Lately, lyrics from the song “Kangaroo Pocket” by one of my favorite bands, Rozwell Kid, have been incredibly relatable for me.
And if I do everything that I should
When do I do nothing at all?
Within the span of about 18 months, I went from being unemployed, single, and not playing music with anyone in an organized way to employed full-time, in a committed (and amazing) relationship, and playing in two different bands.
Frequently, I look back and realize that I haven’t done anything for any substantial amount of time in weeks. Being this busy is great in many ways since so much of it consists of things that I truly love doing. However, this increased level of structure in my life has also meant that I have a greatly reduced amount of time to pursue my own creative endeavors, like writing fiction or playing music on my own. Beyond having simply less time to devote to these things, I’ve also found that without having time devoted to doing nothing, it’s incredibly difficult to have any energy left to be productive with the time I have left to be creative.
At times, this has been incredibly frustrating and has left me feeling creatively lost and totally lacking in inspiration or output. I would feel incredibly stressed about trying to find time to write or work on music, despite these being things that I would typically turn to in order to relieve stress.
Something had to change quickly. Surprisingly, the solution actually ended up coming from what I perceived to be the root of the problem. In order to break free of the stress of my schedule, I had to make scheduling a way of life.
It is an amazing privilege to have as many creative outlets and opportunities as I do.
I have always been a fairly spur-of-the-moment person. I’ve always preferred making plans with someone in a few hours instead of a week in advance. I tend to get anxious or overly excited for plans when I’m waiting for them, and then incredibly disappointed if something comes up or those plans don’t work out. With how busy my schedule has become, however, scheduling is now absolutely essential.
Firstly, just from a logistics standpoint, there’s no possible way to get through my week without having some idea of what my schedule looks like.
From a creative perspective, scheduling has actually become a rewarding experience. By scheduling specific time to work on my creative outlets, I have been able to find a greater level of discipline and focus for these endeavors. This discipline has hugely increased my efficiency, especially when it comes to my writing.
Also, by scheduling my writing time, I have become considerably more consistent in actually writing. When I didn’t have this kind of structure, it was very easy to let long periods of time go by where I didn’t write at all. Now, as long as I stick to my schedule, these gaps no longer happen.
As strange as it may seem, scheduling has even been beneficial to my downtime. By having my obligations scheduled out, I am more able to see when I have free time available and then plan out how I divide that time between tasks I need to do, like grocery shopping, and time that I want to devote to my creative outlets like writing, reading and playing music by myself. By doing this, I can then make sure to include downtime in places where I need it in order to relax and recharge my brain.
One of the most helpful realizations I have had in terms of scheduling out my creative time is the amount of tools I have at my disposal and how great they can be in helping me stay organized. This is something that I was able to take from the professional world and bring to my creative life.
Using these tools has also been fantastic in helping with collaboration in my bands. There can be lots of logistics and work to do in a band outside of actually playing music. To tackle this side of things, in one of my bands—We Are Apes—we look at this very similarly to how you would in a professional setting. We have actually deliberately decided to approach this like a business would for remote employees.
We divide specific tasks among the four of us and use a task organization tool to set up deadlines and reminders for these tasks (we like using Asana, but there are many options to choose from). This helps us to remain accountable to each other for accomplishing what we need to as a group, but also allows us to efficiently utilize our time together to actually work on our music, and leave the non-music work to time we each set aside for it. Just like I do with the rest of my life, by diligently scheduling the non-creative tasks we need to do, it allows our creative time to be much more productive and fruitful.
It is an amazing privilege to have as many creative outlets and opportunities as I do right now, and I am incredibly thankful to be in the situation I am. However, trying to manage my time between these various projects, as well as maintaining a social life, responsibilities like working, and still finding time to devote to myself can not only feel difficult at times, but actually impossible.
For me, the most positive impact came from the realization that in order to accomplish everything that I want and need to, I need to be diligent and organized about scheduling, even when it comes to my downtime. This way, when the question from those Rozwell Kid lyrics creeps into my brain, I have an answer.