With the stream of income from live gigs on hold, artists have had to find other ways to support themselves. Maybe you’ve been lucky enough to pick up some extra work to make up for the loss of income, or perhaps you already have a full-time job that helps to fund your music and pay the bills.
Whatever your situation, we know what a struggle it can be trying to balance work, life and a music career. We know what it feels like to never have enough time to get everything done, and when there is a window of time, we can often lack energy and creativity.
But if you want a music career bad enough you will find the time to make it happen. Did you know that many successful artists started out balancing day jobs? Kanye West worked at Gap. Freddie Mercury owned a market stall. David Bowie was a delivery boy. The list goes on.
Learning how to squeeze in the time for your music can be hard, but we’re here to help. Managing your time is simply a skill. Practise it, and over time you will master it.
In this post, we will share our tips and advice on how to find that balance. Just cause you gotta pay the bills, doesn’t mean that music has to go on the back burner.
How to get sh*t done.
Does your head ever feel swamped by the endless stream of thoughts and things that you need to get done? Turns out if you just leave them in there it’s just like having too many tabs open on a computer until it slows down and crashes. No wonder you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Author David Allen has said: “your brain is for having ideas, not holding them.” Our minds aren’t meant to be storage facilities. The key is to empty our minds so that we have the mental space to be creative and work effectively. It’s about actually doing the tasks, not just thinking about doing them.
David Allen’s method ‘Getting Things Done (GTD)’ can help you keep track of all your ideas, tasks and projects:
Capture your ideas – When a thought comes into your head – whether it’s a lyric idea or needing to reply to an email – write it down straight away.
Process them – Which of these thoughts can be acted on? The ones that can’t, discard them or put them away for another time. The thoughts that can will need to be converted from an idea into an action with a desired outcome.
For example, the thought “Zoom jam session” pops into your head. Convert this to: “speak to bandmates about scheduling in a Zoom session.” Your desired outcome is to “write a new song”. So your next action is to “record jam session”, then “listen back” and “give feedback” and so on.
Any tasks that take less than two minutes to do, do it there and then. If your task is time-specific add it to your calendar, if it needs to be done asap add it to your ‘next actions’ list. If it’s not as urgent, add it to your ‘follow up’ list.
Review – Always review how your actions are contributing towards your goals.
Break up your workload.
A handy way to manage a project with multiple tasks is to write them down and number them from 1-10 for example. Then, schedule them in your calendar e.g., ‘on Monday I will complete tasks 1-3.’ This way you are breaking up your workload into manageable chunks and not overwhelming yourself with every aspect of the project all at once.
How badly do you want a career in music? If it’s something that you want more than anything then it’s gotta be a top priority. You’ll need to see your music-making as important as the job that’s funding it.
This means being prepared to make some sacrifices. You may sometimes miss out on some social activities – but remember, by saying ‘yes’ to one thing, you are saying ‘no’ to another. Would you rather miss out on your dream music career? If you want a music career you gotta ask yourself, what will help me get there? Will going to the pub, watching Netflix or scrolling through Instagram help me get there? Start prioritising the things that will help get you to the place you want to be.
Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ not only to your friends but to yourself. It’s about self-discipline. If you’ve scheduled a recording session, but then some new lyric ideas pop into your head – of course, capture them, but don’t start working on something else until you have finished what you intended to do.
Schedule in the time.
Pick a time (or a few times) each week to dedicate to your music. We advise you to choose a time when you are the most productive and have the most energy. This will differ for every artist – for one artist 7am will be the best time, for another, 7pm is better. Work around your day (or night) job and find what works best for you.
Once you’ve determined when this time is, schedule it into your calendar and commit to it. However, we all know that things don’t always go to plan. You might have a songwriting session scheduled in, but when it comes down to it, you just can’t seem to get into the zone. This is where having a backlog of to-do’s that require less brainpower – such as pre-production or admin tasks, comes in handy. You can resort to these when you’re just not feeling creative. Alternatively, we know that creativity can come unexpectedly, so if you get into the right groove on a whim, go with it.
