We like to help musicians and creatives stay on the ball and be as productive as possible, which is why we had to share a review of something that’s been sweeping the GBM office and is genuinely changing how our musicians work and make music.
Sometimes getting yourself stuck in the studio can be limiting to your creativity. You stick to the same routine, the same starting points, and often this can restrict how adventurous you are.
So, as we established in our last blog, one of the best ways to make progress with a long drawn out creative process is to break it down into shorter, less intimidating chunks, and to limit the amount of time we spend on it.
By doing a little each day, we generate good creative habits, and bypass the kind of pressure that can encourage writer’s block and lead to long spells ignoring the projects you should be working on.
If you’re signed up to this way of thinking, then you’re going to love the Pomodoro Method.
This is a handy technique that you can apply to any walk of life, whether you’re at work struggling with a tricky project, or cleaning at home and needing a little motivation.
The Pomodoro Method is a simple way to boost your productivity, but used wisely, it can be incredibly effective.
The basic principle of the technique says that you should break up large tasks into small chunks of time – these are called Pomodoros , the Italian word for tomato.
So you approach your musical project, and work -solidly- for 25 minutes on it, without taking a break, and getting distracted procrastinating. If an idea, or a distraction comes into your mind, simply write it down and carry on with your work.
This is where the tomatoes come in, if you’re wondering, as the creator, Francesco Cirillo, used a novelty tomato shaped kitchen timer to keep track of his 25 minute bursts.
At the end of this 25 minutes – and this is key, no matter how motivated you’re feeling – you have to stop. You then take a five minute break, before beginning another 25 minute spurt.
By breaking up the task like this, it becomes infinitely less complex and intimidating. Once you’ve completed four pomodoros, you can relax for a while, and enjoy a 25 minute break.
Suddenly, instead of needing to create the best piece of music ever heard, all you need to do is feel happy that you’ve worked hard for 25 minutes on your project. By subtly shifting your goals like this, you can beat down the psychological issues that stop progress, and begin to make real progress on your projects.
You’ll find that the more you do it the better trained you become at sitting down and putting in a solid 25 minutes of effort.
Over time, you’ll find that you’re using your time more effectively, making more progress and feeling more inspired. Give it a try and let us know how it goes!
Just like with any long creative project, when you’re making an album, one of the main challenges you’ll face is finding the motivation to stick with it through the tough times, and actually get the work done.
Following through on a goal like this can be incredibly challenging, and it’s especially tricky with a lengthy project, as you don’t get the immediate rewards that you do with shorter, simpler tasks. This means it’s incredibly easy to be sidetracked and distracted by other more pressing ideas or concerns.
Consider the number of people who start a novel, or being a new exercise regime, only to quickly forget about it without trace within a few months. There’s a reason we have New Year’s resolutions every year – few people have the willpower to stick to their goals over the long-term.
Creating something like a music album takes dedication and hard work, but also commitment. So how do you see a project through to its completion? Well, one of the best ways to do so, is to work on turning your creativity into a habit. And then to focus on making sure that habit sticks.
This is easier said than done, but the benefits of doing a little, everyday are huge. Slowly but surely, you’ll build up unstoppable momentum, and begin to see real progress in your creative projects.
Managing your time
“I don’t have time.” This is one of the most common responses people come out with when they’re asked why they’ve not managed to meet their creative goals.
In 99% of cases, this is a cop out, you just need to be creative.
Changing your mindset is key to creating a new creative habit that you will actually stick with. You can always find time to do something if it’s important to you, and you really want to.
So whether it’s when you visit the bathroom, while you’re travelling to work on the bus, or whether it’s simply blocking Facebook on your computer and using that time productively, it’s time to make a promise to commit yourself to 15 minutes of creative time each day.
If you want to do more, then by all means do so, but be wary that the bigger the commitment you make, the more likely you are to fall back on it.
