Photo by theogo

Yesterday my wife had her wisdom teeth taken out. Poor thing. I got to play the part of “nurse” for the day. (Which is funny, since my wife is actually a nurse.)

She slept most of the day, so in between going on milk shake runs and preparing warm salt water for her to gargle, I spent some time in my studio.

I had a good time.

I’ve got several projects going on right now. For one of these projects I’m playing bass on a local artist’s upcoming record. The engineer gave me a hard drive of Pro Tools sessions, and I’m working my way through them.

My Fender Mexican Jazz Bass and I have been spending a lot of time together. I’m using a borrowed Chandler LTD-1 channel strip. Mmm…so nice. I love the tone I’m getting.

So why do I bring this up? Well, first of all, I think it’s important for you to know that I DO actually record music in my home studio.

Secondly, I noticed yesterday that I wasted quite a bit of time. I came into the day with the intention of getting a lot of work accomplished. Before I knew it, it was 5pm, and I had only finished two songs.

What’s the deal?

You may recall an article I wrote a few weeks ago dealing with productivity in the home studio. I’ll be the first to admit that I struggle to stay productive when it comes to my studio. I came up with that article (and the productivity tips that followed) because I constantly struggle to stay focused myself.

I need to revisit this concept regularly. I’m not going to rewrite that article here today. You can read it for yourself. What I want to do is explore the different areas of my home studio and expose those things that are inhibiting productivity.

What’s getting in the way?

I think my studio, like my wife, has wisdom teeth that need to be yanked out. What I mean is that I have too many distractions crowding my workflow.

These various distractions aren’t bad in and of themselves, just like wisdom teeth aren’t necessarily bad. If your mouth has room for them, then you won’t have a problem. If not, you’ve got issues.

My brain is only capable of focusing on a certain number of tasks at once, but there are dozens of things vying for my attention. What ends up happening is that each of these tasks gets short-changed, and none of them get done very well.

Identify the Culprits

So what are your wisdom teeth? Here are a few of mine:

  • Email – Every time that cute little Mail icon bounces in the dock, I have to see what it is!
  • Twitter – Like email, if I leave my Twitter client open, I’ll get a notification when there are new tweets to read. “Maybe I’ll miss something. I better check periodically.”
  • Internet – This, of course, ties in both email and Twitter. Someone may email or post a link to a website, then I’ll take “just a second” to check it out. That second turns into five minutes of web-surfing.
  • Plug-ins/Virtual Instruments – I own quite of few of each, and while they are great tools, I unfortunately spend way too much time sifting through them and “trying things out.” There is certainly a time for sitting down and learning all the different plug-ins and instruments you own, but you should set aside specific time for that. If your goal for a particular session is to write a song or record bass, then that is what you need to focus on, not researching plug-ins. Nick from NicksTutorials.com covered this in his recent email newsletter. He made a great point that you should limit yourself to learning a small number of plug-ins and instruments really well. Here are his reasons:
  1. You spend more time learning a few great instruments really well, and inevitably you will discover a wealth of tips and tricks while undergoing this process.
  2. You will develop more confidence in your production skills because you will be using a far more manageable list of tools.  Any time you run into a problem, you’ll know how to solve it with your tools of choice.

Time for an Extraction

How should I get rid of these distractions? I can think of one easy way – Turn off the internet. That’ll take care of the first three.

I know it can be hard to “unplug” from everything, but it’s crucial to get rid of those distractions and focus on your music.

With regards to distractions in general, I read a report yesterday on productivity, and one of the suggestions the author made was to take a timer, set it to one hour, and focus on being 100% productive during that hour.

No bathroom breaks. No heading to the kitchen for a glass of water. It’s a time for extreme focus.

Give it a shot. When I make myself focus and give myself a deadline, I suddenly enter “the zone,” and I get things done.

No Pain, No Gain

You may be thinking, “Joe, you’re taking things too seriously. My home studio is my hobby. Who cares if I waste hours and hours. I’m having fun!”

I don’t doubt that you’re having fun. However, there have been times in my life where I’ve spent a significant amount of time in my studio over the course of several months, only to realize that I’ve made little progress in reaching my music goals.

Hobbies are great, but I personally don’t feel very fulfilled if I have a hard drive completely full of unfinished songs.

This is why it’s important for me to have focused times in my studio, times where I cut out all distractions and delve deeper into this mysterious world of music.

What are your “wisdom teeth”? How do you stay focused?

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