Time Management and the “Part Time” Composer

In a  recent Composer’s Digest entry, I outlined several changes I wanted to make to enhance my professional productivity.  A short while after publishing that, I hit upon the idea of creating for myself an annual production schedule (that is, mapping out all the projects I would complete during the course of the year and an approximate time frame in which to complete each project).  I was really taken with this idea as I thought it would give me more focus and thus lead to more pieces being completed.  As I began to sit down to put this list together, however, I kept coming back to the question:

When during the day will I actually DO the composing?

A tricky point, considering (as is the case for many of my fellow “part time” composers) I have a job, go to school, have an active family, and participate in community music groups.  Those rare occasions when I have down time, I’m usually too physically or mentally exhausted to do anything else.

So it became clear that, while having a production queue was a fine idea, I was first going to have to figure out a way to organize my life.

Read the rest of this (and much more) in my book Writing and Living in the Real World: Advice For Young Composers

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12 comments

  1. Wow, your production schedule is thick! You wrote this article really, at the perfect time for me, as I have been noticing that I spend too much time on things that don’t really matter all that much to me, simply out of habit.

    The more that i have going on, the more I find myself in need of some structure – looking forward to seeing how well you stick to your production schedule which is kind of incredible to me!

    1. I’ll be sure to keep everyone posted! I’ll just point out that it seems like my production schedule is heavy, but most of those pieces are already in various stages of completion.

      Thanks for coming by and I’m glad I could help!

  2. Brandon, this was written at the perfect time for me too. I am trying to allocate some time to compose as well. As my primary goal and work pattern is different from yours (I’m on a rota), I just wanted to ask a question: does your partner agree with this? I also have a family with two little kids, none at school.
    I guess that, if my girlfriend would see any benefits coming out of my “hobby”, the situation would change, but at the moment I gain no money out of my music, hence she thinks this is time wasted. Did you need to fight for your time to compose?
    Thanks for the article, very enlightening indeed!

    1. I generally try to find time to write when it would be least obtrusive to family times or wouldn’t create an undue extra burden of child care responsibility on my wife. So I’ll write when they’re at school or after they go to bed.

      The essence of good time management is meeting ALL of your life needs as much as possible. There were years when I did almost no composing at all (mostly when the kids were infants and I was teaching full time) because I couldn’t do it without onerous sacrifices to family or work needs.

      It can be difficult for our life partners to sit by and watch us toil away so many hours without any clear gain. Especially if our partners are not “in music” they may not realize the years of seemingly fruitless dues paying that is required to “get anywhere” in composition.

      I think if you are willing to sit down with her and make a sensible schedule everyone can be ok with and you spell out why this is so important to you and why it takes so much time and effort (perhaps even outline your long range plans and goals), you will “win her over.” Like any other relationship issue, communication and flexibility are the keys to solving this.

      My wife generally respected (and respects) my writing needs. So I’ve been lucky. She knew what she was getting in to anyhow… 😉

      Best wishes and happy writing!

      P.S. – if you’ve seen the movie Amadeus, you’ll note even Mozart had to deal with a money-concerned partner 🙂

  3. Interesting – thanks for posting. I have a (temporary) day time job which I have to combine with music and audio related activities. If I get up at 4 am during the week I can put in a morning run before heading out of the door at 6 am, and I can still beat traffic, reducing the commute from 1 1/2 hour to 1/2 hour. For me deadlines are usually dictated by film festivals (I also do sound post production). There’s never enough time in a day it seems, and it doesn’t help that I am too easily distracted. 😉

    1. I admire your dedication in getting up so early–I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t be able to do that!

      I’m easily distracted too. Starting this new approach to time management had helped a lot with that actually. Knowing what I’m “supposed” to be doing at any given time during the day helps keeps me on track and productive. And allowing myself regular breaks has been a helpful practice. I get antsy if I sit for too long.

      Best wishes and happy writing!

  4. Thanks for this information. It is very useful for us. We are a music writing team. We have need a composer, music writer, musicians, song writer and singer. Now we try give a musicians music jobs. We are wanted composer very quickly. Because our all writing need to compose and then publish.
    composer wanted

  5. I have a full time job – but all my children are grown and gone. I have found that Saturday morning is ideal – I can sleep in to 8 AM, its quiet, and I have the energy to concentrate. Your schedule has you sleeping until 2 PM and composing later. Also, time management is part of it but composing is only about 50% of the time needed to bring something to performance. i have found that writing electronic music gets a piece out there much faster that finding performers, a venue, rehearsal, etc. There are efficiencies in 21st century technologies that are important, too.

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