Bad habits creep up on us, often when we aren't looking and if we are not careful they get into our workflows and make less effective at best and unable to work at all at worse. In this 2 part series, we take a look at ten bad habits we can have in music and post-production and recommend techniques and strategies to counter each of these bad habits. Here are the first five...
1. Comparing Yourself To Other People
The minute we created singing contests we started to miss the point of the creative arts. It’s not about trying to be better than everyone else, when you do that then you start to compare yourself to others and focus on what they have that you don’t. Yet it’s your unique qualities, indeed your differences that are what will make you stand out in the world, not your similarities. For those lucky enough to have a gift for singing, playing, arranging, scoring, composing, engineering, producing or mixing, then quit comparing yourself to others, or trying to be the next (fill in the name), sorry that job is already taken. The job you have is to be a better you. The pursuit of excellence is a life-long task and yes we will find people on the journey who inspire us or motivate us, but in the final analysis forget trying to be like everyone else - work hard at being a better you.
We cover these issues and others in our article Forget Trying To Be Like Everyone Else - Work Hard At Being A Better You.
2. Not Looking After Yourself And Being Unhealthy
Although we have covered some health issues relating to posture and being sat down too long there are other health issues we ignore at our peril.
Here are my tips for staying healthy, as I'm a creative they are in no rational order.
Sleep Matters - There's a reason sleep deprivation is used as an interrogation method. Setting aside the possible serious health impact, the sleep-deprived have to work harder to function. You may think not sleeping is smart but it may be the case that not sleeping is making you less smart.
Eat Well - Working in a studio does not lend itself to eating well. Often the highlight of the day is when the take-out menus come out. Eating well is about a number of things; quality, quantity and frequency - the what, the how much and the when. So try to eat high quality, freshly prepared food at regular intervals during the day. Also, make sure you are not starving and then gorging, that isn't good for you either.
Avoid Stimulants - we aren’t talking about drug abuse here, there are plenty of legal stimulants we put into our body daily. Both tea and coffee contain stimulants and excessive consumption may not help you maintain balance. Consider a drinking regime that is made up of water, juices and decaffeinated hot drinks.
Take Regular Breaks - You think you can't possibly stop for breaks, but you are making a big mistake when you think like that. As a creative you are being paid to stay fresh and keep your mind alert - ideas are the currency you deal in. Tiredness and stress will rob you of your creativity.
We cover these issues and others in our article How To Be Kind To Yourself And Stay Healthy As A Creative Professional.
3. Have Bad Posture
When DAWs first started to appear in studios, they would often end up on a separate trolley or perched on the mixing console, but as computers have taken over more of the roles traditionally done by dedicated hardware, they have taken centre stage in our studios and we have become glued to our chairs in front of a computer screen.
The concentration of so many different functions within the computer means that although we are sat down and not moving around much, we stress our bodies in so many different ways without realising it by extending our wrists, slouching, sitting without foot support and straining to look at poorly placed monitors.
All of this can lead to what health professionals call 'cumulative trauma disorders' or 'repetitive stress injuries' (RSI), which if not dealt with can cause serious, irreversible medical conditions. Symptoms of these may include pain, muscle fatigue, loss of sensation, tingling and reduced performance.
So what can we do about this? There are a range of options that we can use, bearing in mind that no one solution is the right answer for every person and every problem.
Posture And Right Angles - How you sit and the height of the work surface, are both crucial. Everything should be at right angles and make sure you get a decent chair.
Move! - Moving around has many benefits: it relaxes tissues, lubricates joints and prevents stiffness, improves circulation, reduces fatigue, and builds stamina. Studies have shown that heavy computer users who move around every 10 minutes successfully avoid computer-related pain.
Exercise At Your Computer - There are exercises you can do at your computer but do use them as a replacement for taking medical advice.
When To Seek Medical Care - Remember that if you have to hold any part of your body in tension, you will be much more prone to pain and causing damage to your body. The key here is that pain is your body's warning system that something isn't right.
We cover these issues and possible solutions in much more detail in our article Back Pain, Posture And RSI - What Can We Do?
4. Not Bothering To Network
Networking can be a real turn off for creatives with connotations of speed dating for business people., More recently has a second meaning as we have embraced computer networking in our workflows with audio over IP.
But it is essential to create support networks especially if you are one of a growing army of people working alone in a home studio. Russ touched on this in his recent article Has The Home Studio Dream Become A Nightmare? One way to counter this loneliness is to create networks especially as many freelance creatives can very easily feel isolated. The second reason to start networking is to meet other creatives in your field, ideally, face to face but this isn't always possible, either way with the aim of building relationships that will help develop your career.
Make sure you have trusted friends you can rely on to discuss your work, your clients, your own health and any other concerns you have. Russ explains his experiences...
I have around 10 people in my life I can call and ask their advice on an idea, a project, a client issue or about my own business concerns such as late payments, long hours or other personal concerns. It is essential you build strong support networks. If you don't have any right now then make sure you spend the next week finding those people, they don't have to live close by. Some of mine live on the other side of the world but I count them as some of my trusted friends and advisors.
You can learn more about networking in a number of our articles...
- The Isolating World Of The Freelancer And How To Escape
- Elevator Pitch – Are Modern Producers Responsible For Getting Their Clients Signed? (Part 1)
- Elevator Pitch – Are Modern Producers Responsible For Getting Their Clients Signed? (Part 2)
5. Over Promising
One of the things I stress when I talk to students, apprentices or any other kind of new entrant into our industry is never to bullshit. What I mean by this is never say you can do something when you can’t. Having read it or studied it a bit in college is very unlikely to cut it in the real world. It's a small industry, especially in areas of specialism and reputations can be trashed with one overstated promise that leads to jobs not being done well or worse still the job not being completed at all. Our industry runs on trust and deadlines and break either or both of these and you will have a huge uphill climb to rebuild your reputation.
You should also set reasonable expectations for both those you work for and for yourself. You may have a personality that wants to please people all the time but in the long run, you find the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Always under-promise and over-deliver. If you think a job will take 2 days then build in a buffer day for possible roadblocks, this is especially important if your deadline relies on other people. One of my greatest challenges with deadlines is clients getting back to me with amends, it can often add weeks to a project so make sure you account for this.
Don't take on work you have little experience in - you should never use paying clients to practise your skills or learn new software. Over-promising can lead to letting clients down and add to any feelings of failure - avoid this at all costs.
The bottom line is this - reputation is tomorrow’s profit, get a good one and there’s less of a chance that you will join the ever-growing list of studios and professionals that are no longer in business.
There are the first five bad habits and some advice and tips on how to counteract these bad habits. In part 2 we look at 5 more bad habits and how we can fix them.