February was a blur. Truth be told, most of January was, too. We wrote and recorded an album, and it’s a good record. I’ll be sharing it more widely soon, but it was a lot of work. More than I thought it would be.
One of the things I was most looking forward to in this stage of My First Retirement was having the time to actually fully focus on my music for the RPM Challenge record in February. I suspected that getting what I wanted would be a double-edged sword, and I was right. I had far more time to work on things, but that raised my own expectations, both for myself and for those working with me (sorry, guys…). All told I think I put in 120-150 hours of work recording, mixing, and performing on the record during February, and that’s not counting the 40-50 hours of work I did in late December and January. It became my job. I would get up in the morning, go for my run, do whatever needed to be done around the house and/or set up some bread to bake, and then I would head to the studio. I would work in 60-90 minute stretches and then take a break before starting up again. By late afternoon I would have logged four hours or more of studio time and I would need a mental break, so I would go for a walk. By the end of the month I was running 2-3 miles in the morning and walking the same each afternoon. I needed the walks to clear my head.
I’ve long held the belief that the eight hour work day is nonsense once you reach a certain point in your professional life. People can’t focus for that long, much less for ten or twelve hours, and there are plenty of studies to back this up. Truly, outside of 3-4 hours per day of actual productivity, most people are filling up the rest of the day with “work”; some of it useful and some of it just being busy for the sake of appearances. I feel the same way about what you do on your own time, too, and the 2016 album reinforced that belief for me. I could have worked longer hours, but the return on investment would have been greatly diminished. I wouldn’t have achieved much more, but I would have just frustrated myself and been even more tired. Realizing that and maintaining that awareness went a long way. I very rarely was still working on anything by the time THE WIFE got home each evening, and if I was still working, I wrapped it up quickly. We were able to go out to dinner for Valentines Day. We went out of town for her birthday. There wasn’t a cloud of doubt and pressure hanging over me for the month because I knew what to expect from myself and I focused on only working when I thought I would be productive.
Just before starting up the project I reached out to one of my former collaborators in Canada. THE CANADIAN had sung or played on all of my albums from 2010-2014, but dropped out in 2015 because he didn’t feel like he was “plugged in” enough to the project. One of his complaints was about a lack of communication, so he could end up in a situation where he worked on something for quite a while only to have it cut out of a song. That made sense, and while I had tried in the past to involve him as much as possible, sometimes his work or life schedule made it hard to keep an open dialog about what we were both doing. When he decided to re-join the group in 2016, I decided to try to do something about it. After all, that brought the total number of band members up to four, not counting any outside contributors, and none of us were on the same schedules, much less the same town or state.
THE WIFE suggested that I use a project management tool called Trello for the album project, and I’ll have to admit, it worked great. We had a series of checklists and tasks for each song, as well as some message boards for larger topics. We had assignments for parts (Bob plays the guitar solo here, Tom will play bass on this song, etc.) and people had the ability to add or remove themselves from different tunes, so if someone suddenly came up with new backing vocals, they could add the part to the checklist for the song and mark it as done. It gave us the ability to see how the individual songs were progressing, not to mention how the project as a whole was going. It definitely solved our communication issues, and it made it easy for me to set priorities on what I needed to do next.
It also gave me something to manage. It gave me a team to lead, and a project to see to completion. And it was interesting to watch myself re-engage with that part of my personality and skillset. Which, of course, got me thinking about whether it is time to do more of that.
I finished my record. I learned how to bake sourdough bread. I’m more relaxed. Does that mean it’s time to think about going back to work? Possibly. I’m not in any hurry, mind you, but I can see a time where I might re-engage, if only for a while.