1. To improve your day, improve your sleep and hydration.
Mornings can be a rough time for many creative professionals. Gigs, parties, exhibitions, album launches, networking events, conferences and travel often result in late nights, alcohol consumption and poor food choices that can cause your body and mind to have that general out-of-whack feeling. Mornings have always been a struggle for me. After 15 years touring with bands and performing 6 nights a week my adrenaline system was shot and I was exhausted all the time.
The biggest key to help in this area is being kind to yourself, if you need to have a 40 min nap in the afternoon – do it and don’t feel guilty (even if it has to be a 2-3 hours for those without kids). If your body is asking you for sleep, it probably needs it. Also remember that being de-hydrated can make you very fatigued and you can mistakenly think you need sleep when actually, you don’t. Soda water works for me and I always have a few 1.25 litre bottles in the fridge or at my desk at all times.
2. Watch your substances – sometimes its not a mental problem, its a bio-chemical one.
It is well known that creative professionals have the propensity to suffer mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and addiction more than many of the traditional professions. I am no exception, I have dealt with all three and continue to on a regular basis. I thought I was fairly normal until my doctor brought to my attention that caffeine, codeine, paracetamol, excessive sugar and tobacco were all liver poisons, not to mention alcohol. On a daily basis I was consuming energy drinks, Neurofen Plus for tension headaches, 3-4 strong cups of coffee and at least 4-5 standard drinks at night. Little did I know at the time, but I was creating a toxic stack of substances that were jamming up my liver, kidneys and digestive system, which in turn, deprived my body of the vital nutrients it needed to create neurotransmitters responsible for stable moods, stress tolerance and sleep regulation.
This year I successfully tapered off pain killers, caffeine and greatly reduced the amount of alcohol I am consuming. At first my body threw a hissy fit, but after 2-3 weeks I had more energy, better moods and greater motivation to work on my music production, writing and finding mixing and mastering jobs. I would suggest never quitting anything cold turkey unless the problem has become absolutely chronic. I reduced my caffeine intake like this – Mon/Tues 3 coffees, Wed/Thurs 2, Fri/Sat 1, Sun/Mon 1/2 a cup, Tuesday onwards – None.
3. Use a time management system
There are a ton of worthwhile time management systems and resources available for free or for a small fee. I encourage people to try out a few and find one that fits well. Here are a list of time/goal management systems that I have personally used and have found to be of tremendous help into skyrocketing my productivity and self esteem-
- The four hour work week by Tim Ferris (book)
- Goalscape (online goal management system with free and paid options)
- The time of your life by Tony Robins (deluxe life planning system)
- The Neuroscience of Self Discipline (free audiobook and manual)
- So good, they can’t ignore you by Cal Newport (book)
4. Establish clear boundaries between work and non-work times
Whether you are a music producer, a painter, writer or any other creative professional we all know that for the most part, earning money is a hustle. A large portion of creative professionals are freelancers that work as a sole trader out of a home studio or in their shed/basement. Even if you work in an office, the ability to draw strong lines between when it is appropriate to work and when it is not is extremely difficult. Burn out and overload are very common due to the busy creative mind never switching off. I would often be sitting at the dinner table with my family, my mind a million miles away thinking of how I could make the bass sound better on whatever track I was currently working on.
The trick to solving this problem is being creative with your time. I dedicated myself to wake up an hour earlier every day to work on my Ableton Live tracks for an hour before the kids got up. I managed to get in 5+ hours of extra work every week at an appropriate time and could then feel like I had achieved enough in the day to relax after 6pm and give my whole attention to my family and to recuperating for the next day.
5. Work smarter, not harder
It is an old school of thought that says “to be successful you must put your nose to the grindstone”. How many times have you heard things like “work hard and everything will turn out well” or “to get ahead in life you must work harder than your competition”? While that may have worked in the industrial revolution, we now live in an information age and it no longer applies. Most of us have a strong work ethic, and if you are reading posts like this I can only assume that you are dedicated to productivity. We don’t need to work hard and grind out every last drop of blood and sweat we have, what we need to do is work smarter and learn to LEVERAGE our time. When I realised there was only so much I could achieve in a dollars for hours exchange for my time scenario, it set me on a path of discovery.
I spent years researching how I could leverage my time and create residual forms of income. Moving from traditional paid-per-hour work to more entrepreneurial pursuits can be a difficult road at first, but it leads to fantastic rewards. I began to write stock music so my compositions could earn me an income while I slept. I successfully added in a few hundred dollars each month which wasn’t enough to live on but, it paid my Netflix, Xbox Live and MacPro Video subscriptions and allowed me to purchase new music software every few months. Here are some ideas for residual income activities:
- Stock music, photography or other digital assets
- Micro investing services such as acorns
- Create a niche youtube channel and upload one original monetized video a week
- Start blogging!
- Explore ways you can license your creative works for royalties or one off payments
- Create information products such as ebooks or video courses and sell them online
- Set up automatic savings via online banking and invest in shares every time it hits $1000
6. Meditation and Mindfulness
I know we hear a lot about meditation and mindfulness these days but both have helped me beat anxiety, feel clearer in my head and improve my day to day life in general. It can be hard to get past the cliche of meditation as it has been stigmatised by self help gurus and the kooky new age evangelists. It should be noted that the benefits from both meditation and mindfulness have been supported by multiple peer-reviewed scientific studies in recent years. On a personal level, I find it hard to sit in silence and meditate due to my tinnitus (ringing ears from too much rock n roll) so I use binaural beats and brainwave entrainment audio to achieve states of deep relaxation.
I use Holosync (special meditation audio) for 10-20 mins whenever I can find a moment and can also highly recommend the app HeadSpace which you use for 10 mins a day. I definitely notice a difference in weeks when I have been meditating compared to weeks when I have not. As far as mindfulness goes, well , it’s too much to cover in one paragraph but a quick google search will point you in the right direction. All I can say is that for me, it was life changing and it all started with a book handed to me by a friend titled “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle.
7. Increase your knowledge
Watch as many tutorials as you can, inspiration comes from people who are doing a better job than you. You can never diminish your life by adding more learning, you can only increase your effectiveness. Here are some of my favourite people in the world when it comes to expanding your life, finding happiness and achieving success (whatever that means to you)
- Derek Sivers (creator of CD baby.com, author, musician)
- Tony Robins (general self help and time management)
- Timothy Ferriss (fitness, nu entrepreneurship, life and career management)
- Cal Newport (business and career success)
- Randy Gage (worthiness issues and self esteem)
- Eckhart Tolle (mindfulness, philosophy)
- Joe Vitale
- Peter Daniels (motivation)