrumental music.
Now I only record vocals when I really feel like it. If I’m not feeling it, I’m not forcing it! haha this sounds like a cheesy quote, doesn’t it?! 😀
I could have gone and asked a more experienced producer to record and mix my vocals. I could have hired a professional singer to record my songs. Both these options are great and would have made things easier.
I decided I might as well skip the vocals all together!
Getting an Accountability Partner
This one is both easy and tricky…..
The concept is simple: you team up with someone and check-in with them regularly.
The execution is tricky:
how do you choose your accountability partner?
how often do you meet?
should you meet online or in person?
should your focus be professional or personal?
There is no right or wrong answer here but, for what it’s worth, here are a few things you might want to keep in mind.
Choose someone who is a good fit for YOU
It may take a while for you to find that person but here are a few guidelines:
identify people who are similarly driven, i.e. they will also benefit from the accountability meetings
that doesn’t mean they should work on similar projects or have similar objectives
in fact, it helps if you’re not competitors. You don’t want accountability meetings to start stirring up weird, envious emotions in either of you…
for the same reason, I’d avoid teaming up with a friend (more on that later).
Meet often enough that you stay on your toes
I have two accountability partners. One I talk to once a month (hi Matthew!). The other I talk to once a week (hi Angelo!).
Initially, I spoke weekly with both. But, after a few months, it made sense for Matthew and I to talk less frequently. It came super naturally, we discussed it and voila! Now we check-in with each other once a month.
Why did it make sense to space out our meetings? Simple really…. He started a very demanding full-time job and only had 3-4 quality hours to work on his projects every week.
That meant he had little time to make progress and there wasn’t much to discuss on a weekly basis AND…. most importantly, …. the extra free hour in his week was nothing to sneeze at!
Although talking to me is obviously delightful and that was a huge loss 😛
Now with Angelo, it’s a bit different. For a long time we were moving forward at a similar pace.
Recently, however, he’s had a LOT of additional stuff on his plate (on top of his day job) so the project for which he needed accountability has been put on the back-burner.
We talked about speaking less frequently, but realized the calls are still helpful for both of us. So for now, we’re sticking with the weekly calls.
All this to say that you’ll figure it out!
Nothing is set in stone so you don’t have to worry about making a mistake. You’re both human beings. It’ll be fine 😉
Online saves a lot of time
You can meet in person, of course. That can add to the connection you have with your accountability partner.
Here are the advantages I find in meeting online:
removes any fear of meeting up with a serial killer (yes, I need to cut down on Criminal Minds….)
can still do it when traveling (time zones permitting)
easier to get away if it doesn’t go well
As a side note, my accountability partners are in Cleveland and Hong Kong so YES, I’m trying to play my cards right so I can visit at some point 😛
At first at least.
As mentioned above, I don’t advise asking a friend to become an accountability partner.
That’s because there are a lot of conflicting, complicated emotions in friendships, including jealousy, envy, urge to one-up the other.
Of course you love your friends and your friends love you but, for some weird reason, it’s hard to be fair and objective with them.
Finding a Mentor
If you’ve tried accountability partners before and they haven’t worked out for you, it might be worth reaching out to a mentor.
An accountability partner is someone who is more or less “at your level”. You learn from each other and hold each other accountable.
On the other hand, a mentor is someone who is “ahead of you”.
That doesn’t mean they’re smarter, richer, superior, whatever “-er” you can think of.
It just means that they have or know something you don’t.
Of course, a mentor might end up learning a lot from you too but the premise of the relationship is YOU are reaching out to THEM, looking for inspiration, advice, direction, experience, etc.
In the intro, I mentioned I used these 4 tricks to write, record and produce 56 in 6 months while traveling across the globe for my 9 to 5 job.
Since then, I quit my job and have been using the same 4 techniques to start 2 new projects:
I’m not writing all this to give myself a pat on the back (although I probably should do that more often and certainly need the pick-me-up right now…. I really have been rejected a LOT these past couple of weeks!!)
I’m writing this to show you I’m not only talking the talk. I’m also walking the walk. You reading these words is proof of that 🙂
So here’s my challenge to you….
Pick ONE (only one!) of the 4 techniques described above and take action RIGHT NOW!!!!
⇒ ⇒ if you pick the Switcheroo, go buy a $5 alarm clock right now! Make sure you put it somewhere that forces you to get out of bed in the morning.
⇒ ⇒ if you pick The ONE Thing, set 3 daily reminders in your calendar asking this question: “Am I working on my ONE thing right now?”
⇒ ⇒ if you pick the Accountability Partner, start looking for one RIGHT NOW! Actually send an email or text or whatever works for you asking a fellow musician or entrepreneur if they’d be up for a quick 30 minute catch up every few weeks. The frequency of your meetings doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that you agree on a pre-determined schedule and understand your common objective is to keep each other accountable.
⇒ ⇒ if you pick Mentorship, reach out to 1 person who you feel can help you RIGHT NOW. Again, it’s important that you take action and reach out to potential mentors. Some will answer and have time for you. Others might not. That’s ok. If you don’t get the answer you’re hoping for, try someone else….