5 Tips For a Productive & Creative Session

Presented by Workflow Foundations


When did you last have an awesome production session?

You know, a session where everything went to plan. You lost track of time. You got a lot of work done.

How did you feel?

What if you could feel that on a regular basis? What if most of your production sessions were productive and creative?

The bad news is, not all of your production sessions will be great. We’re human beings and we have emotions. Some days, and some production sessions, they just suck.

The good news is that most of your sessions can be great if you implement a few things. That’s what we’ll be going over in this lesson—5 tips for more productive and creative sessions.

#1 – Do deep work

Deep work, according to Cal Newport, author of the book Deep Work (who would have guessed?), is “ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task.”

As a producer, you want to do deep work. You want to focus without distraction on the task at hand. Sure, it’s more difficult, but it will do wonders for your productivity.

But to leverage deep work and be productive, you need to have sessions of a decent length. If your production session is 10 minutes long, you won’t get in the zone. It’s not enough time to get focused and do solid work.

You want to schedule this time on your calendar. It’s sacred time.

And make sure you commit to it. If you’ve said you’re going to produce for 45 minutes, then sit there until the timer is up. Force yourself to produce. You might come up with nothing, but you’re developing discipline, which is only going to help.

Also, you want to eliminate any potential distractions. Turn your phone off. Turn your internet connection off. If you live with others, lock your door and place a Do Not Disturb sign on it.

Read: How to Make More Time for Music

#2 – Session objective

A lot of producers overload themselves.

They schedule out 2-3 hours of production time, and attempt to do 10 different things in that time period.

If you attempt to do 10 challenging things in 2-3 hours, you won’t complete them all, and you’ll feel bad.

Instead, set a single objective for each session.

Your objective might be to write a melody, or arrange the track. Just pick something.

This deliberate task of setting a session objective helps you focus on what’s important. As a result, you’ll spend less time on trivial things.

For instance, if your session objective is to write a melody, then tweaking a drum sample during that session is not important. It’s a distraction. If you don’t have a session objective, then there’s nothing wrong with tweaking that drum sample, but it’s not going to move you closer to a finished track.

Your session objective should be challenging enough so you can enter a state of flow and feel like you’ve accomplished something after the session ends. It shouldn’t be too challenging so that it paralyzes you.

Bonus Tip: Not sure what your session objective should be? Ask yourself, “If I were to do ONE thing on this project right now that would move it forward, what would it be?” 

Warning: Don’t set a session objective right when you’re starting a new project. You want the first session for a new project to be free and open. You want to experiment. You want to roam. Having an objective during this initial session can stifle creativity. Once you’ve come up with a decent idea, then it’s wise to set an objective.

#3 – If necessary, break your objective into steps

Sometimes, just having a single, simply-defined session objective will be enough.

Other times—and especially when you need to work on something you’re not good at—you may need to break that objective into small pieces or “steps.”

Let’s say you want to arrange an 8-bar loop you’ve made.

You might break that up as follows:

  1. Remove all unnecessary sounds and instruments from the loop
  2. Arrange from a “macro” viewpoint. Get basic verse/chorus/break structure down using a subtractive arrangement method.
  3. Go through from left to right and remove/add what’s needed

#4 – Work fast—don’t be a perfectionist

Motion and momentum are key.

You can be a perfectionist later on when you’ve almost finished your track, but early on, it’s a huge inhibition. You want to be working quickly. Getting ideas down quickly. Fixing ‘em up later.

What does working fast look like?

  • Not spending 30 minutes looking for the perfect kick drum, but rather, finding one that’s good enough.
  • Moving on once a section of the arrangement is good not perfect (because it never will be perfect)
  • Getting the foundation for the track down quickly so that your creative vision is solidified and you can easily see where the track needs to go.

Read: 7 Actionable Strategies to Grow Your Musical Output

#5 – Be consistent

Creativity and productivity are things that you want to sustain, not just to happen once.

It’s hard to pull a few levers and have the most productive session of your life. You need to WORK at this over time. It’s something you need to practice.

That’s also why you need to give yourself grace. You’re not going to nail it every time, even if you do the above 4 things right. If you have a bad session, take it on the chin and move on.

What tip would you add to this list? Leave a comment below!