Practicing is the 800 pound gorilla in the room when it comes to musicians and time management. It’s true. I know a some people who seem to have everything super together and get all their assignments and responsibilities done – EXCEPT practicing. They’re procrastinating their music practice by doing other things that are also technically “helpful” and “useful,” but are completely unrelated to their actual career goals. Yes, wonderful, their paper is now finished a week before the deadline, but their lesson is in ten minutes and they’ve practiced for maybe an hour in the past week. That’s not how to be a good musician. If music is actually your passion and your final career goal, then keeping music practice as one of your top priorities is essential.
There’s a lot of ways you can start to practice more. My first impulse is to always, always, ALWAYS:
Put music practice in your schedule.
At least for me, if it’s not in my schedule, it doesn’t exist. My day-to-day process of actually DOING things might result in stuff getting shifted around a bit – that’s natural. However, music practice always goes at the top of my to-do list and gets an hour and a half in my tentative “what I’m gonna do today and when” schedule. Don’t expect an hour to magically be free. Procrastination is like a gas: it will automatically expand to take up as much space in your day as you’ll let it. Schedule in an hour, or whatever you can, and then DO NOT do anything else in that time. It is practice time. Hold it sacred or you will never practice.
Confront why you’re avoiding it.
If you don’t practice much, but feel like you should practice more, it probably means that you’re avoiding your instrument for some reason. Why is that? What is it about your instrument that is making you not want to practice?
Some common reasons are:
Not liking your repertoire
Not feeling prepared
Not feeling like you measure up
Sheer, panicky avoidance
Each of these could be a post all on their own. However, knowing why you aren’t practicing is half the battle. If you spend some time soul-searching, you might figure out what’s causing your problem and then be able to UNDO that thing – AKA change your repertoire, do more to prepare for lessons, talk to your teacher about something, etc.
Get someone to remind you.
This can be a friend, a parent, or an app! I use my phone’s alarm clock app and just set it to go off when I need to go practice. Just remembering might be part of your problem. If you’re in the middle of writing a paper, you might lose track of time and suddenly you’re two thirds of the way through your practice time and you’re still at your computer. And, well, at THAT point you’ve lost the majority of your time, so you might as well just finish the paper – right? WRONG. Any music practice is better than none, and you can prevent this in the future by having someone/something remind you.
Get a reward system in place.
Again, you can use an app, or a friend, or your own self-control. I use the app Forest, from the Google Play Store. It’s a focus app that keeps you off of your phone for the duration of time you set. At the end of your time, you’ve grown a tree! Or a bush! As someone with a minor plant obsession, this is wonderful for me.
You can also just have a friend or roommate hold on to a container of your favorite snacks and tell them to not give you the container unless you’ve practiced for the day. Maybe even use your own self-control to say you won’t allow yourself a small pleasure if you don’t practice for X amount of time. They’re all possibilities!
Good luck practicing!