Friday, July 07, 2006

Practice planning

So far today I have done just over half the practice I want to do. I have two hours left to go. I still feel as though I am learning how to practice, that I am constantly discovering new ways of learning, and a more efficient technique. No-one every really taught me how to practice, and it has taken me a long time to figure out some really important things.

Only a few weeks ago I realised how important planning was in my practice. For the first half of this year I had been practicing fairly aimlessly, without a clear picture of what I wanted to achieve in each practice session. When I started planning each session and working out how much time I was going to spend on each piece I planned to work on, the task in front of me seemed much clearer. It was also less daunting, because I had broken up an amorphous 4-hour block into much smaller sections.

Planning also makes it much easier to stay focussed, as the big-picture thinking has been done in the planning stage, and I am free to concentrate on the problem at hand in the actual practice time - I am not getting worried about all the other pieces I have to practice because I know that I have scheduled time for them.

I have also found it useful to do short bursts on difficult sections. If I spend 30 minutes trying to deconstruct a tricky rhythm or work out complex fingering I often get frustrated and give up. But if I tackle it 5 minutes at a time, I can come at it fresh each time, and soon I can start to spend longer on it. This is a bit like Merlin Mann's procrastination dash I guess :)

Planning my practice time is a bit like writing a To Do list, really. It gets all the niggling reminders out of my head and onto the paper, so I can rest assured that I've covered everything and just follow the plan, concentrating on what I am actually working on, right now.

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