Monday again…

…and I’m having “one of those days”. I woke up with my head full of a bad cold, dithered around far too long before leaving the flat, only to get to Trinity and find no practise rooms until later in the day than I’d planned to stay, and my arranging class cancelled.

I don’t want to cancel my teaching, but if my voice continues to get worse and my general feeling of wooziness does not abate, I will have to. It’s just a cold and it will run its course, but I’m unlikely to teach well in this state.

I have a meeting here at 2pm, after which I need to get going if I’m teaching this evening. In the meantime I am keeping my fluid intake up and trying to get some deskwork done.

One of the more difficult issues about being a freelancer in any field is managing the huge amount of discretionary time available. As a music student I have about eight and a half hours of actual classes per week. This week I only have six hours of rehearsal with other people planned, and my horn lesson. That still only comes to fifteen and a half contact hours. So, how do I spend my time?

If I’m not careful, the answer to that can be “looking at cat pictures on the internet.” Let’s re-phrase the question: How would I ideally spend my time?

The first and most important thing is that I practise every day. At the moment, that means ‘every weekday’: I do not have time to play the horn on Sundays when I am teaching all day long (though I do try to do some mouthpiece work), and I opt to take Saturdays as a rest day. Practising can eat anywhere from two to six hours in a day. In an ideal world I would get in at 8am every weekday to play for two hours, then schedule another session or two later in the day around other appointments. Happily, I do often manage the 8am session… what happens later depends on what else is going on. Ideally I’d be practising 24 hours a week.

I try to spend some time every day composing. This isn’t as firm a habit for me as practising, sadly, and it gets dropped a lot. But in an ideal world, I’d spend an hour a day drawing dots on blank manuscript paper. There isn’t a way to get better at this without doing it. Call it five hours a week.

For health reasons I have to spend around 45 minutes a day doing physio exercises. If I don’t do them, I end up in pain, so they are really non-optional. I consider them part of my workday, partly because playing the horn brings with it certain physical challenges, and partly because of timing issues: there isn’t really a sensible way for me to do the physio at home before I leave in the morning if I’m going to make my 8am practise slot, and leaving it for the evening, before I go to bed, also doesn’t work well for me. Call that five hours a week, because by the time I’ve put away whatever else I’m doing it pretty much takes that long.

I do have to spend some time on deskwork: co-ordinating rehearsals and concerts is often easier by e-mail, and there is all the paperwork detritus of each project in which I participate, plus all the normal trappings of any life: banking, medical appointments and the like. I would get a lot less done if I didn’t have internet access at home and at Trinity. I try to limit my workday internet time to around an hour a day, but what usually happens is that things pile up and then get done in one or two sessions over the course of the week… call it six hours a week.

Running various errands usually eats up an hour or two on some weekday, as well. I try to blog once a week. Call that three hours a week, which is probably skimpy, but I don’t always manage to blog every week.

That’s 43 hours a week of work to be done during discretionary time on weekdays, in my imaginary ideal world. It doesn’t include meeting with people to discuss projects, ad-hoc conversations in hallways, travel to and from rehearsals, or lunch. It doesn’t include cleaning out my locker or replacing the corks on my horn or other regular maintenance tasks. It doesn’t include this week’s 15.5 hours of contact-with-people non-discretionary classes and rehearsals. It doesn’t include keepinp up with what other musicians are writing, finding new repertoire, listening to recordings, or attending concerts. It doesn’t include the teaching I do on weekdays, or Aikido on Thursday evenings, or laundry, cooking and other life-maintenance tasks.

Back in reality, I try to get as much done as I can, and what does and doesn’t happen is mostly the result of a process of attrition. If I actually did that much work on a regular basis I’d go slowly and quietly bonkers.

That is why I do not have time to look at cat pictures on the internet, and why sometimes, I do it anyway.

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