In my recent post on music production workflow and productivity, I outlined an 8 step process to finish tracks. One of the key ways to achieve this is by diarising your time.

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Batching

In this post, I’d like to expand on this and discuss batching. Batching refers to dedicating blocks of time to similar tasks so that you can focus properly and work at a greater speed. This means going deep and focusing entirely on one thing at a time, rather than wide, and spreading your attention too thinly.

I’m going to tell you how I personally maximise my concentration and decrease distraction (even eliminating it with time).

Working smart

Regular distraction and switching tasks can cause you to become tired, stressed and ruin your productivity. This is not an effective music production workflow.

There is a huge difference between working hard and working smart. You can be busy all day and fill up all of your time, but if you’re not focused you risk becoming a “busy fool”, working on many things but failing to accomplish anything of significance.

It’s far better to make substantial progress in one area, or become great at one thing, than to lack any real progress in anything. That’s not the path to motivation or success.

The myth of multitasking

“The man who chases two rabbits, catches neither” – Confucius

Batching your time into concentrated sessions is one of the most essential techniques in building an effective music production workflow. Multitasking is a myth. I’ll say that again:

Multitasking is a myth.

You may think that you can multitask, but it’s impossible to dedicate 100% of your attention to more than one thing at the same time.

Furthermore, setting aside time means being intentional with that time, and making a concentrated effort not to become distracted during that time.

Peter Bregman, from the Harvard Business Review, revealed that when we attempt to do more that one thing at a time, our productivity decreases by 40%. That’s worth paying attention to.

Rather than multitasking, we’re simply switching from one thing to another, without being truly productive.

Isolate to accumulate

A music production workflow is full of many different phases. Some require a calculated, engineering approach, while others call for a more artistic, abstract mindset.

When you’re writing, just write. Set aside time to be free to explore ideas without critique, and use broad brush strokes.

Conversely, arrangement is a process of executing difficult decisions, removing unnecessary parts and doing what’s best for the music as a whole.

Just like business and leisure, you shouldn’t mix two different processes, as they require a different set of skills and mindsets.

Driven to distraction

Research has shown that, after being distracted, it can take up to 20 minutes for the mind to settle back into a task. While 20 minutes doesn’t seem like much, this is hugely significant, especially when you consider how many times it’s possible to become distracted during an average day.

It’s important to be mindful of our behaviour. We are naturally very easily distracted, and we’re not going to progress very quickly or very far without a clear strategy and without being intentional with our time.

The benefit of ‘chunking’

The secret to productivity and staying motivated is breaking tasks into smaller, more achievable chunks. This approach allows your mind to focus by concentrating in shorter bursts and having regular breaks.

It’s no good thinking you’re a robot and that you possess unlimited focus. You’re not and you can’t – it’s a fact, and that’s ok. It’s better to know and address your weaknesses and plan around them, than to ignore them and try to progress regardless. It won’t work.

 

pomodoro technique

The secret tomato sauce

In previous posts, I’ve outlined several ways to organise your time more effectively in order to achieve your goals.

Another tried and tested method, is the Pomodoro Technique. It was developed by Francesco Cirillo as a system for batching tasks.

‘Pomodoro’ simply means ‘tomato’ in Italian. This is because Cirillo used a tomato-shaped kitchen timer when he developed the technique!

Here is an outline of how the Pomodoro technique works:

  1. Choose a task that you need to complete. This could be writing a drum part, mixing a bass, writing some chords etc.
  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes – this is referred to as ‘1 pomodoro’.
  3. Work on the task until the timer stops. Dedicate your full attention to the current task and if a distraction comes up or you think of something else you need to do, simply write it down on a piece of paper.
  4. When the timer is up, put a checkmark on another piece of paper. You’ve completed 1 pomodoro!
  5. Now take a short break. This could be a walk, some meditation, a drink/snack – anything relaxing that’s not related to work.
  6. Take a longer break after completing 4 pomodoros. This could be 20-30 minutes, allowing your brain time to rest and absorb any new information.

You should see improvements in your level of productivity straight away, however, mastering this technique can take 7 to 20 days. So keep at it!

For more information on the Pomodoro Technique, you can check out the official website.

Developing self awareness

True multitasking does not exist, no matter what our culture tells us. Concentrating on one thing at a time and limiting distraction is the fastest way to succeed. Batching similar tasks into larger chunks of time (or pomodoros!) is one of the most effective ways to optimise your day.

We need to be wary of the multitask trap, as Chris Bailey from A Life of Productivity points out in his article The art of doing one thing at a time:

Doing more than one thing at a time is a great way to become busier, and it’s usually a more engaging way of working. When we try doing multiple things at the same time, the brain is more stimulated, and it releases more dopamine (a main pleasure chemical). But study after study has shown that while multitasking can be stimulating, and may even make us feel more productive, it invariably makes us less productive.

He goes on to highlight how research has shown that our ability to truly focus lasts, on average, up to 20 minutes. Not 8 hours, not 4 hours, not 1 hour, but 20 minutes. Have you ever wondered why TED talks, for example, are no longer than 18 minutes on average? There is a reason that the organisers chose that duration.

I’m sure that, by now, you’re noticing the pattern.

Giving it a try

I don’t recommend any of the methods on this site without first becoming the test subject and trying them out for myself. The reason I’m publishing this article is because I know that this process works. When I batch my tasks into similar chunks and implement focused bursts of work, my productivity increases significantly.

Even more importantly than that, however, I feel incredible. Concentrating on one thing at a time until completion provides a huge sense of satisfaction and achievement, and motivates me going forward.

I would urge you to give these techniques a try – you may be very surprised by the difference in your progress.

Improve your music production workflow today

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I hope that this article was useful to you, and if you tried batching your time, I’d love to hear about the results! Were you more productive? Have you made more progress? What difference did it make to your mindset and your music production workflow? Do you feel more confident and motivated? Let me know in the comments below.