Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Life of the Freelance musician, Part II - Stepping in Time

One of the biggest challenges of a freelance musician is time management, in particular, knowing where you are supposed to be, when you are supposed to be there, what music you are supposed to bring with you, and sometimes, what to wear.

The next three weeks will test this to the fullest for me. As a church musician, it is the busiest time of the season. Holy Week begins on Sunday, and continues through around 1:30 pm on Easter Sunday. Between a week Thursday and Easter Sunday I have five service, a concert with Pro Coro Canada, and two major rehearsals. On top of this, I have agreed to assist the Opera Chorus with a few rehearsals for their upcoming staged version of Mozart’s Requiem … (I can’t quite visualize it, but that’s not my responsibility).

I have found a few things to be successful with regards to managing my time, and keeping myself from being double booked, and I'm happy to share them with you.

Judging from the fact that I have a blog, one might assume I rely quite heavily on my computer. Every since I lost my personal day planner for the umpteenth time, I decided that the only way to schedule myself was to use Outlook® as my sole day planner. I carry around my laptop pretty much wherever I go, so it’s easy to add things to my calendar with out too much trouble. I do however look a little overeager when I’m the only one to open it up in staff meetings etc, but it is the only way I know when I am available.

Upon discovering Google Reader as one of the best feed readers for blog, news and sports, my wife later discovered Google Calendar as a way that the two of us could negotiate our social life, knowing what each other was doing, and when. A good idea in concept, but it did mean having to keep two calendars, which could easily spell disaster when the potentially deadly double-booking crept in. However, recently my extremely smart wife also discovered there is a tool which updates both the Google calendar and Outlook®. So, every five minutes, something on my computer updates both calendars. So far, it’s working great, and I’m able to update my calendar just about anywhere there is a computer and an internet connection, which nowadays, is not hard to find.

The next challenge was to be sure we had a music organization system which enabled us on any given night to know what folder of music to take out the door with us. We keep a magazine rack at the front door now with various “active” music folders in it. Although it isn’t fool proof. We have two cars, and inevitably, folders end up in back seats of cars, and there is always the moment before a rehearsal where we have to ask “What care are we taking” and “Is my music in your car?” So far, we haven’t been caught with the wrong music at the wrong rehearsal (knock on wood).

As far as what to wear is concerned. I’ve decided I’m going to wear my tux everyday for the next three weeks – that should prevent too much embarrassment.


Richard said...


The challenge of your next two weeks are much appreciated (especially since I'm part of the problem!).

I, too, think computers are the way to go for many things--my wife and I switched to Macs about 4 years ago, so use .mac to keep our calendars synchronized, much as you're using google calendar. It was always a problem with two separate paper calendars--one of us always forgot to write something down and we ended up double-booked.

I also keep music organized in a similar manner so I don't get confused or grab the wrong stuff (or when traveling, realizing that I didn't bring a crucial score!).

There's an interesting site, Zen Habits (zenhabits.net) with approaches to simplifying organization. I've been playing with some ideas from the site--for jotting down ideas and "to-do" lists I'm going back to writing things down in a notebook (with a small pen and notebook I can carry with me everywhere).

We'll see how it goes!

John Brough said...

It's never really a problem Richard - The music makes it all worth while!

The "idea" and "to-do" book is a good one. I've been toying with carrying a small pocket book for the only reason of writing down repertoire ideas, particularly programing ideas. Every once in a while I come up with what I think is a great concept, and then a day later completely forget what it was I had thought of!