Scoffing at all kind of seismic events, my production system continues alive and well, always advancing like alive creatures use to -even if some days only a bit-, and, like all alive creatures, always modifying itself, getting new branches and prunnings.
One thing that this at-last-stable-enough system has allowed me to tackle is my long aspiration of using metrics.
(At the sound of the word, a big collective yawn overloads the interwebs... Please bear with me, I'll be light, I promise).
The problem with metrics is that a lot of boring, horrible people has used them to do boring, horrible things. But the tool, in itself, separated from its uses, is neutral. And damn powerful.
The simile with a sports match is a bit rough for my taste, but it is good as a starting point: imagine a [put your favorite sport here] match where there wasn't a score board. No way to track the points of each team, the number of periods, the remaining time for the current period... It would be chaos. No possible strategies (you cannot "dance around" the factors if you don't know the factors). And no excitement.
That's the kind of torture you submit yourself to when you do any cyclical task without setting some kind of system to to know if you're improving or getting worse along time.
At first I was going to write "if you're winning or losing", and now that I think of it, perhaps that's what I don't like about the sports simile: it's too warlike, us-vs-them, zero sum, only one winner on top. Maybe the comparison would be better complemented if we take out the competitive element and think of metrics as a "map".
It is very useful and heartwarming to know that some task that at the beginning of the year took you 17 hours now takes you only 14 and a half. You look at those cold numbers and feel wonderful. If I hadn't that point of reference, all I would have, at most, would be perhaps a vague feeling of "I'm getting better I guess".
I've also found that, given that music making involves a highly subjective use of time, it's great and very mentally healthy to have some kind of fixed reference (example: when I'm trying to compose a song, playing around with the riffs, checking old recordings, moving to pen and paper, getting distracted to cool off and then get back... All these processes feel as if my life had opened a parallel subsidiary that lasts forever, with a lot of depth, in which I get lost. Then I look at the clock: I've only been playing for 30 minutes!)
So now that my system is relatively steady, I've been able to put in place a couple of very generic metrics, the simple ones, the 101 of metrics, the stuff that would probably make a guy who works in a mature lean factory laugh at their naivete. For each song in process I'm measuring:
Failed attempts have shown me that the most important thing when you're using metrics is that they are easy to keep, sustainable. Otherwise they become a "luxury", a bureaucratic nightmare that adds up to your "real" work. So my system to keep these metrics is:
Hours invested: a spreadsheet document in each song folder, where I write at the beginning of a session the starting time (control+caps+colon shortcut in my computer), and ending time at the end in the same way. The cell on the right of those two calculates the difference. I have a template to create this file quickly, and the file is "floated" to the top of my list using the trick of naming it 000_thisfile, so it's immediate for me every time to find it, fill it, keep going.
Lead time: i.e. time from the moment a song enters my system until it is published. I keep track of this one very simply, writing the starting date on the kanban card of the song, and adding the finish date when the card reaches the right side. I cannot tell you what difference having those dates in the board has made. It suddenly is no longer an "abstract" object, it's alive and full of memories ("oh gosh, I started that song in May? Really?")
It will take some time before the results become reliable, because at the moment there are only 2 songs from scratch in the system. I'm applying these metrics to the songs in intermediate states too, because it's good practice and I'm sure I'll get a lot of good insights from them too, as I get better at interpreting the info.
So measuring takes some time to put it place, but for me it is being well worth the effort. I hope you find something in here that can apply to your practice, when the moment comes (it's taken me 8 years from the moment I thought I needed it, 24 if we count the time before I knew it... oh, there you go, another metric... :P )
I have a guitar and I'm gonna use it