Case Study: How to Hack Your Studio Productivity for 10x Results — With Joel Wanasek

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Do you ever feel like you should be getting more work accomplished in the studio? Maybe you feel like you need more hours in your day to get everything done? Ever feel like you don’t have any time to learn new things because all you do is work?

I understand that frustration and stress. We’ve all felt it. The music business is a crazy one. But it is possible to make it all work. Let tell you a quick story.

I own two audio companies (Unstoppable Recording Machine and Drumforge) and on top of that am still busy mixing and mastering artists. It feels like having 3 full time jobs.

Of course, that isn’t enough, as I am married with 3 very young kids. In order to balance my life out and actually have some sort of “normal” life outside of work, I’ve had to learn how to optimize every possible second of my day.

Fortunately, I have come to have a savage reputation as someone who gets stuff done very quickly, yet I have an extremely insane workload. What is the secret? I would love to share it with you because rarely do I meet people in this business who aren’t constantly overwhelmed and stressed out.

Like many of us, Joel Wanasek wears at least three different hats. Here, he shares some key ways of making it all work.


What is this life hack that is the key to making more money, enjoying life more, and getting a lot more things accomplished? Simple: You must OPTIMIZE every second of your life. Let’s dig into the process.

Discard Anything that Distracts

Step one to taking more control over your life is to savagely eliminate anything that wastes an ounce of time or productivity.

1. When you go to work, you are there to work. Not to check Facebook 10 times an hour, not to text your friend, not watch videos on YouTube.

Turn all distractions off, especially your smartphone! Simply having this evil device on and not on airplane mode sitting in front of you will tempt you. Put it on airplane mode and set it as far away from your workstation as possible while you work.

2. Prioritize tasks. Do a daily audit and identify the top 3 things you can do which are critical to your success both that day and 5 years from now.

Everything else can wait or be discarded. For example, finishing a mix for a label deadline is important! Calling your brother to talk about how cool the latest dungeon crawler board game is isn’t important.

3. Check your email and social media on scheduled times. Nothing kills your vibe faster than a client drama email or ridiculous situations like someone blasting your latest work on the forums.

How will you be creative if you are mentally preparing to argue with that artist manager about your prices, or arguing with your significant other? Eliminate your interactions with the outside world while you are working and relegate them to specific times so you can concentrate and have all of your passion and creativity when you need it most.

Setting a Routine

Every single one of us is different. Some of us work best at 7am while, others are night owls who thrive at late times. Know your body and what sort of routine works best for you so that you can make sure to be working at the time of your peak performance.

Schedule your life to fit this routine. Treat this time as sacred and don’t violate it. Always get a solid amount of sleep, no matter what so you can maintain peak performance and energy.

Once you’ve established a working routine that fits your lifestyle, the next step is to pace yourself during it.

No one is superhuman and can work 16 hours straight without any rest. Our brains decrease in mental capacity slowly after we awake from sleep. Once we rest again, it recharges. The longer we grind without a break, the more diminished our returns.

To counter this effect, experiment with power naps during the day, exercise, and breaks to get fresh air. I recommend forcing a 10 minute brisk power walk 2 to 3 times daily to break up the tasks and refocus your mind.

Neuroscience tells us we think better while we are moving our legs, so these are great times to brainstorm or reflect. For those of us who can’t experiment with brief power naps at work, this is the next best thing.

Though often considered sacrilege in audio, try to avoid stimulants and caffeine. What happens is you stay up too late and don’t get enough sleep. Then you wake up feeling terrible so you drink a ton of coffee to counteract it. This cycle repeats and slowly gets worse.

If you can cut stimulants out of your life and replace it with sleep and intermittent exercise, you will be much more energetic and productive. 

If you can’t cut it out all at once, at the very least give yourself a deadline past which you are cut off from any caffeine.

Optimize Your Routine

Need more time? Here are some more strategies.

Every week is full of routine things that you must do regardless of workload. Examples include:

-Grocery shopping
-Your morning/night routine
-Waiting in line

The exciting news is that every single one of these times is an opportunity for you to do something to improve your professional goals.

For example, I always listen to podcasts or courses while I shop, do dishes, clean my house, get ready in the morning, cut the grass, and drive. I’ve never seen another human being at a supermarket wearing headphones studying while they select what they are going to eat. I do it every time I go. You should too!

You’d also be shocked at how much business you can get done over text/phone chats during these times. Why not try to convince the band manager that the 3rd verse in the song was a dumb idea while you wait in line to check out, or secure a gig with a new client while you are parked idle in rush hour traffic? Every second of your day counts. Treat it that way. Watch the results pile in.

“Batching” tasks is another fantastic way to optimize your routine. Do all of one thing at a time. For example: Pay all your monthly bills in a single go. Prep all of you mixes for the next day the night before so you can focus on being creative, not technical work.

Many essential tasks have setup time, and by batching that prep work we can eliminate it from our peak performance times and further increase productivity.

Outsource Low Level Tasks

What low-level tasks can you outsource? Always ask yourself this. This is especially true for  tedious technical tasks.

Freeing yourself up from the lower level tasks can free you up to do more high-earning, high-value tasks—and provide opportunities for others along the way.

For example, think of how much time you spend doing mix prep, vocal tuning, drum editing, cleaning the studio, and more. Are you really going to do it “better” than a capable assistant or outside service provider, once you’ve showed them the ropes?

Fortunately, there is a simple formula for knowing when it is time to outsource and hire someone else to do a low level task for you. Just ask the following two questions:

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  • Gary

    Man, oh man, these are all excellent ideas that I do believe I will be implementing into my daily routine!! Thanks for the insight!

  • Joel Wanasek

    Thanks Gary! Good luck with everything and hopefully some of these ideas help you. Cheers!