9 Productivity Tools To Improve Focus For Musicians

  • Learn how to optimize your focus and productivity in the studio
  • Discover productivity hacks to create habits and get the most out of your studio time

In a world where distractions are the new social norm, it can some days be near impossible to get anything productive done. Whether it be jamming on your 303 and 808 combo (squelch), organizing your sample library, or getting knee-deep into the intricacies of a 60 track mixdown, a free-flow state of focus and mental clarity is one of the most productive attributes one can possess in the world of music production.

Time and time again, I have found myself struggling to come up with new ideas in the studio, and some days I simply gave up out of frustration. That is until I decided to do some research, and go down the rabbit hole of mental optimization, habit building, flow state, and focus hacks. Listed in this article are some items I have tested out in my endeavors to improve my studio flow, and some are items I definitely plan to in the future.

If you find yourself wanting to optimize your output when producing, prioritize tasks, and gather some valuable habits and insights along the way, then read on –

9 Essential Items To Boost Focus & Productivity In The Studio

  1. Theoryboard: Music made easy

Simplify your life.

The TheoryBoard brings forth the complex world of melody, inversions, scales, chords, and harmony, all packaged neatly into an intuitive, easy-to-use box, which looks like the futuristic evolution of the MIDI controller.

By combining color and sound, the TheoryBoard provides an immersive and tactile experience for anyone learning music theory, beginner to advanced. “Diatonic scales, chord groups, and the correlations between them are expressed through color giving the user a unique advantage by allowing visual reference points while playing.”

Packed with every scale known to humanity.

When the user selects a scale they have full access to every note and every possible chord within that scale. All the right combinations are right there at your fingertips, which removes the doubt of what can and cannot be used – something I personally always found myself questioning when I was learning, back in the day.

Another neat feature, and the first instrument of its kind that allows the user to play chord progressions and melodies simultaneously! You can play chords with one button while still having the capability to play a melody line at the same time.

The TheoryBoard is for anyone interested in composing or producing music.

Whether a computer/hardware based electronic producer or a recording artist/band member, anyone can pick this up and instantly boost their productivity. Level up your understanding of theory, generate new inspiration or brush up your existing skills –  the TheoryBoard has you covered. 

Check it out here.

  1. Saent: Designed for productivity and focus

Time is your most valuable asset.

So it makes sense to choose the best tools to help to get yourself moving forward, with the minimum amount of time and effort required.

Introducing Saent – a gadget based on the famous Pomodoro Technique and the principles of Deep Work, designed to block distractions, set actionable goals, help you develop more effective work habits, and boost overall productivity, all at the click of a button.

Work distraction-free.

With Saent, you simply select the amount of time you would like to focus and work free of distractions (known as a Focus Session) and then click the button on the unit to start it. During this time, Saent will block all websites and apps that you deem as a distraction, and will also emit colored light to indicate to others around you that you are in the zone and do not want to be interrupted.

Comes with a handy app.

Being the 21st century and all, Saent comes with its very own app (I mean, your toaster and kettle come with one these days, so why not, right?). The more you use Saent, the more it learns about your habits and rhythms, thus adapting your workflow to be more efficient over time.

“Saent is one of the most promising productivity devices I’ve seen come along in a long time”

– As seen in Fast Company, Quartz, Mashable, and Newsweek, Mike Vardy, founder of Productivityist and creator of TimeCrafting

Constantly distracted? Give Saent a shot.

If you find yourself constantly distracted in the studio then this could definitely be a handy little life-hack gadget to consider adding to your workflow.

  1. Editor’s Keys: Backlist keyboard

This gadget increased my productivity tenfold.

This is one I have personally tried and can say nothing but great words about.

My DAW is Ableton Live 10, so I went with its wired keyboard version. These keyboards also come in non-backlit wired or wireless versions, not to mention a removable rubber keyboard overlay for Macbook’s – perfect for those producers on the move. 

I personally like to produce with soft lighting from either a lamp or LED strips which I can dim, so this keyboard came as a no-brainer to me. I can keep the lights off, thus minimizing distractions, but still work quickly and efficiently thanks to the illuminated keys displaying the full spread of shortcuts.

Works with every DAW in existence.

