“It’s better to do 30 minutes of high-quality work than to spin your wheels for hours.”
The Musician’s Way, p. 312
Although we musicians strive to maintain regular practice schedules, we all confront periodic obstacles that prevent us from working as much or as effectively as we’d like.
Those obstacles can arise externally, perhaps due to family obligations, or internally, such as from physical or emotional distress. Regardless, when our plans get upended, we need to adapt our practice habits in constructive ways.
This article sums up six strategies that help us practice meaningfully on days when stamina, time, or mental focus are in short supply.
6 Tips for Better Practice on Difficult Days
1. Pinpoint Tiny Goals
Tiny, achievable goals lower barriers to getting underway. When we know, for instance, that we only need 3 minutes to conclude a task, especially one that we find appealing, we feel more motivated to start than if we’re faced with an intricate challenge and little time to work on it.
“Tiny, achievable goals lower barriers to getting underway.”
2. Arrange Brief Practice Sessions
If we tell ourselves that we can’t practice unless we allocate hour-long blocks of time, then we might not get anything done on difficult days. Instead, with tiny goals in mind, we can designate brief practice sessions and wrap up several meaningful tasks during each one.
As an illustration, if we ordinarily practice two or more hours daily, on tough days, we might do two separate 15-minute sessions in which we attain multiple tiny goals.
3. Slow Down
When our practice time is limited, we might feel compelled to hurry through our material. But I recommend that we employ slow to moderate tempos, release tension, and emphasize accuracy and beauty in every repetition.
It’s far more beneficial for us to achieve a handful of simple aims than to rush through many tasks, leaving them all unfinished.
“It’s far more beneficial for us to achieve a handful of simple aims than to rush through many tasks, leaving them all unfinished.”
Coupled with our tiny tasks, mini breaks help restore our energy and focus. For example, if we sit as we practice, then, after completing a few tiny tasks, we might stand for a minute, circle our arms, and reinforce positive emotions with affirmations.
- See pages 76-82 of The Musician’s Way for examples of restorative poses to do during breaks.
5. Review Core Repertoire
Sometimes we pressure ourselves to continually take on new challenges. On difficult days, though, we might start practice by reviewing previously learned repertoire and seek small refinements, aiming for greater ease and higher beauty.
Then, as our faculties line up, we can tackle fresh music in concise portions.
“Seek small refinements, aiming for greater ease and higher beauty.”
6. Embody Self-Compassion
When we accept that life is full of uncertainties, we can adapt to unexpected circumstances with compassion rather than inner tension, and then calmly adjust our practice in step.
We respond positively to adversity and, as a result, steadily advance on our musical journey.
See The Musician’s Way for extensive guidelines to practice effectively and perform confidently.
© 2019 Gerald Klickstein
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