As a creative, it can be hard to stick to a rigid schedule. Not only can your days involve being on the road or discovering unexpected opportunities that you can’t turn down (i.e., someone canceled a gig and they need you onstage!), but sometimes a creative mood can strike (or not strike) and the plans you made can go quickly out the window.
It is possible, however, to work as an independent creative and still maintain a routine that works within your lifestyle.
As humans, we crave routines. Even if you chose this path for the allure of its flexibility, our bodies do require some regulatory behavior, especially when everything around us feels untethered or unpredictable.
Time blocking is a great way to ensure you are spending time focusing on the things that matter without feeling as though every day needs to look and feel exactly the same. The beauty of time blocking is that it’s flexible with schedules that are always in flux. For example, if you’re on tour and each week there are different call times or travel times, you simply move the blocks on your calendar.
Time blocking also has the power to decrease “false urgency,” the feeling that everything is important in a given moment. Things feel urgent because we're afraid we'll never do them, but if you have time dedicated to that work you can rest easy knowing you have made the time, it's just not right now.
Each week you can take individual tasks/projects you need to focus on and figuratively “drag and drop” them into the time blocks you’ve created based on which category they fall into. Here's how to incorporate this concept into your regular planning ritual.
1. Analyze your current routine
First, look at your schedule for the past four weeks. If you don't write your schedule down, change that now. Spend some time thinking back and writing down everything you can remember; checking your social media posts can help with that. Dig into your daily activities, and start to notice patterns. When do you usually post online? When do you usually write music? When do you usually run personal errands?
There may not always be a clear pattern, but if you look at enough weeks, you'll start to see things stick out. As humans, we are creatures of habit and tend to fall into routines even when we're not trying to.
2. Write down everything you wish you could make time for each week
These aren't going to be specific tasks, but rather projects and larger priorities like:
- career development
- time with family
- collaborating, etc.
Figure out how many categories there are. Don't worry right now about fitting it all in; just brain dump.
3. Review your list and see if things overlap
For instance, you're not always going to be recording, so maybe writing/recording/mixing can all go under "Song Development," or maybe you won't exercise every day, but you'd rather exercise your mind and body so you can create a "Self Development" category. Seeing friends can be just as fun as seeing fellow industry people to collaborate with, so maybe you block out time for "Social Gatherings.”
In an ideal world, where would you like to see those categories fit? When would you like to practice Self Development? How many times a week do you feel you want/need to spend on Song Development? How often do you need to make time to see other people (for work or play) to feel satisfied?
4. Set your priorities
Based on how many categories are in each day, and taking into consideration eating, sleeping, day jobs and time buffers (i.e. traffic, meetings running long, etc.), how long can each of those given blocks be each day? An hour? Two hours? Fifteen minutes?
This is where your priorities really begin to become clear. It's easier to prioritize what to spend time on once you see how few hours there are in each day.
Understand that priorities change. Your career may take a front seat now while you promote a new release, and other times, other areas of your life will take a larger seat at the table. Do not, however, delete blocks you’ve created. You want to respect the time you’ve committed to a particular priority. Instead, simply switch where a block is on your calendar with something else when needed.
Consistently dedicating time to certain areas of your life will allow you to be consistent in the way you engage fans and build relationships, which is crucial for building a career in music, and enable you to feel centered and focused within an ever-changing environment.
Start time blocking your week by taking my free, three-day Get Sh*t Done Challenge, or tell us in the comments below what you vow to make a priority this week!
Suzanne Paulinski is a mindset coach and founder of The Rock/Star Advocate. She helps music industry professionals gain confidence and clarity in their goals with a healthy work/life balance. Her book,The Rock/Star Life Planner is now available on Amazon.