Editor’s Keys have versions of their keyboards for just about every major DAW (Cubase, Reason, Fruity Loops, & Bitwig to name a few), not to mention a full range of video, photo and graphics editing related ones for all the varying creatives out there. 

As mentioned, this gadget alone doubled my productivity. If you’d like to find out more about the product, check out Editor’s Keys in more detail here.

  1. Foobot: Air quality controller

Studies have proven a direct link between air quality and productivity.

One’s ability to focus and concentrate can be hindered by “inadequate ventilation, elevated levels of carbon dioxide (CO2), and indoor pollutants”. When trying to maximize your creative output in the studio it is important to look after the health of both your body and mind, especially when some sessions can last upwards of 8 hours (“just 20 more minutes on this loop and I’m ready to export…”).

How does Foobot work?

Foobot is a small device that monitors indoor air quality by detecting the invisible pollutants in your environment. It features an LED display that turns certain colors to alert you to changes in air quality, as well as general, overall air purity (or lack thereof).

The accompanying app provides real-time data and charts of each pollutant over a period of time, helping to identify pollution sources more easily.

Also serves as a sleep aid.

Another use for this little guy is as a sleep aid. If you can get your air quality game down to a respectable level you will breath easier, and in turn sleep deeper and feel more rested with less fatigue – an obvious necessity (if not the most?) for good mental health, cognition and focus.

  1. Intelligent Change: Productivity planner

Get shit done.

The Productivity Planner helps you prioritize and accomplish the goals you set out (in a timeless, well laid out format). I prefer to jot down my notes/goals/priorities for the studio at least a couple of hours before my session. A lot of the time, doing the work isn’t the hard part, figuring out what to do and starting on it is.

Unlike those free apps, this one actually works.

I had a free app that did precisely what this planner does a while back, but found that every time I grabbed my phone to input my idea I would inevitably get sucked into the flow-killing vortex that is notifications, emails, text messages, photo’s of cats from my girlfriend… 30 minutes later I’d emerge and forget what I was even working on. This is no good.

Intelligent Change Productivity Planner

Tactile, and old-school.

Pen to paper, it’s a tried and tested method. What I like about this is that I have something tactile that sits on my desk and stares back at me, it’s old school. I like that I can grab it immediately when I have an idea to write down, mid-production. I get more work done in less time because it gives me a direction, and I get fewer distractions because it isn’t on my smart device which wants to absorb every ounce of my attention.

A neat little trick I found was to pair this with any Pomodoro Timer for enhanced focus, that has a definitive break/completion time. Productivity, supercharged.

You can check out the Productivity Planner here.

  1. Onnit Alpha Brain: Cognitive-enhancing nootropic

Joe Rogan’s company.

What can I say, the guy is as productive and driven as they come. He claims to take this stuff every single day and swears that it is what keeps him sharp during his famous podcasts.

Dubious on this (because supplements usually come with a ton of snake oil salesman), I decided to dig a little deeper. Turns out that a clinical study was done at Boston University, where scientists found that Alpha Brain was “12% more effective than a placebo for verbal recall (memory). Mental processing speed also increased by 21% compared to baseline.”

My honest review of Alpha Brain.

I already take a bunch of nootropics (because I do notice a considerable improvement in my cognition and mood. Plus, I’m a nerd who thinks they are fascinating) so I thought what the hell. These are claimed to be useful for focusing on complex tasks, creativity, learning, verbal recall, and memory formation.

This ticked enough boxes for me to order a bottle a few days ago. I will post up a review in the future and let you my readers know if I found them beneficial in a studio setting. I dare say the outcome will be positive, as I already take a bunch of the ingredients of Alpha Brain like Bacopa Monnieri, and Alpha-GPC by themselves, which I definitely recommend.

Alpha Brain isn’t for everyone. Here’s why.

These won’t be for everyone. Some readers will be dubious to a pill helping them write music more efficiently, and some will be up for trying pretty much anything to get that extra leg up in the game. Regardless, nootropics are being more and more widely accepted and utilized by creatives from all backgrounds and disciplines for their ability to channel flow states more readily. If you’ve ever experienced a proper flow state you will know the amazing benefits that they have for your creative output.

If you’re interested in hacking your brain for optimum performance, check out Alpha Brain by clicking here.

