Effective Multi-Tasking (Without an Army of Clones)

By Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal

If you’re an active musician, you’ve said it more than once: “I need an army of clones! One to hit the road, one to hit the studio, one to do press, one to mow the lawn...”

Today’s working musician isn’t spending his/her days living off a label advance in a high-end studio writing songs with the famed producer while the art department works on the album layout and new merch for the well-funded tour hitting all the major radio markets. You’re doing it youself. You’re doing the best you can. But it inevitably piles up and overflows and overwhelms.

How can you possibly do it all? How can you possibly master an endless game of Tetris where the pieces are time and space? Here are some tips:

Bumblefoot shares one of his award-winning hot sauces with ASCAP's Marc Emert-Hutner at SXSW 2015
Bumblefoot shares one of his award-winning hot sauces with ASCAP's Marc Emert-Hutner at SXSW 2015

1. Accept that you can’t do it all. You’re going to have to say “NO” to something somewhere, as much as it pains you to do. Trust me, it’s for the best. Protect yourself from being squeezed to the point that you can’t function – kindly, politely and firmly stick to your NO.

2. Make a list of everything you do. Your life is all-inclusive, so include it all – exercising, driving, laundry, flying, e-mails, practicing guitar, learning songs... Combine the things you can do at the same time and see when you can MULTI-TASK. Examples:

  • Flying – that’s when I do audio/photo/ video editing on the laptop, write e-mail interviews and promo materials, and learn songs by ear.
  • Driving - that’s when I listen to the albums given to me by people I met on tour, learn songs by ear, and make *hands-free* phone calls.

Sometimes I’ll play guitar and do vocal exercises while running on the treadmill – weird, but playing long shows on no sleep and missed meals with body-unfriendly travel takes endurance, and this helps the ability to maintain technique while being physical.

3. Prioritize for the day/week/ month/year. Factor in any deadlines and time-sensitive needs, and keep a “free zone” in your day/night to bang out the surprise “can you get this to me by tonight?” requests.

4. Wake up extra early one day each week and take care of non-music-life stuff. Vacuum while doing laundry, then go food shopping and hit the bank. By then the post office should be open...

5. Do it NOW. Don’t put it off, later there will be something else that will need to get done. When someone hits you up with a quick one-time request (e.g. “Can you do a little shout-out for my radio show?”), before answering them just grab your phone and do a voice memo, e-mail it to yourself, download it and convert it to a WAV, clean the start and end of the audio, run it through a vocal enhancer plugin, SAVE, convert to MP3 and send it 5 minutes later in a “Here ya go!” reply e-mail. Don’t let the little things pile up.

6. Any time you leave your house, bring protein bars with you. Keep them in your car, in your guitar case, in your carry-on luggage, and a big box of them in your suitcase. When schedules are tight, it’ll keep you going. *Make sure they’re not too sugary – you don’t want blood sugar spikes and crashes. (My personal favorites are Quest Nutrition bars.)

“ If there are people available to you that can help organize your life and handle tasks as good as or better than you, and you can afford them, HIRE them. “

7. Make sure you’re “doing it all” out of necessity. If there are people available to you that can help organize your life and handle tasks as good as or better than you, and you can afford them, HIRE them. Stay involved – your team should be working with you, not for you.

8. Stay positive. If you do what you love with people you love, you’ll be amazed at how much energy you have and how much you’ll continue to love what you do. Stress and the unexpected are guaranteed – you can take it on like a fighter, or be half-exhausted by those who drain your spirit. Protect yourself.

9. Enjoy the ride. You’ve chosen the “other” path, with huge ups and downs, the Wild West of careers. In the end you can have the satisfaction of unique experiences and a life well lived. All the best :) PB

BUMBLEFOOT is an in-demand guitarist (Guns N’ Roses, Yngwie Malmsteen, Art of Anarchy), singer, songwriter, producer, educator and philanthropist with 10 solo albums to his name and an award-winning line of hot sauces. His new DIY solo album Little Brother Is Watching is out now. Find him online at bumblefoot.com.


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