It’s that time of year again.
December begins the evaluation process of the goals you
set early this year, what you’ve nailed & where you’ve
Some of us rejoice in how far we’ve come in a single year,
while most of us feel a bit crap about our results.
This cycle tends to repeat year after year & you convince
yourself that it’s just the way it is.
Where does the time go?
For most of us, making a goal & a plan & sticking to it isn’t
as easy as expected. Especially if the goal is related to a
passion instead of a survival necessity.
You don’t have to make music. Nobody dies or goes hungry
if we fail to meet our music goals. Because of this, it’s the
first thing to go when we find life getting busy, which it
Just like many of us clutter our living spaces, we also tend to
clutter our time. Any free time we have tends to be cluttered
with one thing or another that may seem like a necessity.
Sometimes the “necessity” is just needing chill time. This
chill time can easily expand from 15 minutes, to hours.
This can turn into weeks or months of lost time over the
course of a year.
I’m hoping to help you correct this, so this year’s goals
Goal setting isn’t rocket science, but it does need to be
specific. Usually when producers make music goals, it’s
usually pretty open ended.
You might make your goal “get in the studio more” or
“make more music”. Some of you are bold enough to
write “Finish my album”.
Sadly, that’s usually the end of it & you expect the goal
to just unfold over the year. It rarely works like that.
If you can’t get much more specific, it’s just not going
to become a reality.
Goal setting correctly
If you really want to accomplish more, you need to know
what your day to day, week to week schedule looks like.
So first figure out a specific goal. It should be challenging
but realistic if you have the right action plan.
Let’s say you want to write & finish 12 songs in a year.
Depending on where you are at with your music, that may
seem like a small feat or a huge one. For me, 1 song per
month seems reasonable.
If you just stopped your goal here, you would likely fail,
even though you are probably fully capable.
You have no action plan & you haven’t made yourself aware
of the current challenges & obstacles that have held you back
year after year.
Keep in mind that 1 big goal is actually 100’s or thousands
of micro goals, so you don’t want to put too many creative goals
on your plate. 1 creative goal is enough for now.
Breaking your goal down
As I just said, 1 big goal needs to be broken down into bite sized
pieces that can be accomplished in 45 minutes to an hour. If it
is going to take more time than that, break it down further.
Every step you check off your list is an accomplishment that
builds momentum. Mount Everest is a nearly impossible goal, but
75 feet, is doable.
So how many times do you have to move 75 feet until you reach
How does each 75 foot goal increase in difficulty.
What preparation is needed to insure you have a plan & a solution
before it comes up?
I think you get where I’m going with this…. Let’s make this about
our 12 songs we want to finish in a year.
Sharpening the blade
So 12 songs in a year is 1 song per month.
How many hours did the last song you made take? Was it to your
satisfaction? What were your biggest music production challenges?
What are your biggest time restraints? Which bad habits need
to be corrected to accomplish a song per month?
See, before we even consider starting on your goal, you need to
clear all the roadblocks & make sure your actions will be focused,
clear of distractions, and that your mentally prepared for creative
work & problem solving.
This is what I call sharpening the blade. The idea is that if 2 people
are each cutting down a tree, what is the best strategy to be faster
than the other person?
Many people would grab their axe and start swinging. The problem
is the blade is a bit dull, so each swing is less efficient.
With this in mind, while the other guy is swinging away, you spend
25% of your time sharpening your blade, so each swing will be
twice as effective, requiring half the swings to cut down the tree.
With this in mind, it makes sense that you would win every time.
This is what we want to do with your music goal.
So the question becomes, what can I do now that will allow me
to finish a song in 2 weeks instead of a month?
If you can solve this problem, you could take 3 months sharpening
your blade & still reach your goal with 3 months to spare.
Sometimes this is intelligently learning how to correct the aspects
of your music making or even hiring a coach to speed the process
Regardless, you need to know your obstacles & what you get hung
up on in advance, so you are prepared with the solution before it
even comes up.
Setting goals the right way
Ok so now we have our goal. 12 songs in 1 year.
Step 1: Writing down all our current technical & time restrictions.
Step 2: Your action plan to “sharpen your blade”. This can look like:
- Improving your listening skills to hear the details most people miss in
professional sounding music.
- Defining your style(s) for this project.
- Understanding the 20% of your DAWs features that give you 80% of
your results & locking them into memory.
- Build a sound template with samples & synth sounds that work perfectly
for your style(s) of music.
- Understanding EQ, Reverb, Compression & Delay in a deeper way
- Having strategies for structuring your songs
- Knowing how to get inspired for when the ideas just aren’t coming
- Staying focused to 30-60 minutes without distractions
- Setting time limits when seeking solutions, so you don’t end up going
down endless rabbit holes.
- and so forth…..
Step 3: Break each of these preparation steps down to 45-60 minute chunks
& calculate how long you need to spend on each bullet point. Then schedule
distraction free times to learn this.
Step 4: Break down song crafting to bite sized steps form start to finish. You
might not know all the steps at the moment, but write down as much as you
can from your skill level.
As you work on songs, you may realize you need to add something to this list.
The more you work, the more accurate your assessments will be. Note how
long things actually take, and once again, when you come across things that
take more than 60 minutes, see if you can break those down to more specific
bite sized steps.
Step 5: Once you have finished your first song, you’ll be able to re-edit your
initial plan to more accurate time stamps & thus be able to set up better
scheduling to make sure you reach your goal with the time you have left.
Step 6: Try to end each session when you still feel like you can produce a little
longer. It’s harder to go back to a session when you burned yourself out the
previous time. Make sure to write down your goals for the following session.
Step 7: Work every day if at all possible. If better to do shorter daily sessions
that 1 long session weekly. 1 week is a long time to forget where you are at,
and what your next steps were. It’s easy to waste 50-75% of your session time
just trying to get yourself back in your headspace.
Step 8: Keep updating your daily & weekly goals & plan as you learn more about
yourself & your creative process.
If you can follow through with this detailed approach to reaching your goal, you
will very likely have your most productive year yet.
Happy music making,
If you are benefiting from these posts, you will absolutely love my 2 bestselling books:
The Mental Game of Music Production
The Process for Electronic Music Producers
To level up your Ableton Production Skills: Ableton Courses & Instruments
If you are looking for personal guidance with your music production or Ableton, you can set up a free chat with me to go over exactly what your best next steps are to create the best music of your life. If it seems like a good fit, we can move forward from there. https://musicsoftwaretraining.com/private-coaching
Happy music making!