By John Connearn – Nexus ICA Lecturer: Guitar Pathway

For a lot of us, ‘home’ is a place that we associate with an absence of work and pressure. Surrounded by family, pets, and comfy furniture, we’re allowed to unwind and take things at our own pace. If you were then suddenly required to be effective, creative, and practiced within this setting, you may feel slightly conflicted as you contemplate how to tackle this with your pyjamas on and Netflix blaring in the background. When faced with this challenge however, there is a silver lining.

1. Transform your environment

Now, first things first, this does not mean transform your bedroom into an office and remove anything that might imply the smallest hint of home in order to maximise productivity. It simply refers to having a designated space (it doesn’t even have to be a different room) that becomes your own personal centre of getting stuff done. It is one of those methods that is tried and tested, and it has two main reasons behind it.

For instance, let’s use the example of a desk in a bedroom. If your desk is laid out in a way that physically leads you to work, create, or work on your craft, it becomes almost (with a little self-control) impossible to just turn on the TV if your remote is on the other side of your bedroom in a drawer. If your laptop, to-do list, and instrument (if you need one) is already sitting close by, it becomes physically easier to ‘just do it’ – as Nike would say. Secondly, this is then reinforced mentally as you begin to associate this location with productivity, creativity, and practicing your craft. Before you know it, this new mission control of progress alone will be enough to get the ball rolling.

2. Start it now.

Our goals have potentially been readjusted to accommodate for the ‘new normal’, but there is also now the opportunity to set new goals that wouldn’t have necessarily been possible in the good old days of the ‘normal normal’.

The silver lining in all of this time at home is that we now have the gift of predictability to capitalise on. In theory, you could literally plan your day out minute by minute to accommodate for everything you want to do without any outside interruptions. There is now this abundance of time that you can put to use creatively, maybe pursuing something that you may not have had the time to do, without having the excuse of not ‘having enough time’. For example, you may have been putting off writing and getting an EP out, why not start it now?

3. Notice and celebrate the wins along the way.

Now, if we stick with this example of creating an EP, this may initially seem like an overwhelming prospect that is completely unreachable. At this point, it is easy to get discouraged and forget about pursuing this thing we have always wanted to do, but this is harming your productivity and effectiveness by seeing in an unhelpful macro way.

By completing a larger, over-arching project like an EP, you achieve much more in terms of smaller and more achievable wins – and these soon add up. For example, in completing just one song from that EP, you will work on (and most likely improve upon) your songwriting, your technique as an instrumentalist, and your production skills just to name a few. Therefore, set these achievable micro goals as part of your over-arching macro goal, that will enable you to witness and thrive on the progress you are making, whilst also allowing you to get closer to reaching your initial goal.

4. Find someone to be accountable to.

At this point, you have contemplated your duties and the various goals you’re aiming to achieve, the next step is becoming accountable. The reason for this is because you’re probably not going to do something if there is no incentive to do it.

Sticking with the example of creating an EP, you may find it helpful to send your progress of a track to a friend in order for them to give feedback on it. If you set an agreed date to do this by, it would be embarrassing if you didn’t put enough work in to get this track done and sent off. By being held accountable, you have an external responsibility to attend to, which can often make the productive difference when working from your cosy, usually pressure free home. 

5. Step away and do something else.

Creativity is a strange thing. I’m sure we have all felt on both ends of the creativity spectrum from being full of exciting ideas that feel new and fresh, to feeling like you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel to find something that is at least remotely mediocre. While having a goal like creating an EP and striving towards it in an effective, focused way may seem foolproof, working in an environment where you are able to be creative and try out ideas without any distraction may eventually lead to burnout. You may eventually run out of drive, enthusiasm, and energy to be imaginative, regardless of whether you are a songwriter, instrumentalist, or musician of any type.

It may feel like the opposite thing you should do, but sometimes the best thing to do is to just step away from it and do something different. This will allow your batteries to recharge without being depleted in the same way you have been doing for days on end, and it will allow you to take in other forms of music, art, or other media that eventually wake up a creative urge that you just have to explore.

Being homebound for months on end can, at times, seem restricting and unproductive. However, with a few tweaks and shifts of mindset, there has never been a better time for musicians than now to do ‘that thing’.