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Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Simplify and Avoid Task Switching

Hey everyone. So As some of you may know I've been away from my studio on holidays for the last six weeks or so. In that time I didn't really have a lot of time to do things like check my emails, which leads me to the topic of this blog post. Now we all know that the best thing for getting better at making music is to simply sit down and make a lot of music, in the form of full tracks. This requires focus. You may think you have enough focus to do this already but there are always ways to improve your ability to focus for long periods of time.

Going back to time spent doing things like checking emails, this requires mental energy and saps your ability to focus for long periods of time on a single task. Why? Because everytime you read an email, you focus for five to ten minutes on the subject of that particular email and then move on to the next. This builds up a habit of only concentrating on something for a short period of time before switching tasks. Now you may be like myself and have subscribed to a number of production based email lists, thinking these would help you improve your skills set and learn new production techniques. I'm talking about sites like ADSR, Warp Academy and the like. No doubt these are great sites for learning, that's for sure. But do you really need to be notified everytime they put up a new tutorial? This will require you to spend time thinking about whether the tutorial is something that you want to learn, whether you have time to watch it now or if you need to bookmark it and watch it later, and so on. If you decide to bookmark it, you will pretty quickly start to amass a bunch of tutorials that you haven't watched, something that will weigh on your mind.

Moving away from the example of emails, this quick task changing behaviour is also something you can learn from other sites, particularly things like social media and content aggregators (Reddit, for example) where content that's interesting to you is presented in small chunks. You read something on your Facebook timeline or in a tweet, perhaps related to production, and then you quickly switch to something related to your friends or family, for example. The brain being very plastic is constantly rewiring and optimising itself. If you are switching tasks all the time then your brain will adapt to this type of behaviour.

Now I'm not saying you need to abstain from all forms of digital contact, however cutting back on the amount of emails you receive (for example) will allow you to focus more on important tasks. Do you really need all of those production tips you signed up for, or when there is something you need to learn will you find some resources at that point? Is it prudent to be receiving special offers on software when you aren't in the market for plugins at the moment? Is everything that's coming up on your news feed important enough to warrant being there? Simplify, de-clutter and improve your ability to focus. Furthermore you'll find that those corners of your mind that were cluttered with this information will be useful in becoming a more creative person. In short, allow your mind to wander instead of worrying about what's happening online.

Here is a tool that will allow you to unsubscribe from mailing lists with one click:

Finally, another thing you can do to improve your focus is to take a task that requires similar focus to music production and then repeat this regularly. The obvious one for me here is reading, as you stay on a single subject and contemplate what you are reading for an extended period of time. Hope this is something that will help you build focus, patience and creativity, all three which are vital skills in producing great music. Until next time.

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