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How to Use Your Summer

Hey! Are you like me? Do you ALSO have huge plans for stuff you are going to accomplish over the summer? And yet, do you wake up in September to find you didn’t do, like, anything? Awesome! And by awesome, I mean the opposite of that. We have a problem, you and I. We suffer from Summer Procrastination-itis.

Summer Procrastination-itis can be rough. It stems from having too much free time – this is one of those “too much of a good thing” scenarios that sitcom mothers warn people about. Basically, you decide that you can do that thing tomorrow, and then tomorrow becomes today, but you decide it can wait until tomorrow again, and then it’s September, you never practiced/wrote/cleaned even once and you feel like a bad musician/writer/person.

The good news is that you are not, in fact, a bad person! Summer Procrastination-itis is in fact fully preventable and curable. So, whether you want to avoid it, or if you’re already been suffering from it for a while, here’s some tips to kick summer’s butt.

Set up a routine. This is honestly my favorite of all of the goals, and the one I am, personally, the worst at. Routines are basically long chains of habits you’ve set up, that allow you to get through your day with the minimum of brain-effort. That doesn’t mean you’re not using your brain – practicing, writing, studying, or whatever the meat of your daily routine is definitely takes brain power – but it means you don’t have to use up your will power trying to choose what to do and when. There’s also the idea of momentum – once you get going, you’re likely to keep doing stuff, because it’s starting that’s the hardest part.

Like I said, this is honestly the thing I am the worst at, because I never do the same thing the same way twice. (Bad Gabi! Bad!) However, I am going to try to set up a morning routine, to do every day, and see if that can help me just automatically practice and work on my super-secret writing project that I’m working on. (Join my email list for updates on what that is!) If all goes to plan, my morning routine will look like this:

  1. Wake up at 9am

  2. Put in contacts, brush teeth, drink water

  3. Do half an hour of yoga

  4. Eat breakfast (oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar, and a cup of tea) and read a book

  5. Write for half an hour

  6. Practice for forty five minutes

And there, I’ve done literally everything that is on my goals list for this summer! It’s maybe two and a half hours of stuff, but then it leaves the rest of my day free from noon onward to go to work or hang out or whatever. So set up habits and routines – it’ll get your stuff done faster than you expect.

Have SMART goals. I mentioned my summer goals just then. I have three of them:

  1. Practice for 45 minutes a day, 5 times a week.

  2. Do yoga for 30 minutes a day, 7 times a week.

  3. Write for 30 minutes a day, 6 times a week.

Each of these goals follows the SMART goals rules: they are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Here is a really good description of how to make sure your goals are SMART!

Read! Now, this may be the kid in me who literally ran out of YA books to read in my tiny home town’s even tinier library, but I think reading is really, really important! You don’t have to go pick up War and Peace. Go get a subscription to TapeOp for free, if you’re into recording. Go to your local library and read back issues of the NATS journal or Downbeat. Read articles online about your instrument. Read NPR articles. Just read something for a little bit every day. It’ll expand your knowledge of your instrument, or it will entertain you, or it will make you think. If you don’t like something, read something else. That’s the luxury of reading for fun – you aren’t required to keep going!

Consider doing odd jobs. If you want to earn extra cash, try gigging at local bars. Teach neighbor kids piano for 5 bucks a lesson. Maybe work as a bartender at a local music hub. Do stuff to get yourself out and active in the music scene wherever you’re spending your summer. It can’t hurt, and you’ll probably make some contacts who will help you later in life.

Learn a new skill that makes you stand out. I may be preaching to the choir when it comes to talking about ways to learn new skills, since you’re reading this blog about how to be a better music major, but still. Learn something that’s a unique skill and it will help you to carve out a niche for yourself. For example, I’m working on my writing (obviously), and I’m also considering learning how to properly record classical voice, since recording and singing are both things I’m familiar with. Specialization is great, but the phrase goes “A jack of all trades but master of none is still better off than a master of one.” Basically, learning more stuff gives you more things that people might pay you to do, later on.

Volunteer. This is a three-fold thing: volunteering looks really good on basically any resume, it’s good for your soul to get out and help people, AND when you volunteer you tend to meet people who will let you put up posters advertising your voice studio/band/recording studio. So go out, aid your community, bolster your resume, and meet people (who will let you put up posters and will talk about what a sweet person and great musician you are).

Plus, if you volunteer at a church as a musician, you’ll get to know other area musicians. That’s how you start getting wedding gigs. You can also help out at local community choirs or orchestras, or maybe record a local teacher’s studio recital. There’s tons of things that you can do to volunteer and get your name out there.

So, there’s a list of things you can do this summer. All of them can help out your music career, if you dig around and think about it. They’re also going to make you feel like you actually got stuff done this summer, which is important as well. So kick that Summer Procrastination-itis! See if you can’t get to September having done so much you have a hard time choosing what to say when the inevitable “What did you do this summer?” question arises!

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