Staying Organized, Workflow and Time Management

Welcome back to the JZ Mics blog! Carrying on from last weeks first instalment of this months focus of Business Administration, this week it seemed prudent to talk about the importance of time management; particularly a few of the main ways I manage my own time and the impact it’s had.

I guess the best place to start is the realization I had in my adolescence -I think about time as a currency - I only have a finite amount of it, and it’s the only thing I can’t make more of. Worse still, I don’t know how much of it I’ll actually have to work with. I realized this when I was quite young, and at first it was a little scary think about but I came to terms with how much that though process motivated me to get things done and choose what to work on, and when far more wisely.

So as always, let’s dive in.

Utilizing Simple Tools

The best tools are the ones that are simple to use, and are effective at their intended purpose. It took me a long time to start working with the following, but it’s almost criminal how much they help my everyday work and yet, are such simple things to do.

Using a checklist is the first. I came across a book called The Checklist Manifesto about 2 years ago and it completely turned my life around in how I organize my time due to the examples Atul Gwande gave as examples of real world every day situations that they’re imperative to have a checklist in. You may find you’re already using basic forms of them; many people use a chart or similar to cross off the parts of an album for each song, and cross off each part as they go (I find this is the most common one for many studios).

This is arguably one of the most important books I've ever come across, and I would highly recommend taking the time to read it if you haven't already!

The thing about a checklist for me is it helps to de-clutter my mind, helps me focus and stay motivated without losing view of what I need to do throughout the week. If you’re not already, I highly recommend on a Sunday night, sit down with a notebook and a pen, and just bullet point the things you have to get done through the week - better yet, keep the book on or near your person and add to it when you find more tasks that arise, and most importantly cross of those completed; it really can have such an effect to help streamline your everyday.

A great example of the use of breaking down each song and their parts to keep focus within a long run of sessions for an album for example.

I use my checklists in conjunction with my calendar as well. My calendar has all the appointments or big events I need a gentle nudge to remind me I have coming up, as well as serving as a diary for booking appointments and sessions, meetings and more. The checklist works hand in hand, and if I have something to send back to a client, or a piece of work I need to return and a deadline, or notes for myself for a mix, whatever it my be - it goes in the checklist and they become part of my weekly tasks to complete by the end of the week. I honestly can express the impact these have both had on the way I run my studio and it’s helped keep my clients very happy as well as alleviate the pressure in my head when I feel like I’m forgetting something, so definitely try these out if you’re not already!

Increasing Workflow

Workflow is everything in any business. When you break any business practice down, there are multiple places and tunnels that have their own workflows that piece together to make one efficient practice; everything from employment, to clientele and lead building, accounting to the final product and bringing it to life, there’s a workflow that is followed to make it as efficient as possible.

In the studio setting, there’s a few things I’ve found that make the different tasks we undertake ourselves much more convenient and faster to do with a smaller margin of error, therefore saving time. The first thing I personally think of is planning a session in advance and having consultations of a sort with the client. This one topic is quite a large one as I can encompass so many different areas of planning and pre-production, but if a client doesn't have the budget for example for pre-production within a studio setting then a couple of things are always requested before the sessions even get underway:

  • Demo material
  • References of other influences or artists
  • A breakdown of the motif or reason each song was made so I have emotive context

They sound simple, but recently, I’ve had some trouble with bands that are my friends where they’ve booked in and there’s no references to the material we’re working on. In their case, one crucial member has been injured which has made the rhythm session of the songs and the part the other band mates need to play to to build the song needing to be built within MIDI and then once ready, we’ll go back and record the real thing at the end of the sessions. I like working in this way for drums especially as you can tailor the sound of the kit, the tuning, mic choices, etc. far easier than trying to build everything around the drums. Without the reference material, or demos, even live videos to listen to and work though to build the MIDI drums, we came to an immediate halt within the first hour of the first session and then had to reconvene on another date to try again once they were better prepared.

The key thing here isn’t that it’s totally down to the artist to know to provide this. I’d worked previously with the band and built the assumption that they’d bring these things with them or provide them prior to the first session - but sometimes life gets in the way for whatever reason the thought didn’t cross their mind. Due to me not sticking to the same practice I do with all other artists, it obviously didn't help the situation and I bore just as much fault as they did, so make sure you don’t follow my mistakes - request the bare essentials before the sessions get underway!

Another great rule of thumb I use is the 80/20 rule. I first learnt this in Brian Hoods 6 Figure Home Studio community (which I highly recommend joining if you’re not a part already), whereby he describes being able to streamline many tasks that take a lot of time, and make it so you work easier and faster, not longer and harder in the most basic way of explaining. One way I’ve found that massively negates a large portion of time I’d been spending on several areas of a mix or a recording session was by relying on templates of previous sessions I’d done with similar needs. For example, I have various groups of instruments I work on at a time with many tracks being used, and if I know the band I’m working with are wanting to work towards a similar sound that I’ve already worked on with another client, I can refer to the template of their mix and tweak it to fit the way the new client likes. This saves a massive amount of time, especially with mapping out the MIDI drums I previously mentioned as I can load up 18 or more tracks that are already routed together, with a basic mix in place, with a sample library that the band are happy with the sound of, all within a moment and a couple of clicks - rather than the tedious effort of starting from scratch.

Hopefully, these small points will help you going forward, and if you have any examples of how to make life easier in the day to day of running a studio, I’d love to know - if you’re already a part of the community you can reach me there, or simply hit reply to this email!