Wishful Wednesday — Decluttering Your Practice Time

For the next few weeks, I’ll be going over the basics of practice time management. One of the most challenging things about practicing is actually finding the time to do it. Time can be a friend or a foe, but the last time I checked, everyone has the same amount of time in a day; we all get the same twenty-four hours. Subtract eight for sleeping, eight for working/school/homework, one for eating, and you’re left with seven to do everything else. If you’re an adult, that seven hours is usually consumed by things like laundry, chasing/shuttling kids, cleaning, and cooking. If you’re well scheduled, there are times during the day that you’re actually not doing anything. Everyone’s schedule, whether it’s in a daytimer or simply a mental checklist, has some fluidity and downtime, even though we might perceive, feel or think otherwise. One of the top excuses for not practicing is “I didn’t have time.” If you have time to eat or watch TV, you have time to practice. For the vast majority of people, it’s not that we don’t have time. Instead it’s usually related to not using the time you do have wisely. The first step in the practicing process is to make a commitment to invest the time. To put it more simply, plan your work and work your plan.
Today’s topic is goal setting. In order for you to get where you want to go, you need to know where you’re going. The well-constructed practice plan is based on the question, “Why am I doing this?” The answer to that question will determine the amount of time you should spend and the kinds of things you should spend that time working on. The more specific you can be about “why”, the better. Make a short list of the major things you’d like to be able to do a year from now; this list will probably go a long ways toward helping you answer the “why” question, if you’re not clear on why you’re choosing to play the violin.

I once read, “A goal is a dream with a deadline.” If you write down your goals, it will be easier to meet them. This is something I have work hard on in my own practice. If I see it in black and white, I can’t argue with it. Paper doesn’t talk back. Ideally, you want your major goals to be not only achievable, but also ones that will stretch you out of your comfort zone a bit. Realism is a great thing, but if you always do things that you know you can do, you miss out on the joy of learning new things. Push yourself a little, but don’t go overboard. You’ll want to review your goals periodically to see how you’re doing. Nothing is set in stone, and everything can be tweaked. Your lists are a starting point, a launch pad, not an instrument of torture.

If you’re just starting out with violin practice, choose one thing from your short list. Then make another list of the steps you think you’ll have to go through to get there. This list is the starting point for making a practice schedule, which we’ll discuss next week. The amount of work you have to do on a daily basis is determined by these smaller goals.

Think about why you play, or want to play. What is that one thing that you really want to accomplish? That one thing that will serve as your motivation to practice regularly and thoughtfully? Figure this out and you’ll be ready to make a plan.




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