December 05, 2012 01:00 PM

Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Alicia Keys’ new short haircut is just one sign of how motherhood has changed her.

“I’ve heard from a lot of mothers who cut their hair, too. I thought it was kind of special and brave, but apparently it’s a new mother thing,” the “Girl On Fire” singer told reporters after performing on The X Factor Thursday.

“I put out a song called ‘New Day’ on my album and I was just like, ‘You know what? It’s a new day and I’m cutting this thing off.'”

Keys also attributes her son Egypt Daoud, 2, for her more efficient recording sessions while working on Girl On Fire.

“I started to be more productive. Before I think I wasted more time just because I could,” Keys says of recording her newest album.

“[Motherhood] actually made me access a deeper emotion that I never knew. Even the writing on this record is deeper. It’s at a place where I probably could not have written two or three years ago.”

Also changing is Keys’ physique. The singer, 31, got her bikini body back by reclaiming “some time for herself” after giving birth.

“I find that having an hour of ‘me time’ feels really good,” she tells PEOPLE of her workouts. “Even though it is hard and it hurts and I complain the whole time, I’ve been really enjoying that.”

— Patrick Gomez

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