Three Top Tips To Motivate Yourself To Practice
By Diana de Cabarrus
Ever found yourself struggling with practice? Short on time? When you are at school, you have a full timetable and often some after school activities plus homework. When you leave school, you may be a student with increased responsibilities/money-earning activities and a degree. When you leave uni, if you’re working full time or looking after a family, pressures on your time only increase. So what do you do about never having ‘enough’ time?
1. Set an intention for your practice. What is it you want to be able to do? is it a certain piece you want to be able to play or sing; a technique you want to master, or some vocabulary in a certain style you want to acquire? It could be – to solo over three latin jazz standards, or to start singing a couple of songs out of your vocal comfort zone, or to finish writing one new song every month. Just ‘practicing’ in a vague sense will soon be too woolly to get you into action when there are always millions of things competing for your attention. A performance situation is often a great deadline! Perhaps an end of term concert or ensemble performance, perhaps a family gathering, a jam session or open mic.
2. Be consistent and realistic in practice time. Easier said than done, but it’s more pressing to get those minutes in if you know you’re going to have to play in front of people. It only takes a couple of excruciating performances to teach you that it’s waaaaay more enjoyable playing confidently. The easiest way of being consistent is to make your practice manageable. Maybe you can only manage 15 mins a day. But if you are consistent, you can make great progress on almost anything. 15 mins of sight-reading a day for 2 months will radically improve your reading, if that’s what you’re interesting in. 15 mins of technique even five days a week will really improve your agility. Don’t set unrealistic and unmanageable goals. If you’re working full time, doing 2 hours a day is not possible. If you set that as an intention, you’ll just feel like a plank and a let down when you can’t stick to it. If you exceed what you promised yourself, you’ll feel really productive.
3. Examine your mindset. An awful lot of procrastination is based on hidden beliefs that get in the way of taking action, eg ‘well, I probably won’t ever be that great, so there’s not much point in practicing’ ‘practicing only helps if you have talent anyway – and I’m not sure I do’ ‘people like me aren’t rockstars’ etc.
If you have a hidden belief that you’re probably not that talented, or unlikely to amount to much musically, then every time you sit down to practice, you’ll have to find the energy to overcome that, which is an inefficient use of your energy. Far better to investigate any limiting beliefs you may have and work through them. ‘Talent’ is really unhelpful idea. Most people have huge potential for development in whatever direction they choose to direct their attention-so don’t ever waste a second wondering if you’re ‘talented’. Talent is time plus attention plus knowledge.
Topics like mindset, understanding your potential and even identifying, let along overcoming, your limiting beliefs, are pretty big ones and I’ve just tickled the surface here, but hopefully this gives you some different ways of thinking about structuring your practice.
Bonus tip-Routine If you fit in your 15 mins or whatever amount you’ve decided is manageable at the same time each day, like brushing your teeth it just becomes something you do, and you don’t have to even think about whether you feel like it, or whether you’re going to do it. It’s your routine.
Diana de Cabarrus is the founder and owner of Key To Music, which offers Guitar lessons in Edinburgh (UK)