I like exploring different ways to structure my day so I can be as productive as possible. I was reading a great Dan Kennedy book, the No BS Time Management for Entrepreneurs. That has some awesome advice in it. I’ve also picked up some great ideas from the Empires podcast by Bedros Keuilian.
If you want to achieve anything in life, you have to get deep work done.
And if you struggle to get anything done – you are probably not following any of these ideas.
If you are a musician, then you need to be practising your instrument, working on writing new music, and other projects that you have on the go. Finding extra time and making better use of the time you already have can easily free up an hour or two a day extra.
What is Deep Work?
Deep work is when you spend extended periods of time focussed on a task.
Musicians, artists, scientists – when you are working on something worth achieving, it takes extended periods of focus. Want to write a blog? Write an album? It’s going to take deep work.
Some of my favourite time saving tips from the book:
1. Give each task a time-frame for completion
When you are planning out your day, give all your tasks a time limit. I used to plan my day militantly:
7am – 7.25am: Task 1
7.30am – 7.55am: Task 2
8am – 8.55am: Task 3
But this never worked for me. Something happens, and the entire day is thrown out whack, and I’m stressed.
If you just list your tasks to do, then you find things take forever to get done.
New way for planning tasks:
Task 1: 25 minutes
Task 2: 25 minutes
Task 3: 55 minutes
If something over-runs… well it probably won’t unless you planned it wrong. Plan it in to tomorrow’s tasks.
2. Stop using your phone when you wake up
Put your phone on airplane mode when you goto bed. That way, when you wake up, you don’t have social media notifications to look at, and you can get straight to work.
I used to easily waste 30-45 minutes some mornings flicking through my phone. No more! Now I can get up, get out of bed, grab my coffee and get to work.
3. Leave your phone screen down when working
In the mornings, I leave my phone in my bedroom while I get to work in my office, and I leave it on airplane mode. I take my phone off airplane mode around lunch time.
By lunch time, I have put several great hours into my work. Only once I have done that, can I start to allow lower quality tasks, like checking my phone, start taking up time.
4. Treat your email like your phone – control it!
I treat my email like my phone. I keep my email client closed on my computer in the morning and I disable push notifications from my email on my phone. It is super easy to wake up, goto the computer to work, and find an email that puts you in a bed mood or distracts you from your work.
Keep that email client closed. I like to close it in the late afternoon, that way, I’m not going to be worrying about an email I saw just before going to bed and I can’t get distracted by it in the morning.
5. Don’t plan too many different tasks
A rookie mistake when you start getting into planning your time is to plan too much. I remember when I started planning my time, I would plan 10 different things in the morning. 30 minutes on this. 45 minutes on that. 35 minutes on something else.
It’s too much.
Now I plan my time on two tasks in the morning and give them a couple of hours each. As I have a few projects I’m working on, I rotate my tasks every other day:
- Task 1: Study Bach
- Task 2: Learn new classical crossover piece
- Task 1: Study Bach
- Task 2: Write material for new album
This allows me to put a couple of good hours (or at least, as much as I can handle before I burn myself out on that task) or work in on each project. If you are spending less than an hour on a deep work task, you are not going to accomplish much.
6. Anything that comes up gets scheduled for tomorrow
Things come up all the time. Emails come in, there is a complication to a project you weren’t expecting.
Do it tomorrow – few things are ever so important they have to be done right now.
If scheduled time to do renew my car insurance, and I find there is a complication I didn’t anticipate, I don’t go and blow the whole afternoon on it. I schedule it into tomorrow or the day after.
If an email comes in that I can’t reply to straight away, I schedule some time tomorrow or the day after to reply to it.
7. Quality work comes first. BS tasks come later
I find that my most creative time of day is the morning, straight after I wake up. I can get up, and get to work, and easily put an hour or two into a task without getting distracted and maintaining my focus.
I can’t do this in the afternoon.
For me, the mornings are golden productivity time. So that is when I schedule my important work, working on new music, studying music and practising guitar.
All the BS tasks I have to do, go in the afternoon. Things like renewing my car insurance, making phone calls, replying to emails.
The important work that gets me to my long term goals, all goes in the morning. Everything else can wait.