Adventures in Practicing: For the Busy
When I started to name this post, I was going to direct this post to the busy adult. But these days - with schools adding extra work now that they feel they are more confident in zoom learning and then the activities kids are in to help them stave off the separation that being in a pandemic has caused - Kids are just as busy. How do we get in practice despite? Well for one we need to think about what we are doing in all of the inbetween. Are we just sitting mindlessly at times or spending a lot of time just browsing the internet or what is on tv when we are at home? Could you take 5-10 minutes out of your time doing those other activities to have a quick look at one of your assignments? Out of all the hours we are awake in a day, I refuse to believe that there is not 5-10 minutes that could be directed to practice.
Now there are days that are super full and our brain and body might need actual rest because we have not stopped moving, but that is not every day. Just know this, that when you take a break to be creative with your instrument and to work on it, you are exercising a different part of your brain than your work mind. Don't think about it as a chore or as work. Even if something is a bit of a challenge, have fun! Music, even if you are challenged to play it, will create less stress in your life. It will create calm. It will create joy.
If practicing is not creating that for you, it is time to evaluate why you want to play music or that instrument if you can't be bothered with putting a little effort into practicing it. I will not say that practice makes you perfect and that you should strain yourself to do that. That creates unnecessary stress on your brain. Practice makes progress though. And a feeling of progress and accomplishment can do much more for your state of being than raising your blood pressure with the notion that you have to be perfect. When coming to a lesson and not having practiced, have you felt guilty or slightly uneasy because you are unsure of what you are doing? Think about when you were prepared. It was better right? That feeling can come back easily with just a little bit of work when you have the time.
Now for me to get in practice, I have to treat it like everything else in my life. I have to make time by putting it in my schedule and making those slight adjustments so that it becomes a part of my days automatically. I think ahead to when I have that open space in my schedule and say..."okay, take 10 minutes here or there." Scheduling out your days can make a day run smoothly and be less stressful as well. I find I have more time for me and my other pursuits when I plan out the critical things for my day only and let the rest happen organically as needed for my sanity.
I don't claim to have all of the answers but these are what I have found to work for me and my students. I have instituted these types of practices within my studio after my studies into our psychology and how best to work with our brains, with ourselves, and not against what we can do naturally. Whatever works for you - a schedule, an alarm on your phone, thinking ahead, reevaluation - just make sure that you are having fun. It is hard to do anything if you don't enjoy it or take the time to build on your initial fondness for it. If you don't try and give your best, there is no reason to think frustration will not creep in. And if you need help...don't be afraid to ask for help.