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Producing music at home during the coronavirus quarantine

Stay home. Make music.

How do you stay focused and productive while working at home?

I'm in Berlin now, and the streets have been super quiet. I go out about once a week for groceries. The rest of the time, I'm home.

This is a strange change for someone whose two biggest cornerstones in life are the gym and the studio. Now that those two buildings are inaccessible, I've had to bring it all home. At first, this was daunting. But I recalled all of my years on the road and how I managed to get so much done while traveling. I essentially had to bring the traveling producer's mindset back to present day.

How did I have so much discipline to stay creative, finish work, stay fit, eat healthy, all while constantly being on the road? Remembering those experiences got me working on a routine quickly. And now that the routine is established, I'm loving it. I love the morning routine I've created, and it gets me into "the zone" very quickly from the minute I start working until I'm exhausted. The only difference now is that I'm not constantly traveling, my "various locations" are the same location every single day. I'm back to the same mobile studio setup though!

Dopamine fasting [aka dopamine detoxing]

Dopamine detoxing (or dopamine fasting) is a great way to reset your brain's reward mechanisms.

I also have started doing "dopamine detoxes" once a week, which has been tremendously helpful in staying focused without caving in to distraction. Constantly on our phones and laptops, we're so used to an easy button to push for the next surge in dopamine. A study on rats confirms that an easily accessible source of stimulation can quickly turn into an addiction, making all other pursuits less rewarding.

From a dopamine perspective, what's going to give you a larger and more immediate rush? Reaching for your phone to see if you have new notifications, scrolling through your Instagram feed, or launching your favorite video game? Or hunkering down for a workout, reading that book which will provide you with lots of valuable information, taking that online course, dedicating time to mastering Ableton Live?

Another study carried out by the University of California, Irvine (my alma mater!) found that "it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task" after a single distraction. Just one single distraction throws you off course, taking you over 23 minutes to get back on track. Can you imagine the level of destruction this would cause your focus and productivity with multiple distractions in a single day?

A regular "dopamine fast" has been a game changer for me. In short, it has made mundane tasks more fulfilling, especially when you know that they will lead to the betterment of your long-term goals.

The 24-hour dopamine fast

Jari Roomer's version of a dopamine fast has worked well for me. For 24 hours, you follow these rules:

  • No electronics (including phone, laptop, tablet, video games, television, etc.)
  • No reading of books or magazines
  • No sex or masturbation
  • No food (instead, I opted for light vegan meals throughout the day.)
  • No talking
  • No music or podcasts
  • No coffee or other stimulants

What you can do is:

  • Write (with pen and paper)
  • Meditate
  • Go for walks
  • Do deep thinking
  • Visualize
  • Drink water

Try it and let me know how it works out for you!

Establish a morning routine [and stick to it!]

Starting your day off with a good workout will help you overcome mental roadblocks more easily throughout your day.

The key was to establish a morning routine and stick to it. My routine goes something like:

  • Wake up and Meditate in bed for about 10-15 minutes. This starts my day off with gratitude and clarity.
  • Make the bed, wash up and brush my teeth.
  • Morning workout for about 30-45 minutes using the Strong App, Thenx App, or Heria Pro app. These are all body weight exercises (calisthenics) that I used to do while traveling. The latter two apps are super challenging and provide a great workout, sometimes better than what I was doing at the gym!
  • Shower and get ready.
  • Cook a healthy breakfast.
  • Start my day at 100% – whether it's working on my websites, creating music, client work, or administrative work.

What kind of morning routine would work best for you?

No matter what you design for yourself, it's important that you stick to it so that you get into an efficient rhythm. By sticking to a routine, waking up and going to bed at the same time each day, you're more likely to keep yourself in good spirits, beat depression, and stay productive. There aren't any distractions out there anymore to keep you focused, so now it's all up to you!

Identify what requires most of your focus. What do you want to get out of this quarantine? How do you want to make yourself a better person once the world returns to normalcy? What's your ultimate vision? Break it down into actionable steps and write them down. Once you know where your focus should go, the rest of it is about eliminating distraction and honoring the discipline that it takes to get you where you want to be.

Let's make the most of this quarantine, so we all come out of it better than before. Best of luck!

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Nomadic Music Producer's Handbook - How to produce music while traveling

The Nomadic Music Producer's Handbook is the result of over two years of trial-and-error as a nomadic DJ and music producer. I discuss ways you can earn an income remotely as you travel, landing DJ gigs, finding free meals and accommodations, staying fit while traveling, my take on mixing and mastering, preparing for travel, and much more.

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