The Broke Musician’s Guide to Life: Setting Upper Limits

TBMGTLAfter an insanely productive start to 2016, I started experiencing major burnout. I realized that I needed to simplify and cut back on things. One thing that has really helped is setting “upper limits” to various activities in my  life. Here are some examples:

Yoga: I’ve been doing daily, sometimes twice-daily yoga for a few months. As I started hearing more about longtime yoga teachers needing hip- or shoulder-replacement surgery, I started to rethink things – especially since I’m not especially flexible or well-proportioned for a lot of the poses. I’ve made a point to avoid twice-daily classes and to take 1-2 days off per week. On the plus side, it makes me feel better about not having the time/money to become an instructor.

Playing Bass: Once I started setting upper limits for yoga, I had the same thought regarding playing bass. Between teaching and performance, I average about 3 hours of playing a day – not including practice. I decided I need to keep my practice routine relatively short (and to further shorten it on days when my other playing is more than 3 hours). After years of feeling like I didn’t practice/play enough, this is a pretty big shift. But the older I get, the more I recognize just how physically-demanding it is to play (and haul) bass. After several playing-related injuries, I feel confident in my decision here.

Professional Projects: After many late nights spent obsessively working on my brand, website, or practice guides, I’m finally admitting that I need to slow down a bit. When I was in academia, I felt pressured to crank out as many papers/articles as possible (and utterly hopeless about these writings paying off in the form of an academic job). I’m confident my current work will pay off, I just need to take my time because just about all writing is time-consuming.

Hobbies: I’ve been trying to go the full-gonzo with all of my hobbies, whether reading non-fiction, making comics, or doing cross-stitch projects. I’ll still post book summaries, comics, and project pictures, but I need to spread them out over a 3-month period (1 hobby post a month, rather than all three at once). I’ve quickly realized that it’s fine to take time off from them – I won’t lose my chops or figure the way I would if I stopped practicing bass or doing yoga regularly.

Structured Time: Earlier this year, I tried to pack my days full of so many to-dos that I never had any time where I wasn’t working on something. This works well for certain people, but it doesn’t for me. I still use to-do lists, but I trim them down enough to allow at least 2-3 hours a day of free time – whether to sleep in, socialize, or surf the internet. I know this makes me “lazy” by the standards of our busyness-obsessed culture. But I’m so much happier and relaxed this way (and keenly aware that I won’t have this luxury if I ever decide to get married/start a family…)


Author: Leah Pogwizd

Bassist, Instructor, Writer

One thought on “The Broke Musician’s Guide to Life: Setting Upper Limits”

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