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  • Leo Aram-Downs

A Year in Time 2

The last song of the Year of Everything comes out tomorrow, and now is the time to do a bit of reflection. But my plans for an actual reflection with analytics and numbers have been entirely nullified at the last minute. I made a serious point of not looking at any of the playback statistics for anything that I put out, with the intention of looking back at them at this point of the year. It was at that exact moment, in a move so reckless and unnecessary it seemed designed to annoy me, Wix decided to delete the entire program that allows you to track any of the analytics. So whether I like it or not, the actual hard numbers behind how this project did are lost forever. It’s in equal parts liberating and hugely frustrating. But I do have another numerical value by which I can measure how this went, and that is time-tracking I did in the app Toggl. I did a similar wrap-up of how 2018 went in terms of hours spent on things and that was a hugely rewarding retrospective on how the year went for me, and this year is going to be even more interesting given the huge irregularity of it. Much like last year, it’s going to be in descending order of hours spent, with the exception of the last area. I’ll also be comparing directly to last year’s data, so if you want more than just a reference to the actual numbers, you can go back to the blog page of this website and find the previous entry.


So that said, how long did everything take?


Work – 614 hours (2018 - 764 hours)


This is interesting but not particularly surprising. In 2018, I had a single source of income, which would explain the higher amount of hours last year. That said, given how much other work I’ve had this year, I’m surprised this isn’t drastically lower. For the best part of 4 months this year, I’ve been making money from playing primarily, if not solely. So given that this number is still this high is encouraging.


Much like last year, this has been the aspect of time-tracking that’s been the most important on a day-to-day basis. Every time I get an order in, I can see how much it’s worth before I start working on it. Given I know on average how long jobs take, I can then budget time fairly accurately to get things done. Furthermore, it helps me calculate my hourly rate over longer periods of time. If you’re doing freelance work and not time-tracking, I feel like that’s the one thing I can totally recommend it for.


Practice – 288 hours (2018 - 204 hours)


This is probably the most surprising section for me for a multitude of reasons.

The first reason I’m surprised by this is that all the time I spent at home with free time was essentially a toss-up between practicing guitar and working on music for the year. The fact that I opted for this with such regularity is odd enough, but the fact that this exceeds all the work I did on the Year of Everything by a serious margin is something I never would have guessed.


Weirder still is the fact that I don’t feel like I have achieved as much with my practice this year. Reading back on the last blog, I said I’d rather spend less time being more focused as opposed to vice versa, and I stand by that. I think maybe my problem is that I’ve not been working on anything new this year, just trying to maintain what I was working on last year. This can lead to more of a feeling of stagnation than I think is fair, because I’ve still been improving and working on my technique, but not in the leaps-and-bounds kind of way I was in 2018. It’s been more about refining what I was already doing as opposed to learning heaps of new technique from scratch. So that’s fine, but it’s very apparent seeing these numbers and feeling my reaction to them that I need to start looking for new things to learn again. There’s nothing wrong with that number of hours being spent on practice but for that all to be spent on basically maintaining the same thigs instead of branching out leaves me feeling a bit odd. Basically, hit me up with any good tutorial videos you might have, I don’t care what they’re for as long as they’re inherently great fun.


The Year of Everything – 176 hours (2018 – 95 hours)


On one hand, this is double the amount of time I spent prepping stuff for the project, which I was expecting. What I wasn’t expecting for this still to be under 200 hours. Had I now known this number I would have bet on this being like 400 hours or so, but here we are. I’d like to think this is mainly indicative of the efficiency I started to get with production skills toward the latter third of the year, but there’s no real way of proving that. I think it’s also likely that a lot of the time, this project really had to take a back seat to the rest of my life. Whether it was moving house in August, or the few tours I did this year, there’s been life events that have simply demanded my attention. Even towards the end of the year, it was likely that I wouldn’t really get around to giving a song any real attention until the day before it was due out. But I refused to be beaten and that’s the most important thing for me at the end of the day.


I’d love to go back and see how long the songs I like the most took in relation to everything else and see if there’s a correlation. It would be amazing to see if all the ones I felt were “lightning in a bottle” kind of moments were actually far more intensive than they felt like. This will be something for me to do during the social media break.


Playing live – 151 hours (2018 – 55 hours)

This probably speaks for itself honestly. There was heaps more live work this year, and that’s about that. Highlights for me include the run of shows in Sweden just because I absolutely love the country, the workshop performance of The Clockmaker’s Daughter over Summer, and generally getting back into performing solo shows with some of this new material. 2020 will most likely go back to the 50-60 hour mark given I don’t really have much lined up as of writing, but there’s no inherent problem with that. Gigs happen when they happen and they’ve all been great so I really don’t mind too much. I know that makes performing sound almost incidental when actually, it’s the heart of what we as musicians live for and I love doing it. It’s just that I’m not into taking every singly opportunity to be on stage just for the sake of it, I’d much rather pick my battles and do well at them in future. Ironically enough, that’s what most of this year has felt like, it’s just also happened that there have been plenty more opportunities. So maybe the next few years will see this trend go further, and I’m playing way more in future. Who knows!


Travel – 411 hours (2018 – 423)


I’ve turned a corner with travelling this year. It used to be something I dreaded but it’s come to be something I embrace with a reasonable amount of excitement. Despite these hours being nearly identical, the purpose was almost entirely different. In 2018 I left the country once, for a day. In 2019, I set foot in five countries, all for a reasonable amount of time. This speaks, firstly, of the chaotic nature of 2018. I was pinballing around the south of England way more than I wanted or needed to, with absurd regularity. It wasn’t actually that I was going anywhere that meaningful or doing anything huge, it was just a huge cascade of small journeys that added up very quickly. It’s telling that I can do 3 tours and two holidays abroad and still only tally up a 10 hour discrepancy. The other reason these numbers are fairly similar is because when I’ve been home, I’ve been far more stationary. This is the biggest and most welcome change that’s come with 2019. When I’ve travelled, it’s been deliberate, and when I’ve been home, it’s been for great stretches of time and with real purpose and intention. So yeah, travel sporadically and travel well, instead of too regularly and badly.

Conclusions


This has really been one of those years where it’s been amazing to have this kind of data to reflect on. Had I not known how long this project had taken, I would have estimated hundreds more hours. Much the same with everything else I tracked this year, it would have been very easy to distort the influence each of these things had over how I spend my time, for better or worse. Either way, I’m glad that I’ve been making the effort to keep track. It’s the one element of objectivity that runs through my ever-more-subjective experience of life. A lot of what I do every day is on my own volition. I choose my own work hours every day, and nobody else needs to hear the music I make, which means I have almost too much freedom to make it. Essentially, there is very little structure in my everyday life except for the structure I create. Given that, this is one of the central pillars in how I actually make sure I know what I’m doing. I will be taking some time in 2020 to create structure outside of myself by looking for outside help with certain things, but I can’t recommend tracking time enough for a real look at how you think you might be operating.


This is also the last blog I have for The Year of Everything, and the last thing I’m intending on putting out for the next few months. So, if you are reading this, and have listened to any of the music I’ve made over the last year, thank you an absolute ton for the time you’ve taken to share this little journey with me. It means the absolute world that even one person out there is expressing an interest and I can’t wait to share even more, better stuff in future.


So this is it, it’s done. Enjoy “The Week” tomorrow and see you all at some point in 2020.


Peace.




Exercise – 14 hours

I don’t wanna talk about it.

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