As we’ve mentioned before: ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail.’ One of the best ways you can manage your time effectively (and save time) is to plan ahead by doing things such as:
- Scheduling in your social media posts – so that you don’t need to worry about posting during your work hours.
- Sticking some food in the slow cooker, or batch cooking – so that you don’t need to cook after work.
- Setting up your studio space in advance – so that you can get home and get creating straight away.
Separate your work space from your music space.
Part of getting the right balance is separating your work from your music. With a lot of people working from home at the moment, achieving this balance physically as well as mentally, is more important than ever.
Having a workspace that doesn’t double up as your home studio is a lot easier if you don’t work from home. You can leave work at work and come home and get cracking.
But for those who are home working, try to keep your work in one designated area and make your music in another. We understand this isn’t always possible. So what if you have to work and make your music in the same space? Not ideal, but do-able by having different set-ups, different laptops and doing things like changing up the vibe and lighting to help you get into the creative zone.
Take advantage of having bandmates or a team behind you. Communicate with them and see if they’re able to help out with the tasks that you know won’t have the time to do. Maybe some of them work fewer hours than you do – and vice versa. Divvy up the responsibilities of a project and commission people to do tasks such as making your artwork so that you can focus on the music.
And if you have a manager, even better, as they can take care of more of the admin while you focus on the creative.
Find little pockets of time.
You may always be on the go, but there’s always little windows of time here and there that you can utilise, such as your commute to work, your lunch or coffee breaks, or even a bathroom break (trust us, the acoustics are great.) Even Sir Paul McCartney finished writing some of his songs on the toilet! In these windows of time, listen to music, reply to that email and grab your ideas as soon as they come to you because we all know that inspiration can strike anywhere at any time.
If you do work from home currently, then take advantage of this. Make use of the time you would be commuting, or you could fit in a songwriting session on your lunch break if that works for you (of course don’t get carried away and forget you need to get back to work though).
Communicate with your employer.
If you’re working a job that could interfere with your music, it’s important to be upfront with your employer and colleagues about it. For example, if you do shift work, there may be evenings where you need to swap shifts due to music commitments (and in normal circumstances, gigs).
If you’re working from home, have a chat with your employer about whether you can have more flexible hours. Maybe you’re able to start and finish earlier or later to suit your music schedule better.
Find a job in the industry.
We know it’s tough out there right now, but one of the best things you can do is to find any job in the music industry, or a related industry. Not only will you be working in a field that you love and inspires you on the daily, but you will be learning some new skills along the way that could benefit your career as an artist. More importantly, you will be networking with lots of like-minded people and making contacts (remember it’s who you know).
Always make time for self-care.
“If you don’t make time for your wellness you will be forced to make time for your illness.” It’s about finding that healthy balance so that you don’t overwork yourself and end up burning out. Although you may see music as your downtime, it’s important to take breaks away from it so that you can return to it with a refreshed perspective and new ideas. We can’t stress enough how important it is to have some downtime and a break.
Get enough sleep. If you’re hustling a 9-5 and making music simultaneously, your body needs to recover from all that hard work. You also need to fuel your body and mind with a good diet and exercise. Even a walk around the block or some time surrounded by nature can help give you some much-needed space away from your lively life.
Remind yourself why you started in the first place.
It’s so easy to slip into a routine of going to work, getting home, having dinner and just clocking out for the day. Sometimes you’re gonna be so knackered, you can’t function. You’ll ask yourself, why do I put myself through all this? Remember, you’re only human. That’s why it’s vital to remind yourself of why you’re doing this. Remind yourself of why you want a career in music. Remind yourself of your goals. Continue to feed your inspiration everyday. If you want it enough, you will do everything in your power to make it happen.
We believe in you.
Are you currently trying to balance university or study and music? We’ve got some words of wisdom for you too – read our blog post here.