Tuesday, 9 October 2012

On staying disciplined...

When I worked in an office, I would wake up every morning at 7:30 so I could get to work at 9:00 sharp.

Ok.  That's a lie.  My alarm would go off at 7:30.  Then I would press the snooze button a million times before finally rolling out of bed around 8:00.  And stumble into the office around 9:15 or so.

I've never been a morning person.

Anyway, the point is, I had a pretty regular schedule.  And despite my daily 9 to 5 office hours, I still managed to fit in singing lessons, auditions, gigs and coachings and find time to practise every day.  It was not easy, and I often felt frustrated and constricted by my office hours, but I did manage to get a satisfactory amount of singing work done every day.

So now that I don't have an office job, and I'm able to be a singer 100% of the time, I should be getting tons of work done.  I should be listening to lots of music, improving my technique, translating my texts, learning new roles and working on my acting.  I should be improving exponentially faster than I did when I had the office job.  Right?


I've just finished my first official week as a student, and let me tell you, I have wasted a LOT of time.  I have slept in numerous times, I have spent two mornings of the week being hungover - one time I even went home IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY to take a nap!  And honestly?  I'm not doing any more practising than I did before.  In fact I may even be doing less.

What on earth is going on??

Don't get me wrong here.  I mean, I remember what it was like being a student.  I remember the whole staying-up-until-2:00-then-rolling-out-of-bed-for-my-12:00-class thing.  I remember drinking on weekdays.

But I'm not an 18-year-old kid anymore.  I'm a 27-year-old adult.  I thought being a student would be different now that I'm older!  I thought I would approach this with maturity and discipline.  I thought I would know how to manage my time wisely.

I did not think I would be drinking an entire bottle of red wine on a Wednesday night.  Or sleeping in until noon just because I can.  Those are things you do when you're young and you don't know any better.  I should be more sensible than this!

Well, apparently I'm not.

I think there's a few reasons for my lapse in discipline here.  First of all, it's easier to stay disciplined when you have consistency.  When I worked in an office I had a regular, structured schedule.  So I practised at the same time every day.  It was an easy habit to keep because it was consistent.

Secondly - and this one might sound strange, bear with me - I think it's actually easier to get something done when you have less time to do it.  When I worked in an office I had a limited window of time in which to practise.  Which meant I was highly motivated to practise within that time.

I only have until 7:30 to sing so this better be good!!

Now that I'm a student my schedule is all over the place! Some days I might have a class from 10:00 to 1:00 and a 45-minute coaching at 3:00. Other days I might have a lesson at 2:00 and then a 3-hour class after dinner.  So there's no way I can practise at the same time every day.  I have to fit it around this random, sporadic schedule.  And on top of that, I have long stretches of unstructured time when I can do ANYTHING I WANT.  And that is a very dangerous thing.  Because in my experience, when you have anything more than, say, an hour free, it suddenly feels like INFINITE TIME.  And why should I practise now when I have infinite time in which to do so?  Especially when facebook and youtube are just a few clicks away on my laptop!

It gets worse when I don't have a morning class.  Yes, I COULD get up early and practise before class, but technically I don't HAVE to be at school until 12:00.  And when I don't HAVE to, it's hard to convince myself that I should.

Sometimes I think I have trouble motivating myself because I get overwhelmed by my unrealistic expectations.  It`s like I have two voices in my head.  One is this crazy drill sargeant who thinks I should work out, do an hour of vocalising, and learn three roles, all before noon.

Give me 20 well-supported high A's!  NOW!!
And the other is a lethargic sloth who just wants to sit around eating grilled cheese sandwiches and watching reruns of How I Met Your Mother.  And come on, which of those two voices sounds more appealing?

C'mon man, it'll be fun!  We can even have ice cream!
Thus, I finish the week feeling terribly guilty for having killed a lot of valuable time.  Time which could have been productive, but was instead devoted to crap tv, chocolate and facebook.  So how do I avoid this in the future?

Well I think this is a challenge faced by most students - and by most freelancers.  You have to make your own schedule.  There's lots of work to do, and you're well aware of it, but there`s no boss breathing down your neck telling you when to work.  So you have to motivate yourself.  You have to set your own hours and you have to follow them.

Mind you, it`s best to be careful when setting your own hours.  It might sound appealing to you now to sleep in late and work late into the evening, but this can make it pretty difficult to carry on any kind of social life with people who keeps normal hours.  And once you start working later in the day, it's a slippery slope.  Before you know it you`ll have some bizarre sleep schedule which has you going to bed at 3am and waking up at 1pm.

I don't care if it is 2 in the afternoon, this still counts as my morning coffee.

If you enjoy having a sleep schedule like this and you don`t mind never seeing your non-student/non-freelancer friends, by all means carry on.  But personally I`ve found that staying up late and sleeping in late all the time makes me feel pretty yucky.  There is something to all that circadian rhythm stuff after all.  Besides, if you`re used to sleeping until noon, you`re going to have a heck of a time getting up for an audition/interview/test/what-have-you at 9 in the morning.

It's not easy being your own boss, no matter how motivated you are.  Nobody tells you what to do when, and while this may sound fabulous at first, it really is a mixed blessing.  It means you have to create your own schedule and make sure that you follow it.  And if you aren't getting enough done, it's nobody's fault but your own.

Beck got that one right.
I still have a lot to learn about being disciplined.  Case in point: I meant to write this blog post yesterday, and despite loads of free time I still didn't manage to finish it last night.  In any case, after realising how much time I wasted last week, this week I'm really making an effort to approach things differently.  Sure, I may not HAVE to get up early, but I'll certainly feel better and get more done if I do.  I may even be able to have a proper evening every now and then!  So it's definitely worth it to keep myself on at least a halfway-sensible schedule.

And on that note, it's getting to be past midnight now.  Better get to bed so I can have a productive day tomorrow!


  1. I know about unstructured spaces/times/feelings... don't know how to manage them either... but I suppose doing something about them is better than nothing at all. I suppose some of the main differences between your previous job and this new endeavour is that now your tasks and the road ahead seem incredibly ambitious and full of self doubts, it is a road towards yourself, and it is soimportant and your heart and soul is so invested in it... But we just need to keep on keeping on, doing things bit by bit, and reaching out for support.

    Sending you lots of hugs, Go Brynne!!


  2. Thanks Flor :)
    I think you're right - and also my goals here are so much less exact and tangible, so it's hard to stay motivated at times. Missing you lots! xoxo