5 tips to manage your time as a musician
Bobby Borg, music educator and career coach, has time management advice to help you turn your passion for music into a successful career.
In the last 30 years, I’ve drummed for major artists (including multi-platinum sellers Warrant), written several music business books (published by Billboard), and lectured at top universities (like USC Thornton). A student recently got on a Zoom call with me to ask me about time management skills.
As independent music artists, we have a lot to do, both music related and outside of our music endeavors. What advice do you have to help folks like us better manage our time?
That’s a that’s a really important question. I’d start by saying the way musicians can take more control of their time is by literally accounting for every minute of of the day.
To help, here’s a five-step process.
1. Make a list
The first thing to do is make a list of all the things that are the most important in your life right now.
2. Prioritize your list
Prioritize those things from most important to least important. For example, if you’re a music business student, at the top of your list you might say, “I want to get the most of my investment, so making sure I get to all my classes and do all the homework and research required is my top priority.”
Priority #2, as a musician, might be, “I need to practice my craft of songwriting, practice my instrument, and promote,” which might include making TikTok and YouTube videos and things like that.
Third — which really should be your top priority — is your health. Make sure you get enough sleep, eat well, exercise, etc.
Fourth might be religious obligations, like going to church.
Fifth might be hanging out and having a little fun time for partying.
3. Build a calendar
Now, literally start inserting all of this stuff into a daily calendar. List out Monday through Sunday, 8:00 am to midnight, and block time out for everything you do. You know when you’re going to sleep, when you’re waking up, when you’re going to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner, when you’re going to work out. Get everything on your schedule.
The trick is to slot things in to maximize your time. So, for example, if you’re a student and you ride a train into the city to take classes, that might be the time when you read chapters for your classes so you’re not just sitting there watching the trees go by or trolling social media.
When I was a student at Berklee College of Music, I used to do double bass drum rolls with my feet while I did homework on the snare drum to maximize my time. Find ways to do that throughout the week.
4. Commit to your schedule
To make this work, you have to commit to the schedule like your life depends on it. In other words, don’t let anything get in the way. When that alarm clock goes off at eight in the morning — bam! you are up like a firecracker, have your breakfast, sit down and answer some emails, hit an hour of exercise, take a shower, go to your classes, rest a bit, then you make your TikTok videos. Don’t let anybody get in your way. Not your friends (Hey, it’s happy hour Bobby!) or anyone else. Don’t answer the door, put your phone away, and commit to your agenda.
The last step is reevaluating your schedule every couple of months, because things change and you may need to adjust to compensate or reprioritize.
The interesting thing about all this is, when you create your schedule and you put in all the things that are important to you and you time it all out, you’re going to realize you actually have more time than you ever thought you did. There will be pockets of time here and there where you can be a bit flexible or handle an emergency and shift things around if you have to.
But I believe the reason why everybody always feels like their time is out of control is because they don’t have control over their time and they’re running around going “what do I need to do next?” When you plan it out, you’ll see that you can have way more control over your time.