"It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested." - Seneca, On the Shortness of Life
"The myth is that there isn't enough time. There is plenty of time. There isn't enough focus with the time you have. You win by directing your attention toward better things." - James Clear, 3-2-1 Thursday - June 8th, 2023
An essential component of reaching our musical goals is putting in the time. Whether we want to reach the pinnacle of our musicianship, or create and share our art with the world, we have to be regularly engaged with our craft. Unfortunately, many musicians struggle with the feeling they never have—or can’t find—enough time. But the truth is, time is not something we find. Instead, a more accurate and empowering way to think about it is as something we make. By taking control of our schedules and cutting out less important activities, we can direct more of our attention toward practicing and creating, which will improve our musical experience and output.
Our calendars can quickly grow out of control if left unattended. Between disparate tasks and a variety of distractions, our valuable time can easily slip through the cracks. To remedy this, we must take control of our schedules and be deliberate about how we parse out our available hours. Utilizing a tool like Cal Newport’s time block planner, or a simple calendar to track what you do each day, mark off any pre-existing obligations you have and schedule non-negotiable music time around them. By intentionally setting aside blocks of time to practice or focus on a project, you’ll be able to regularly do the work needed to be the musician and artist you want to be.
As you carve out time for your music habit, you’ll inevitably have to make tradeoffs—such as cutting out or reducing non-essential activities like watching videos or scrolling social media. Let go of what you can, and put clear barriers around the rest so you don’t have anything leaking into your music time. This might be a challenge if you genuinely enjoy activities like these, but this is the idea of a tradeoff: you’re exchanging something good for something even better. Remember: you can build the musical life you want, but it’s going to cost you parts of the life you currently have. If you find it difficult to pull away from digital distractions, consider following Cal Newport’s 30-day digital declutter.
If music is important to you, denying it a significant presence in your life will leave you dissatisfied. As Steven Pressfield articulates in his book The War of Art: “How many of us have become drunks and drug addicts, developed tumors and neuroses, succumbed to painkillers, gossip, and compulsive cell-phone use, simply because we don’t do that thing that our hearts, our inner genius, is calling us to?” We trade our time for the experience and outcomes we want, and a meaningful life in music is more than worth that trade.