Using Time Boxing To Achieve Your Musical Goals
With the exception of a few part time jobs, I have been self-employed for my entire
working life. And although I love it, at times it can be challenging to maintain enough motivation to get stuff
done. When you don't have a boss telling you what to do, and when to do it, it's easy to fall into lazy habits at
So what the heck does this have to do with guitar and musical goals?
Well, in my opinion, the process of achieving your musical goals is very similar to being self-employed. You are
totally responsible for setting your goals. You are also totally responsible for organizing your work and making
sure that you actually do it. This means that if you don't have enough self-motivation, then you won't do the work.
And if you don't do the work, then you won't achieve your musical goals.
Introducing Time Boxing
Time Boxing is something that I've been doing for a long time. It's one of my favorite
strategies for making sure that I actually do the work that my musical goals require. It involves doing very short
bursts of work that are designed to move me closer to a specific goal.
Let's take a look at the example of me writing articles for my website. Writing articles
is an incredibly important thing for me to do, and has helped my guitar teaching and online guitar education
business immensely. And here's the exact process that I currently use to write them…
- Write for 50-minutes.
- Rest for 10-minutes. (Sometimes if I'm feeling extra lazy, I'll rest for longer and watch some
- Write for 50-minutes.
- Spend 50-minutes reading the article out aloud, editing, and adding the article to my website.
That's it. Essentially, I write every article in three bursts of 50-minutes. What advantages do you think this
approach has over writing an article in one sitting? Think about it for a few minutes.
I've noticed that I tend to procrastinate with doing something when one (or both) of the following situations
- I feel overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of what I need to do. For Example: Each of
my online guitar courses took months of work to finish. And there were certainly times when I procrastinated
working on them because I was feeling overwhelmed with just how much stuff I had to do!
- I don't particularly enjoy the task that I need to do. For Example: I hate anything
to do with taxes. So I tend to procrastinate with doing the stuff I need to do each time tax time rolls
Can you relate to this? I'm sure most people, if they're being honest, have put off doing things because of the
two reasons above.
And this is where Time Boxing can be incredibly powerful. Here's an example…
Let's say that you've been meaning to transcribe a guitar solo that you really like. You LOVE the solo, and
really want to learn and master it. But every time you sit down to work out the solo by ear, you get frustrated
because it's so difficult. It takes you ages to even to work out just a few notes.
Obviously, one solution would to be a p*ssy and find some transcription of the solo online. Sure…you'd learn the
solo much faster that way, but you'd miss out on the valuable ear training that working out the solo by ear would
Another approach would be to use Time Boxing. In other words, you could dedicate a small chunk of time each day
to working on the solo. The aim each day would be do a small amount of transcribing without worrying about how many
notes you transcribed. Even if you only worked out one note in each transcribing session, that would still mean
that you would eventually work out the whole solo. And more importantly, you would improve your sense of pitch and
overall musicianship tremendously.
Being a perfectionist can be really problematic when it comes to achieving your musical goals. It can cause some
players to put off doing things because they are afraid of making mistakes. It can also cause them to constantly
think that what they do is not good enough. (Berating yourself is not exactly a great strategy if you want to build
confidence and motivation!).
Luckily, Time Boxing can definitely help circumvent perfectionist attitudes.
For Example: Let's use my article writing as an example again. (Yeah…I know, I'm talking about myself again.
Feel free to call me a narcissist!).
Anyway, back to the point…
If you remember from earlier in the article, I mentioned that I currently write all my articles in three
50-minute bursts. This means that I set a limit of 2.5 hours to write each article. Once I've
done 2.5 hours work on an article, then I put it on my website whether-or-not I feel that it is good enough.
This is a fantastic strategy to use, because it stops me from editing and re-writing the article into oblivion.
If I didn't use Time Boxing then I could potentially spend countless hours writing one single article, which would
be a gigantic waste of time. And let's face it, all I'm doing is trying to write an article that provides some
value to guitarists…I'm not trying to win a freakin' Pulitzer Prize!
How Can You Use Time Boxing?
Step One: Write Down A Musical Goal
Please take some time to think of some musical goals that you would like to work towards. I recommend actually
writing them down. Although I don't know what your goals are, here are some possible ones to give you some
- Join or form a band.
- Compose and record an instrumental guitar song.
- Build a website to promote your band.
- Start a guitar teaching business.
- Move to a city with a more vibrant music scene.
- Learn to read music fluently.
- Memorize 100 new chords, and learn how to actually use them in a musical way.
- Learn one of your favorite songs.
- Learn to play a new style of music.
- Set up a weekly jam session.
- Set up a home recording studio.
- Get a second job to pay off the credit card debt from setting up a home recording studio.
I'm sure you get the idea. Write down a goal that you would really feel great about achieving.
Step Two: Design A Time Boxing Activity To Move
Your Closer To Your Goal
It's well beyond the scope of this article to talk about how to break large goals into manageable steps. But
that doesn't mean I can't give you a few ideas to get you started.
For these ideas, let's use the example of learning to read music fluently. Here are some
possible activities that would move you closer to your goal of reading music…
- Researching about and contacting guitar teachers that teach music reading.
- Researching about and buying educational books, DVDs and courses on music reading.
- Writing down a daily practice schedule dedicated to music reading…and actually do the practice every
Once you've thought of some steps that move you closer to the goal, you can then decide on some Time Boxing
strategies. For Example: Rather than spending an insane amount of time researching possible guitar teachers to help
you, a better approach would be to spend a couple of hours doing this and then book a lesson with the one you felt
was the best. And let's be honest, spending 20-hours researching possible guitar teachers would probably not lead
to a significantly better decision than spending 2-hours researching. It would most likely lead to paralysis by
So what are you waiting for? Start Time Boxing and achieve those musical goals!
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