Recently, I came across an article called "50 ways to increase productivity." Inspired by this, I took a look at a few things that aren't on this list that help me with productitivity in the studio. After all, the creative process can be lonely and tiresome and large tasks seem like they will never be completed. Here are my top 5 tips:
- Use a paper-based desk pad. These desk pads are modeled after those large writing pads you see on easels in board rooms or "Win, Lose or Draw". The idea is that you can make boxes around groups of tasks and then dilleniate the smaller tasks more frequently. Try to make those sub tasks about even in "time weight" so that you don't have to work for hour just to scratch off a single thing! For example, don't just have "finish mixing song A". Instead, break it down and think about what you really need to accomplish with song A. Maybe instead you should have a few smaller tasks like "set trumpet part better in mix" and "adjust panning and reverb for more depth" and "edit bass part for better sync", etc. It is extremely satisfying then to me to be able to cross things out as I go and see from a quick visual perspective how far I've come that day!
- Put long term goals somewhere else, but still visible. The things on your pad should be ONLY things you plan to get done that day. That way, you can always go to bed feeling like you conquered the world today! For more long range things (with fat ambiguous names) I put these in various places, such as on stickie notes hanging like stray whiskers from my iMac monitor. It drives me insane, so I love the feeling of transferring one of those tasks to the pad for the day and tossing those out!
- Plan what order to complete tasks based on non-studio variables. For example, I try not to do my loud tracking in the middle of the night when my wife is asleep, also I try not to do mixing first thing in the morning, because I haven't fully "warmed up" yet. I also try not to do any writing if I have less than two hours at a time. Once I get warmed up, I don't like to be interrupted.
- Take frequent breaks. As in anything, take a break every hour or so to do something else. However, the key here is NOT to take breaks on something that could permanently distract you for the next few hours. For example, its okay to check email, wrestle your dog, go for a walk around the block, etc. It's less advisable to "play a video game for just a few minutes" or "grab a snack and see what's on the TiVO" or "check digg really quick...". All of those later suggestions have been the kiss of death for my productivity. I'm sure you know what activities can kill your productivity -- so stay away from them!
- Drink tons of water. There are many health reasons for this. I like it mostly because it takes the place of OTHER things you could be drinking, like soda or coffee which offer very little that's good for you -- least of all caffeine. Nothing can kill a clear mind like being doped on caffeine and having your mind racing all the time. Plus, when coupled with exercise, you can actually stay up later with less sleep than if you had tons of caffeine everyday.
Anyways, those are my top 5 - though I agree with many of the items on this list linked at the beginning of this post as well. Best of luck!