Real winners put it in their schedule.
What may you ask?
Everything. Workouts, practice time, creative time.
50 minutes of focused work with a 10-minute break is a great way to organize work into hour-long chunks easily. Pick up an hourly planner and watch your life change.
See how Elon Musk handles his schedule. This guy runs more than 2 companies, and has 5 children.
Another technique is called Don’t Break The Chain. You set a fixed time that you will do one thing and do it every day until you hit the date. You’ll start to feel obligated to yourself to keep it going because you already invest so much and you don’t want to break the chain.
I find the planner and this chain method to be more effective than publicizing your goals to everybody, or telling people what you’re going to do as accountability partners. Wouldn’t it be cooler to show them when you’re already done? Telling everybody can lead to extrinsic motivations, worries about how you’re perceived, and massive guilt if you fail. The methods I’m discussing are great for building personal accountability and self-trust and avoiding those obstacles.
Time To Work
In this day and age, for creative fields, no bosses are checking your time sheets. It’s entirely up to you if you are going to get better at music. There are tons and tons of resources out there. We live in the information age. Information isn’t the problem, it’s our ability to discipline ourselves. We don’t even like that word as it sounds not fun and mega instant.
I started reading the First 20 Hours by Josh Kaufman. He explains that many of us don’t start seriously going after growing our skills because we’ve been told that it’ll take 10,000 hours. So we think, why even try if it’ll take that long?
10,000 hours is what it takes to achieve world-class skills at any one thing. The good news is that for most of the skills you want to learn, that isn’t really what you’re looking for. Take language learning for example, or getting better at communicating. There’s no way to measure that, and there is no world’s best. You just want to be good enough for your own purposes.
Josh states that it only takes the first 20 hours to really get into the thick of learning something, and it’s long enough to see progress. Imagine picking one core skill to focus on a month, and do 60-90 minutes of undistracted practice towards that.
It’s not just us thinking about doing things anymore. We can think about what we want to learn for years, and can emotionally drain ourselves doing so, without making any real progress.
The important thing is that you have to select one skill at a time. Emotionally, this sounds very scary to us. Picking one thing feels like giving up on everything else you want to do. The good news is that now we know it only takes about a month to get decent at something, so the things you didn’t pick first are only temporarily on pause.
If you don’t pick one skill, the free time in your day will be divided so much between the skills that there will be no “rapid skills acquisition”.
This breaks apart the idea of achieving skills being an impossible thing. One month an hour a day is very manageable.
Imagine your year like so:
February: Songwriting. (See the RPM Songwriting Challenge. 30 minutes of music in 30 days)
March: Sound Design (See Syntorial for a video-game like way of learning synthesis)
June: Film Scoring
How much do you think you could improve in each skill if you set aside one hour a day and focused on that one thing, for one month?
Josh says there’s a difference between learning and skill acquisition. Most people learn one style of learning in school, but that doesn’t translate to the real world, and we all know it. Learning is good, but only really useful with deliberate practice. ‘Learning’ by books is great for improving what you’re already doing, but cannot take the place of real work.
Quantity Over Quality
Josh lays this out. Imagine one side of a room in a pottery class will get graded on how many pots they produce, and the other side of the room will be graded on how good their one pot is. Who will do better? Clearly the quantity side.
But we as musicians get so attached to our precious babies of songs and work on them for months, even years. This is not ideal for seriously improving. We don’t want to be just kind of “doing music” while shopping for gear all the time. We’re looking to make serious strides in skill.
Reactivating old skills is even more comfortable to start this with. You already have the core sub-skills within you, just spending some time focusing on it again will awaken them. Pick up that old violin from high school that you haven’t touched in years.
What are you going to do with this information? Leave a comment below of your game plan.