How To Find Time for Your Music Without Feeling Overwhelmed
This is an excerpt from Better Mixes in Less Time, which you can get as a free bonus free with Step By Step Mixing.
A book that I highly recommend everyone should read is The One Thing, by Gary Keller. In it, Keller said:
“When you see someone who has a lot of knowledge, they learned it over time. When you see someone who has a lot of skills, they developed them over time. When you see someone who has done a lot, they accomplished it over time. When you see someone who has a lot of money, they earned it over time. The key is over time.”
Reading that, it’s no wonder you can’t mix fast if you’re just starting out.
You haven’t done it enough to create “mixing muscle memory.” Unfortunately, as much as I want to give you a magic pill for mixing faster, I can’t perform miracles. There is still a learning curve of repetition over time that needs to happen before you can truly mix fast.
Fortunately, you’ll bypass some of the trial and error by applying what you learn here.
One of the best ways to learn to mix quickly is through scheduled, deliberate practice.
That means blocking out times when the only thing you focus on is improving your mixing skills, not checking email, updating your Facebook feed, responding to Twitter, and posting on Gearslutz while you’re trying to mix a song. Instead, you’ll completely clear your schedule to make your mix sound good. No distractions and no exceptions. You’ll improve much more with an hour of deliberate mixing practice where you fully immerse yourself in the process than if you’re constantly multi-tasking between different things.
Even if you think you spent an hour mixing, you’d be lucky if you get 15 minutes of true focus with all the constant interruptions you’re imposing upon yourself.
1. How to Make Time for Mixing (Or Making Music in General)
One of the scarcest resources we have is time.
Everybody shares the same frustrations when it comes to managing their time: there never seems to be enough of it. While everybody has the same number of hours in every day, why is it that some people seem to achieve so much more than others?
The answer is how they spend their time – defending it from distractions.
The biggest difference between highly productive people and procrastinators is that highly productive people view time differently. They prioritize and they make time whenever and wherever they can. You can easily accomplish just as much if you’re really honest with yourself about how you actually spend your time.
High-performing, productive people prioritize their tasks, focus on getting them done, and don’t procrastinate with time-sucking activities.
2. Audit Your Time to Find the Gaps
If you want to become a productive person you have to be honest with yourself about how you manage your time.
It’s time for a time audit. It’s not easy trying to squeeze in some music production time if you have a full-time job and a family. However, if you have time for hobbies and “hanging out” then you have time to be productive in the studio.
Ask yourself, “What periods of time in my schedule go to waste?”
Find those times and schedule them for production.
If you work a full-time job, are you able to squeeze in an hour of beat-making after work? Or can you get up an hour early and get some mixing done? If you can find an hour here and there you’ll find that there’s actually more time in the day than you thought.
Once you know exactly where you can schedule your “Audio Production Hour” then it’s time to become fiercely loyal to it.
That means putting it on your schedule and sticking to the routine.
For example, the comedian Mike Birbiglia has a great method for his writing routine. He simply sets a meeting with himself at 7:30 in the morning at a coffee shop where he goes to write. Although he is only meeting himself, it’s the psychology of setting a meeting that you can’t miss that makes this habit so effective. Even if he has a million things to do that day, he can’t miss this meeting with himself.
You can do the same thing. Set a regular meeting with yourself that you cannot miss and all you do is work on your mixes.
3. Put it on the Calendar
Having something as simple as a calendar reminder is an effective way to stay on track.
For myself, if I want it to get done, it has to go on the calendar. Otherwise, I’ll just forget about it. I’m sure you’re the same way. So make sure you track the wasted time in your schedule throughout the week and then put it on the calendar with a purpose next week.
This is extremely important if you have a full-time job and need to squeeze in time here and there between responsibilities.
But it’s also important for those of us who have a flexible work schedule.
Flexibility can become a curse in such a way that if you have the freedom to do everything, you end up doing nothing at all. If you have the whole day to mix you’ll often find that at the end of the day, you forgot to even start. If you don’t schedule a block of time to focus on mixing then you’ll just get distracted with all the other random noise life throws at you.
But if you put it on the calendar and show up for it, you’ll become better over time.
Use your calendar app, whether that’s Google Calendar, iCal, or just a plain analog paper calendar. Write down the times you’ll be working on audio and commit to them. If you can’t commit to the work, who else is going to do it?
4. Eliminate Distractions
Once you commit to the time you set on your calendar, don’t think your inner procrastinator is going away.
Oh no. He’ll try as hard as he can to distract you and make you waste your time until your hour is over. If you want to succeed in being productive and actually finish a mix quickly, you have to eliminate the distractions that keep you away from your work.
- Closing your browser.
- Shutting off push notifications on both your phone and your computer.
- Notifying your family or roommates that you are not to be disturbed while working.
- Closing the door to your home studio.
Once you eliminate these distractions you’ll have created a singular focus for the entire duration of your mixing process.
Think of it like metaphorical horse blinders. You’re trying to clear everything away from your field of vision so that you can focus on the one thing that’s most important during that hour.
5. Set Deadlines
If setting aside time to focus on mixing is easy for you, there might be something else that’s hindering your mixing success.
“The No Deadline Effect”
If you don’t actually have to send a mix to a client or release your music, you’ll inevitably destroy your mix with continuous, unnecessary tweaking.
If you don’t give yourself a deadline to call the mix finished it’ll slowly unravel. Your incessant tweaking will make your mix die by a thousand cuts.
Only this time it’s not from Chinese Imperialist torture, but from your inability to put your EQ down.
Where to start?
Once you’ve understood the thought process of setting time with yourself, eliminating distractions, and having a deadline you can finally get started.
That brings me to the question:
“Out of all the ways I can tackle a mix, what should I focus on?!?”
For a truly productive mixing workflow, you need a process so that you know exactly what you should be focusing on at every moment.
If that’s something you’re interested in, read the in-depth mixing process that’s helped thousands of musicians and producers make great mixes inside Step By Step Mixing.