Fifteen minutes may not sound like a very long time – and it isn’t – but by working on your project every day, you can break it down into smaller, manageable chunks, which will be beneficial for your motivation and productivity. Our brains simply can’t handle with huge tasks like this, unless we break them up, and take them piece by piece.
The key is to be disciplined, and to stop when you’ve reached your target, basking in the glory of completing each short term goal. It’s simple really. Rather than looking at the long run, and feeling discouraged at how much work you still need to do, you’re recalibrating your brain to focus on easily achievable tasks, that add up to a greater sum over time.
It may sound counter-intuitive to stop once you’ve reached your daily goal of 15 minutes, but if you keep pushing past your goal, your brain will quickly twig that you’re not disciplined with it, and you’ll start to feel demotivated – because you’ll subconsciously feel like you should be doing more every time you sit down at your studio. This will lead to you falling off the wagon.
Cementing your habit
Psychologists say that a new habit needs at least 30 days to bed in, so be ruthless with yourself during this period.
Working in this way also helps you to beat issues like writer’s block and avoid wasting time on projects, or burning yourself out with mammoth undertakings.
We’ve all had that feeling that comes with spending hours on a track, only to listen to it the next day and discover it’s sounding awful to your fresh ears. By working gradually, you’ll avoid this, and ensure you’re creating at a consistent level of quality.
Even more importantly, you won’t judge yourself too harshly, during your work, which is important, as this can be a real productivity and motivation killer.
Remember, just because you’ve added a positive new habit doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy ad-hoc music making too – just make sure you tick off your 15 minutes each day, and you’ll soon find yourself inspired and motivated to create great instrumental music.
Music’s ability to alter moods is well documented. We can find comfort, motivation and inspiration in the music we listen to, and this is one of the reasons why we form such a deep connection to music we love.
Despite this, the debate rages about whether music is good for focus and productivity, or whether it simply serves as a distraction.
I used to be a freelance writer and in my personal experience, some good background music was a fantastic help in keeping me motivated, and in a rhythm of productivity.
If I worked without music, I’d find that I became mentally fatigued much quicker than I would if I had music playing. I also found that the music made it much easier to tune out from the outside world, and focus on the project I was working on with tunnel vision.
But this is just anecdotal evidence. So what does science tell us about background music’s effects on productivity?
A University of Birmingham study called ‘Music – An aid to productivity‘ by J.G. Fox and E.D. Embrey found a definite link between listening to music and an increase in productivity for those who were completing repetitive work, such as data entry.
The participants’ performances improved with the music, and the researchers even suggested that using music in industry could have solid economic benefits, being such a powerful way to improve productivity.
So that’s pretty clear – but what about more mentally taxing jobs, which require brainpower and creativity?
A recent study found that 88% of participants performed better when listening to background music while performing various mental tasks, including maths problems and abstract reasoning.
More mistakes were made when there was no music playing in the background, and proofreading speed was improved by as much as 20%, when the workers were listening to dance music!
Dr David Lewis, from Mindlab International who conducted the experiment, said that music was a powerful tool for improving their ‘mental state [and] emotional state’ of a workforce.
Unfortunately, it’s not all rosy. Your favourite tunes may serve as something of a distraction, because they are likely to feature vocals. Vocals have been shown to be distracting, as, in the same way it’s hard to ignore a conversation that’s taking place around us, our brains find it harder to tune out of the lyrics in a song.
Understanding and processing the lyrics requires extra brainpower – especially if they are unfamiliar to you, and this can be distracting.
Research from Cambridge Sound Management, found that 48% of office workers were distracted by music which featured intelligible lyrics.
For this reason, we would always recommend instrumental music for working and focussing – but then again, we would say that!
In my opinion, this is largely a personal issue. If listening to music is going to improve your mood, then you’re going to approach your work in a happier, more focussed way.
If you’re simply putting on songs as another way to procrastinate, and are wasting time dancing and singing along, the opposite may be true.
Try out our album of instrumental background music for just £4 – it’s vocal free and great for working to!