[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Hugh McIntyre. We know many artists have been dealing with an abundance of time on their hands, but this article offers some tips and habits that can stick around well after quarantine!]
One of the toughest things about making music is…actually finding the time to make music. We’ve been faced with plenty of articles about making music and being productive during quarantine, but how can artists develop habits during this time that stick once their schedules go back to normal? (And of course as we know, plenty of artists remain part- and full-time essential workers when they’re not creating music – and we salute them!)
Many superstar musicians talk about spending days or weeks in the studio, and while that sounds glamorous (and rigorous, to those who have actually done it), it’s completely out of the question for those who haven’t topped the charts yet. Millions of artists have to pen every lyric and make sure every note and melody is perfect before they pay for studio time, which they manage by holding down full-time day jobs or even part-time gigs.
Finding the time to make music (or for any passion pursuit, for that matter) is something that everybody struggles with, but it’s not impossible…though it does require some sacrifices.
If you’re having a hard time carving out some hours (or even just a couple of minutes here and there) — even during quarantine — to work on your art, here are a few suggestions that have worked for me in the past when I needed more time for what really mattered most to me.
We all love social media, and as a musician, it’s actually something that’s very important to your career. But that doesn’t give you a license to spend all your time on it. Sites like Twitter and Instagram can be addictive, and they are crafted to keep people’s eyeballs on them as long as possible, but you can break away and stop scrolling. I personally have an app called Stay Focused, which helps me do just that. I can make it block all social sites for a period of time, or only allow me a certain number of minutes or app opens per day.
There are countless programs like that, all created with the idea that we are now too addicted to social platforms and we may need some help limiting our screen time, which bit by bit sucks our days away.
Like social media, TV is something that is created specifically to keep us tuning in. We have to find out what happens at the end of the episode, and companies like Netflix encourage us to binge-watch. Quarantine has obviously contributed to an increase in this behavior. How is one to stop watching when there is so much great content out there?
Simply put, just don’t begin. Your friends may be texting you about that hilarious new show, or a movie they thought was touching, and while I’m sure they’re right (they’re probably not), you can decide that you have more important things in your life to spend your time on. While we’re stuck inside and entertainment can feel limited, it’s possible to make watching TV or movies a rare treat, as opposed to the norm.
Get Up Earlier
We all hate this idea, but it’s one that really works. Instead of going to bed late and rising even later, try shifting your schedule. Get under the covers at a reasonable time and set several alarms for the morning. You may want to make this a gradual process, shifting the time you rise earlier and earlier by increments.
Also, you may learn to perform well on seven hours of sleep instead of eight or more. I’m not going to sit here and tell you to deprive your body of the rest it needs, but you can make cuts and alterations that will allow you to gain back time that can be used to write, record, and play.
This is something I suggest to people whether they are looking to save time or not, since it’s actually a very helpful process. During these times, it’s likely something that more and more people have begun to focus on as a necessity.
Take one evening every week and set it aside to cook. Make whatever meals you’re going to need for the coming seven days (or fewer, if necessary) and prep them all at once, storing them in your fridge for later.
This way, you have cheap, healthy, tasty meals ready at any time of day or night. You might be surprised how much time you spend every day (not to mention money if you’re often ordering) preparing food to eat!
Turn Everything Off
When you’ve found the time to write, learn your instrument, record, and so on, make sure you only use it for those purposes. Don’t do all this work just to waste your valuable time on your phone, watching YouTube videos, or texting with friends.
Turn everything off, don’t look at your mobile device, don’t go on the internet, and set a goal for that session. It may be simply to organize lyrics or play around with sounds, but knowing what you want to do and actually accomplishing it is huge. If you’re not careful, all that extra time can end up being wasted in ways you’d never imagined.