Get out of your own way

If I’m going to do something I need to make sure I remove all of the impediments. I have an amazing electronic drum set, top of the range and it’s pretty much silent to play, I could play day and night without bothering the neighbors… but I don’t. Why? It sounds ridiculous to say but my drums were facing the wrong way. Let me explain.

I get home from work and walk into my room, walk past my drums and to my wardrobe and change out of my work clothes. As I leave the room I glance at my drum set, I admire how nice it looks and I think “I’ll play that later” and I leave the bedroom, have something to eat and then sit in front of the TV all night. I have another look at my drums before bed and think to myself “I really should play those tomorrow…”. That was my routine.

Now lets look at my routine when my drums aren’t facing inward as as display piece, but outward into the corner of the room. I get home and walk into my room, go over to the wardrobe and change out of my work clothes. I then turn around and my drum set is set up in front of me, the throne (yes, drummers think very highly of themselves) is right there waiting for the king, so are the sticks waiting to be picked up, all of the drum heads are facing me ready to be played, I can even see the drum pedals. I can’t help it, I have to sit down and get 30 minutes of playing done before I leave the room, i’m compelled to.

This seems trivial but it is huge. The main problem with most of our tasks are the set up time, we have the task itself (practicing drums, writing a book, etc) and we have the set up time (setting up drums, taking out type writer/laptop/pen & paper etc). We need to get out of our own way, we do not enjoy the set up, only the task (if we’re lucky), so have your work area set up so you have to do the minimum to get started. If you are a writer, have a desk set up with your laptop, typwriter, book, however you prefer to write ready to go. Have the laptop on and open on a word processor, the blinking cursor may be your writing trigger. It may be a pen and a blank sheet of paper, or it could be a type writer with a fresh sheet loaded and ready. For me it was seeing the drum skins and the pedals and the sticks, all i had to do was sit down and play, so having my drums facing into the room looked good… but it didn’t make me want to play them as much as seeing the drummers view, the view that I see every time I play. This had a profound impact on my practice routine, I couldn’t help but play every day from then on.

Avoid “buy traps”. Whenever we want to start a new habit we instinctively look to buy something, of course, we live in a consumer driven society so every problem has a solution that costs money. Instead of changing our practice we just have a shiny new toy that promises a new lifestyle. Avoid this at all costs. If you are buying something to solve a problem, you are not solving the problem. Sure, it may help to have a new piece of gear once you get going, but use it as a reward, not a starting point. For years I bought new drums and drum related gear and allowed my playing to stagnate, i’m sure we all have at one time seen someone buy gym equipment to get in shape. You aren’t doing anything, you are just buying something. Break that programming and welcome to the freedom of productive life.

Remember, you buy things with money, and money is just a representation of your time. Wouldn’t it just be better to spend your time DOING something than spending it working to get money to spend on a thing, or worse still, shopping looking for something to buy. That is basically just spending time (money) to find a way of spending time (money), it’s insanity!