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Record Your Next Album In Less Time (By Hacking This One Concept)

by Graham CochraneSeptember 19, 2016

The number one reason most home studio owners state for not releasing all the music they want to is this: lack of time.

It’s not really lack of gear, or lack of ambition, or even lack of skill – but rather all those other commitments we have in our lives (family, friends, work, school).

But what if I told you there was a simple hack you could use to virtually guarantee you’d complete your next EP, album, or single in less time and with more quality? There is – and it involves exploiting something called Parkinson’s Law.

Calendar

It Takes As Long As You Let It

Are you not finishing your EP or Album because you feel you don’t have enough time?

If so, you’re not alone. We all have an idea of what “enough” time is for a given project and if we feel the time is not available, we give up, get discouraged, or at best trudge on but with super low expectations of completion.

Ironically, it is US who get to determine how long a project takes. Not the project itself.

Enter Parkinson’s Law.

Parkinson’s Law states that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

Let me repeat that: work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

Work expands – it always does. You and I both know it to be true.

If we are given a month to write a term paper for school, it will feel like a huge deal and likely take the entire 30 days to complete. However if we are given 48 hours to complete that same term paper, somehow we will get it done in just 2 days. And likely with the same (or better) level of quality.

Why? Because the time pressure forces us to focus. We eliminate all the unnecessary things and focus purely on what is important for the project’s completion and quality.

Interesting.

So what Parkinson’s Law is telling us is this: your recording or mixing project will take as much time as you give it. If time is short in your life, this truth is a wonderfully empowering statement.

Today’s To-Do List: Write A New Song

I’ve been hacking Parkinson’s Law for the last 3 or 4 years pretty intentionally in my studio, and most recently I’ve used it to write my new EP in record time.

All year long I’ve been wanting to work on some new music for my solo project but as you might have experience, there never seems to be enough time!

So one day in July I sat down and did one simple but profound thing: I put “Write a new song” on my to-do list for the next day.

When I came into the studio that next morning, I looked on my desk and there staring back at me was that simple line on my yellow legal pad: “Write a new song”. And it had to be done today!

I’ll give you the shortened version of the story: by that afternoon I had written not one, but two songs!

Done.

How crazy was that? I’d given myself (unofficially) all year to write and record a new EP and yet no progress had been made. Then I decided to reduce the amount of time to complete one of those steps (write a new song) to just one day. And the power kicked in: it only took me one day to write not one, but two songs!

Finish Recording All Songs By Next Month

After using Parkinson’s Law to write the songs for my EP in just a matter of days, it was time to think about recording. When would I get around to actually laying down the tracks?

Instead of simply attacking it bit by bit when I “found time” I decided to keep the time hack going and give myself a shorter time frame to complete the recording.

I looked at my calendar and set a recording completion day for 30 days from now.

How would I have time to get my drummer in here? What about my lead guitar player? Would I be rushed and not have time to add all the creative elements I want?

Legitimate questions – but the human mind has a way of overcoming challenges when forced to. This project would be no exception as I somehow found myself laying down tracks quicker than ever before.

Scheduling conflicts prohibited me from bringing in my drummer so I changed gears and decided to use EZ Drummer on this project instead. It was a stretch for me, but I learned a lot in the process and actually ended up with some killer “performances”.

I dialed in two main guitar tones on my Eleven Rack and used them for all the songs. Arrangements came together quickly as I was ruthless in my self-producing – thinking more like a listener and less like an engineer.

Decision making happened quickly and easily. Why? Because it had to.

Now in my world, 30 days to track an EP is a bit tight but doable. Mostly because I get to work in my studio for a living and so I can steal away big chunks of time during the day to work on personal projects if need be.

For you, that might seem impossible, assuming you can only sneak into your studio on nights or weekends.

But you might be surprised at what you’re capable of if you simply set a shorter deadline than feels comfortable. We’ve already seen how easy it is to start and complete an entire song from idea to release in one month.

Mix Your Song In Two Hours Or Less

What’s beautiful about hacking Parkinson’s Law is that you can apply it to mixing as well.

If you give yourself 8 hours to a mix a song – it’ll take 8 hours. But if you give yourself say only two hours, guess what? It’ll take you two hours!

Why does this happen? Because it must! You feel the subtle pressure of a clock ticking (a real timer helps tremendously) and so you focus in on just the mixing moves that matter.

Instead of trying plugin after plugin or technique after technique you simply get to work on the big wins: volume, pan, EQ, compression, and mix buss processing. Everything else is optional.

If you haven’t tried to mix quickly I suggest you start with my One Hour Mix series. Yes I actually mixed a song in 60 minutes and you can see the entire process here.

Again the goal here is to take advantage of Parkinson’s Law – that work expands to as to fill the time available for its completion. If that is true, then give your mix less time to be completed and that’s how long it will take.

In other words, YOU are in control of how long your mixing process is.

That is both a scary and liberating feeling.

How Will You Hack Parkinson’s Law?

So far with my project I’ve used Parkinson’s Law to write songs in a matter of days, record an EP in less than a month, and then in a week or two I will mix quickly and efficiently (with a timer of course).

Why? Because time is short. I’m buys creating content for The Recording Revolution, mixing for clients, volunteering in my church band, being a husband and father, and washing the dishes every night!

I’m busy – just like you. So Parkinson’s Law is a powerful tool I can hack to accomplish my musical goals.

But what about you? How will you hack Parkinson’s Law this week or this month? Leave a comment below and answer this question: What is one upcoming project that you will apply tighter/shorter deadlines to in order to finish more quickly?

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About The Author
Graham Cochrane
Graham Cochrane
Graham Cochrane is a creative and versatile producer, engineer, songwriter, and worship leader based out of Tampa, FL. He provides remote mixing, and mastering services to clients worldwide.   As the founder of The Recording Revolution, Graham's articles and tutorials have been featured worldwide by Avid, PreSonus, Slate Digital, Editors Keys, and Behringer to name a few, reaching readers in over 40 countries.   For more information and samples of Graham's work, please visit www.grahamcochrane.com.
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