  1. Skillshare: Unlimited courses on mindset, focus, productivity and more

This one’s a little different.

Not a product per se but some of that good old fashioned education. How great is the modern age? You can sit in your underpants on your couch and still get a degree, thanks to this thing called the Internet.

When it comes to learning new skills or information, or just brushing up existing knowledge, Skillshare is a platform where you can learn from teachers alongside classes of other students around the globe – all at your own pace. The courses are interactive, have homework and assignments, and a great support network in the ways of class participation in public channels, with full guidance from the teachers.

My experience with Skillshare.

I have personally been a member for a few years now, and while I haven’t yet eclipsed the 20 000+ classes they offer, I have managed to teach myself a bunch of new skills. Mixing, sound design, graphic design, photo editing, productivity/creativity hacks, and most recently – blogging and marketing. All of these topics have had some great classes and some that have totally changed the way I operate in some areas.

A one-stop shop for all things knowledge.

It is for this reason that I have chosen to include it as a productivity and focus tool. Sometimes, learning a new skill is all that is required to bust you out of a creative rut or an unproductive mindset.

As a bonus, if you sign up and refer a friend you get a month of free classes. Sign up 12 friends – hey presto, one free year of learning cool stuff. Not enough bonuses for you? Ok, if you sign up this month you can get a whopping 3 months for $0.99, no strings attached.

Check out Skillshare lessons here.

  1. Circadian Optics ‘Lumine’: Light-therapy lamp

Reap the benefits of the sun (indoors).

Getting enough sunlight during the day can be tough. Whether you work indoors, are in the midst of the colder seasons, or have a level of dedication to music production that is unparalleled – getting enough of that sweet sweet vitamin D can be harder than you think. Fatigue, tiredness, lack of concentration and focus are all symptoms of vitamin D deficiency. When it comes to productivity, it is a no-brainer that you need this stuff to function normally.

Elevate your mood.

The smart people over at Circadian Optics saw the need of mood-elevating sunlight for 9-5 office workers, so they created the Lumine – a neat looking sun lamp that emits bright LED lights while filtering out dangerous UV rays – an easy and effective way of getting exposure to bright light indoors.

How does the Circadian Optics Lumine work?

Certain colored wavelengths of sunlight are absorbed by non-visual receptors in the eye. The exposure to these rays are necessary for the balancing of hormone levels and orchestrating many other functions that help make you energetic, alert, healthy and productive during the day.

“The best time to use your Circadian Optics lamp is in the morning. Exposure to bright light in the early part of the day stimulates receptors in your eyes and sets your body clock for the day. Morning light is most effective in helping us to be awake, alert and energetic during the day.”

Ever feel mentally/physically wrecked after a long producing session?

It should come as no surprise that your average music producer puts some solid hours in when it comes to honing their craft – I know after some long sessions of staring at the screen I feel physically and mentally wrecked. If you experience the same, then maybe trialling some sun therapy might be worth your while. I know this would definitely be of benefit to a lot of you who are going through winter right now or live in countries that don’t get that many visits from that flaming mass of burn in the sky.

Need that sweet vitamin D? Check them out here.

  1. Phillips Brilliance: Two-in-one monitor

Screen real estate, for the win.

The Phillips Brilliance kills the need for two monitors side by side – for the obvious reason that this is in fact, 2 displays merged into one larger one.

The obvious sell for music producers here is the ability to have your sequencer on one screen, and your synth’s and VST’s on the other, all while minimizing clutter and space on your desktop. Yes, the wheel isn’t being reinvented here, but nevertheless, this is a cool way to reclaim some precious desk space for those of you who have your studios in your bedroom or small apartment space.

Perfect for video editors/those scoring film.

Featuring edge-to-edge glass and an ultra-thin border, these dual screens move back and forth independently and freely, and can be tilted at different angles depending on your requirements. The fact that these can be combined almost seamlessly into one large 38″ display, further supports their use for film and video projects.

Now let’s talk features:

  • 4 USB ports
  • VGA, DisplayPort, & HDMI Ports
  • Flicker-free technology (less eye fatigue)
  • Edge-to-edge glass and narrow border for a seamless appearance
  • SmartImage presets for optimized image settings
  • SmartTxt for an optimized reading experience
  • AH-IPS (for wide angles of viewing)
 


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