New Year's resolutions, many of us have made them and some of us continue to make them - although most of them end in failure by about January 4th.
If you want to be better in 2016 it's not as hard as we think when we understand a little bit about human behaviour.
We are creatures of habit, some good and some bad and a lot of what we do each day is done without even thinking, like living on autopilot, some research suggests that as much as 40% of each day is spent living like this, doing things as habit.
Think about the first hour of your day from waking, I wager that you go through almost the same routine each day; perhaps it's look at your phone as you lie in bed, you check your email, your social media, you walk downstairs and turn on the kettle and then as you walk to the bathroom you ask yourself 'did I turn on the kettle?' That's partly because you were reading your emails as you filled the kettle and turned it on... you get the idea. You did all of that without thinking, it's your daily routine.
Now imagine if you translated that to other parts of your life? To your studio, to your song writing, to your running your business?
The trouble is most of us (partly as creatives) tend to start with a grand vision, rather than a simple idea - but the trick of being better is to start doing things that are so simple that you can't possibly fail at them and before you know it you do positive things without thinking.
So here's my tip for being better in 2016, cultivate a lot of small good habits that over time make a better you.
Here's one I did in 2015 that might help some songwriters out there some I know are already doing this. Every time I get even the inkling of a song idea I pull out my phone and record it - it does not matter where I am, there may be waves pounding a windy beach, or traffic or the I might be in the middle of a store - but I've got so used to it I now do it on instinct - at least a dozen of those crappy sounding audio memos became finished songs last year. A small idea, but a new habit helped me improve.
Here's a few more really small things you might want to try:
- Don't learn every Pro Tools shortcut, but learn one a day. Don't cheat, JUST one a day, you'll know if you're doing it because instead of using the mouse or reaching for the user guide you'll hit a keyboard shortcut - it may even be one a week - it doesn't matter as long as they become habits, second nature like driving a car, but instead you're driving Pro Tools. It's that kind of speed that gets you a job in a studio not being a know-all but being fast.
- Learn to read music, but not all at once, start small with something like the time signature or the key signature. Learn one a day, or one a week, it doesn't matter how quickly you learn as long as it becomes automatic and before you know it you'll be looking at scores and think cool that's in F or G and there's a bar of 3/4 at bar 10.
- Turn off notifications on your computer, break the habit of being always connected and create a habit of being unconnected. For me that's using ALT click on the Mac OS X notification centre to mute any notifications, I also ruthlessly go through all my devices and kill as many alerts and notifications as possible, I don't want to cultivate a bad habit of always being on.
Another important thing is to reward yourself, I already do this on a small level, for example I don't get to drink a coffee until I've completed a mix or a song, as a one man band I find it keeps me focussed. You might want to reward yourself with a day off, a piece of gear you've wanted once you've hit a goal, but again start small and grow it. Don't think "once I've mastered every shortcut in Pro Tools then I'm going to buy a Neve 72 channel mixer."
These are just a few examples of how really small things can make a huge difference to how we grow and what we achieve. The great news is that we can all make a change in our lives by cultivating positive habits... it's not as hard as some may think.