First of all, I do not like the term: "time-management". It is a bit pretentious to think that we, humans that we are, can control and manage something that is beyond us, such as time. We cannot get more hours, we cannot stop time. The question is not how can we manage time to be more productive, but how can we manage ourselves to achieve our musical goals?
⏱️ This article is not about tips and tricks about time and productivity. What I intend to do is to share some information I have learned over time, that has helped me understand what is important to me, musically speaking, and how to prioritize my tasks to achieve my goals.
The key is to ask yourself the right questions:
- Why do I want to manage my time?
- Is it worth it to spend this time on this or that task?
The modern world is all about productivity. We always have to be productive.
This idea has become so embedded in our culture that if we are not been productive, we feel guilty. And yes, this affects artists and musicians as well.
Many times we go on autopilot towards a goal, and when we reach it we feel empty inside. As if we will never satisfy our need to get somewhere.
Has it ever happened to you that you prepare for a concert with a lot of energy and commitment, but when the concert is over, you don't feel the gratification you expected to feel?
If the answer is yes, this might be because you do not think about the real purpose of what we are doing. Therefore, you must stop for a moment and think about it.
There was a time when I felt a lot of pressure to learn another instrument. I already knew how to play the guitar and the violin, but I needed to take things to another level. I bought a trumpet and started taking lessons. Back then I was in college and I had a full-time job. I wasn't spending time on what I loved and cared about the most: composing. Nor was I making any progress on the trumpet. I was VERY frustrated. One day, I realized being a multi-instrumentalist was never an important goal for me. It was never a genuine desire to become a trumpet player. What I cared about was composing, so I decided to focus on that.
Also, we ought to break the unhealthy idea that giving ourselves time to enjoy and rest is not productive. It is productive! We are investing in our well-being.
🗺️ Roadmap and visualization
As I mentioned, we have limited time. We need to be realistic regarding how much time we can and want to invest in our music.
After you determine how much time you will invest in your music per day, make a deep commitment to respect and accomplish that. Bear in mind, it is better to practice half an hour per day rather than 6 hours straight every now and then. Progress in music is about being consistent.
Now is the time to ask yourself another question: what do I want with music?
Be honest to yourself, no aspiration is too big, no dream is forbidden to be dreamed.
Once you answer this question, it is time to ask yourself:
- When will I accomplish my aspirations?
- What do I need to do to get there?
You can then create a roadmap and start moving forward.
Have always your goals in mind. This will help you prioritize how you invest your time.
🧘 The art of focus
Never forget, it's all about practicing smart, not practicing hard. One hour with total concentration and dedication is worth more than several hours distracted and tired.
Engaging in mindfulness with a clear sense of openness and curiosity is scientifically proven to offer a huge range of benefits, most notably boosting our overall well-being and reducing stress. Also, it enables us to become more attuned to the present moment, which will help us to stay focused while practicing or studying music.
What about deadlines & commitments?
Sometimes we have deadlines (tests, recitals, gigs, etc.) that we have to respect. When this happens we do not need to find more time, what we need is to concentrate only on those commitments. Don't spend two hours studying scales if you have a concert this week, prepare for the concert and when it passes, get back to your study routine.
🗓️ How to keep up with the agenda
Perhaps the hardest part is to remain motivated. For this I suggest the following:
✅ Set up achievable goals
Dreaming big, one step at a time. No matter how big your dream is, establish small goals that you can achieve. For instance, if you want to be an excellent blues guitar player, you can set some goals as learning some iconic songs and learning all the techniques you need to master to play them correctly. Naturally, the skills will get stronger, and one day, without even realizing it, you will have improved enormously.
✅ Recognize what motivates you
When you find it hard to keep up with the agenda, listen to your idols and remember why you are doing what you are doing.
If you don't feel like practicing, at least take the time to play with your instrument or listening to music.
Also, reward yourself when you reach a goal 💪.
✅ What works for you?
Do not try to follow someone else's recipe. Find your own way of doing things.
For instance, if you are easily distracted, take 5-minute breaks every 20 minutes.
The process should be fun, we need to feel good to stay motivated.
✅ Track time and progress
✍️ Write down your goals, put them on a calendar and follow on up your progress. Seeing in writing how we are progressing is really motivating!
⏳ Also, track your time and respect the times you set for each aspect you are studying.
It has happened to me many times that I start studying without paying attention to the time. When I realize, I spent all the time I had only studying scales. Now I am always aware of the time I am dedicating to each task. This helps me to effectively dedicate time to scales, techniques, speed, composition, etc.
The big picture
Nothing can be more important than your health. Having a healthy mind allows you to concentrate better. Having a healthy body allows you to play your instrument better. Don't sacrifice lunch for an extra hour of study time. Don't sacrifice your health and sleep for studying music a little longer. It's not worth it.
I hope this helps you manage yourself to reach your musical goals. And please! Please remember: don’t overwork and don’t forget to relax.
See you next time!