The life of a freelance musician is often both exhilarating and exhausting! A balanced career portfolio as a musician includes mixtures of performance work, accompanying (pianists) and teaching, creative projects (recordings/composition) not to mention all of the administrative aspects that are involved in running a small business (often self-managed) and social media management for those who are super proactive in self-promotion. It is very easy to get swept up in the flurry of creative output yet it is also really easy to feel burnt-out and exhausted by continually giving 200%, as musicians are in a field which fosters an attitude whereby we are passionately devoted to producing and sharing our art with others. As a result we often forget to prioritise and look after ourselves.

Scheduling some down-time can often cause feelings of guilt and leave us in a state of shock as our bodies and minds are not accustomed to much other than the relentlessness of daily life. In a way we can feel truly lost when we do take time out, yet recharging the batteries is so important for our bodies, our emotions and our creativity. It also gives us time to reflect on our many practices and tweak them so when we return we are energised and wiser than we were before. It also gives us the opportunity to take part in activities we normally wouldn’t, hence we can expand our toolkit that we take into our work.

When I schedule down-time I tend to travel as leaving my everyday zone forces me to shake up my habits and get me away from the tid-bits of work I tend to fail to ignore. I usually gravitate to places with pianos nonetheless and pick my places based on events whereby I can enrich my mind, preferably with a gym and a kitchen or good restaurants (enriching my stomach being the foodie that I am!). I love attending courses and workshops where I come away learning something that I can apply as soon as I get the opportunity. Usually these events are music related, but not always, which is also healthy too.

In terms of some of the recent activities I have incorporated as part of my downtime, I have been to marketing courses, music workshops, fitness boot camps, movie and book binges, family holidays… anything that makes me happy that I gravitate towards at the time. I’m also finding that journal writing and trying to limit myself to only 3 small things that would make each day really great makes each day a lot more manageable amidst the chaos, treating these things as my daily downtime along with my morning stretch. Fitting in short stints regularly, even if it means taking a day, a weekend or a week off here and there, doesn’t matter yet scheduling them is crucial. Planning downtime is essential as leaving it until later usually equals never as there is always something to do. I feel so much better knowing when my downtime will be so I can feel completely at ease knowing something else is not pressing and I can put some of my self-management techniques in place to ensure my business will continue to work whilst I temporarily remove myself. We can be disciplined in our practice yet we can also carry that discipline into our downtime.

What kind of things do you do to unwind and enrich yourself during your downtime? And when you do take time out, how do you go about planning  for minimal disruption from your everyday world?

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