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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…
Essential Items To Boost Focus & Productivity
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.
Perfect for anyone interested in composing or producing.
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.
Consequently, 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.
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.
3. Editor’s Keys: Backlist Keyboard
Works with every DAW in existence.
This gadget increased my productivity tenfold. 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.
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.
If you often work with sheet music, there’s a tool called Sheet Music Scanner that instantly scans and plays back printed sheet music using just your mobile phone or tablet.
The app is quite unique as it scans photos or PDFs of sheet music, recognizes the notation and plays it verbatim, It can also export to various formats like MIDI, MusicXML, MP3 etc.
5. Foobot: Air Quality Controller
Clean Air, Clean Mind.
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…”).
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.
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.
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.
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 felt exhausted 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.