flute resting on music score“There can be so much to cover in a practice session that it can seem overwhelming.”
The Musician’s Way,
p. 6

We all know how demotivating it can feel to have much to do yet not know where to begin.

By setting small, specific goals, though, we can ignite our motivation to practice and be productive day after day.

Here’s a potent strategy I developed that helps us proceed.

3-2-1 Goals: Practice Efficiently, Boost Motivation

Pinpoint 3 Easy Tasks (15 mins)

Each task should require 5 minutes or less to master. For one task, you might go over a technically simple passage and refine your tone. For another, you might iron out your timing in the final measures of a piece.

The tasks could be from the same composition or from unrelated material. No matter, work deliberately through each one, staying focused throughout the 15-minute session.

Choose 2 Easy-to-Moderate Tasks (20 mins)

These tasks could be the length of a phrase or two. You might aim to increase the tempo of a passage, memorize two chunks of music, or polish your intonation in a span of measures.

Break down these tasks into smaller ones as appropriate, and plan to complete the two tasks in around 20 minutes.

Tackle 1 Moderate-to-Difficult Task (15-20 mins)

After a 5-minute break, take on a sixth task that you’ll need 15-20 minutes to finish.

You might pick a thorny section of a piece with a couple of problem spots, applying problem-solving tactics to master each spot individually.The Musician's Way book cover

Set Fresh Goals

After working through your 3-2-1 goals, pause for several minutes, do some restorative movements such as arm circles, and then maybe review some of your easy and moderate material before you opt for another round of 3-2-1 goals.

Regardless be sure to revisit the material you worked on so that you reinforce your learning with interleaved and distributed practice strategies.

*  *  *

All told, by making our objectives clear and attainable, we can dissolve creative blocks, build confidence, and steadily grow our artistic powers.

The Musician’s Way empowers performers of all levels to fuel their motivation and practice effectively.

Related posts:
Clear Goals, Clear Process
Getting Started
The Power of Specific Goals
Starting Practice with Intention

© 2015 Gerald Klickstein
Photo licensed from Shutterstock.com