As a music producer, do you ever get super inspired to make music? You know that feeling when you want to bang out a few gram-worthy tracks? You know - you tell yourself you're going to lock in and get “5 beats a day for 3 summers” productive.
But next thing you know you find yourself 3 hours deep in a YouTube wormhole? Yeah I been there.
And I’m guessing a lot of music producers have been there, including you.
Getting focused on producing music (and staying focused on making music) is a tough task nowadays...but it doesn't have to be.
What is focus?
Simplest way to put it, focus is saying no to a lot of things.
Steve Jobs said it best:
“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I'm actually as proud of the things we haven't done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”
When you say no to many things, you then know what you can say yes to.
“What you don’t do determines what you can do.” - Tim Ferris
So - how do you get focused as a music producer?
Let's jump into the 10 tips on staying focused to produce more music.
Note: this blog post is a modified chapter from my productivity ebook: Productive Like A P.R.O.
Figure out what’s important to get done and doing that.
And only that.
One easy way to do this is to take out a sheet of paper and draw three columns. Label them P1, P2, P3.
Now write down everything you need to get done and put the most important stuff in the P1 column, the somewhat important stuff in the P2 column, and all the rest in the P3 column. Start on the everything in the P1 column first.
What Do You Want To Achieve?
It’s important to figure out what you want to achieve first. Not what I want to do, or what may be helpful. Focusing on what you want to achieve and work backwards from there.
Is it making finishing beats? Then maybe hold off on those fresh new sample packs you bought and finish the beats you already got made.
Is it emailing out labels looking for syncs? Then maybe you don’t work on music. Close down FL, Logic, Abelton or whatever DAW you use and fire up Gmail.
Set a goal such as “send 10 emails out for sync opportunities” and get to work.
2. Turn off Notifications Music Producer
Notifications are a gift and a curse. Love getting a new text but when I'm trying to get things done, it's such a distraction. Turn them off!
If your on a Mac, turn on Do Not Disturb and close all other apps. Focus! I don’t know what the equivalent for Windows is but I’m sure there’s an option.
No matter what device you’re on they all have an easy way to quit all other applications. Do that, and keep your DAW open so you can stay focused on producing music.
3. Leave The Phone In Another Room
An easy way to “turn off” phone notifications is to leave your phone in another room (and put it on silent!).
As music producers we rely on getting in a groove. We don’t need Instagram notifications and text alerts interrupting us cooking up.
4. Go BIG Music Producer
And by that I mean work in full screen mode. It low key tells you "this is the one and only thing I'm working on right now" and it blocks out all other windows that can distract you.
Ok you see a theme going on here with computers. Only have your DAW open. Only have your DAW on the screen. Nothing else.
5. Get It Done Early
Remember when you figured out the important things for you to do today? Yea, cool - do that first. Get that done and everything the rest is bonus for the day.
Often we like to put off the hard stuff until later in the day. Problem is, it only gets worse from there. You start to lose energy, and you stress out over it more because you have more time to think about it.
Get the hard thing done early. Or the thing you;re not looking forward to doing. Do it early and the rest of the day will go by so much easier.
As music producers, uploading work to YouTube and Soundcloud can be a bore if you;re donig it right. You have to choose the right thumbnail, craft the perfect title, get the right keywords. It’s work in of itself but if you do it right it pays off.
I know we usually would rather make music and it’s easy to put this stuff off. But if you knock it out early in the day, you’ll feel better.
6. Time box, A Clutch Method for the Music Producer
This is such a great technique I use it all the time. All you do is allocate a certain amount of time - I do 25 minutes - and do nothing but specific work for 25 minutes. Take a break, say 5 to 10 minutes, and repeat. Simple magic.
So let’s say you want to work on drum patterns for a bit. Set a timer for 25 minutes and only work on that.
Or maybe you want to start crafting melodies and not so much worried about a full beat. Put a timer on for 25 minutes and just make melodies.
7. Batch Process
Related to the above - batch process the distractions you're avoiding. Emails, texts, snaps, Insta DM's - schedule a time to check, reply back, snap back etc. You don't have to text back right away - they can wait. Book a half hour a few times day and use that time to respond to all those DMs.
This is especially good when you’re doing more admin and process work and not creative work.
8. Ghost Emoji 👻
The best emoji and my favorite. I know leaving a text convo because you have work to do can be hard. It's so tempting to send a few more texts. And people don't always understand you got things to do.
My favorite technique is to send the ghost emoji when I have to go. Send it and be out.
People will text "what's that mean?" and a "where'd you go?" - it's cool eventually they get it - you're ghost. Overtime your friends will know exactly what you mean, and what they can expect, when you send the ghost emoji. "Oh hey sent the ghost emoji - he's done, he's out" Simple.
And a music producer needs to be ghost. We don’t need to be all in the peoples mix. We only need to be all up in our mix - if you know you know.
9. Take Care of Yourself!
For real take care of your health. That means, get good sleep, drink lots of water, be easy on the caffeine.
That last one is tough, I used to be a caffeine fiend (still kind of am) but realized when I drank too much I was always so jittery and COULD NOT FOCUS AT ALL.
Had to start easing back and taking better care of myself. More water, more stretching, more fresh air. It’s critical. I know us music producers like to stay locked in but when you find those times where you’re just not creative - take a break. Get some water, fresh air. Don’t look at a screen for 20 minutes.
10. Give Time, Time.
All these tips are great daily tips, but if we zoom out and look at the big picture it's important to remember things take time. Whatever big project you're working on isn't going to happen in a day or two; true success happens over time and following a process day in and day out. The trick is to make everyday a good one, stay focused (using the above tips) and put in the work.
Related to staying focused, the hardest part of getting something done is getting started. A trick you can use for any task you're not 100% motivated to do: Tell yourself you'll do it for 5 minutes.
So let’s say you know you should be producing music but not feeling motivated. Set a timer for 5 minutes and tell yourself “ok im going to work on a beat for just 5 minutes. When that time is up, I’m done”
It's easy because you have to do it for a mere 5 minutes.
If after 5 minutes you don't want to do it, stop. You already got more done than if you didn’t do anything at at all. But....
..what typically happens is after 5 minutes you're like "this isn't too bad and I'm in the groove - let's keep it going."
Next thing you know you produced a bunch of music even though you thought you weren’t motivated to do so.
Music Producer Productivity
OK those are 10 tips and a bonus trick to help you stay focused as a music producer. I hope it helps.
I’ve been big on productivity all my life as I always tried to improve and get better. I think it’s something most music producers feel and can relate to.
If you’re looking for tips on productivity check out my short ebook “Productive Like A P.R.O.” It’s packed with tons of productivity tips to help you make the most of your day. In fact this blog post is a modified version of a chapter from this book. If you liked this blog post you’ll like the book.