So many students are so busy these days. Between school, homework, soccer practice, ballet, swim team, music lessons, playdates, you name it, there’s hardly any time to breathe. How do you make time for practicing when your schedule already seems filled to capacity?
Here are Teacher Cassie Winterhalters' top 4 tips for anyone struggling to fit practicing into their day to day life:
Number 1: Schedule it in advance
Commitments that are scheduled are simply more likely to get done than unscheduled plans that you hope to get to “sometime”.
Each week, take a look at the week ahead and block off specific times for practice. Ask yourself: “When are the best days/ times of day for me to practice this week?”
Students who are early birds have been successful practicing in the morning before they leave for school.
Some students like to practice after they complete their homework. Others like to practice after dinner or before bed.
For some students dedicating more time over the weekend when there’s no school works the best.
Here’s a student practice plan example:
M: not able to practice- back to back: school, soccer, ballet, then home for dinner, homework, and shower
T: Practice in the morning before school
W: Shorter practice after homework is done, but before leaving for dive team
Th: Practice in the morning before school
F: no practice- play date, then relaxing with family
S: Practice after soccer game
S: Practice in the morning
It’s completely up to you how detailed you’d like to be with this. Taking the time to come up with a plan and writing it down in your music notebook works beautifully.
If you’d like, you can also list the specific times you plan to practice. Use your notebook to check off each day after you’ve practiced and/ or to list the amount of time you’ve spent practicing on any given day.
***Note: This tip works for anything- not just practicing! When I wanted to get this blog post written, I scheduled a block of time to sit down and write the post.
Number 2: Make it a routine
If your schedule does not change too much from week to week, plan to practice at the same time each day and each week. For example, if you have no activities on Tuesdays after school, then plan to practice every Tuesday right after dinner.
At first you may not be used to this, and it may require some extra discipline. Eventually, though, every Tuesday as soon as dinner is over, you’ll go right to your instrument to practice, no questions asked.
In general, most people do better when they follow a routine. It makes everything predictable. Instead of having to decide what to spend your time doing, you simply do what you always do on that day at that time.
The best times to practice are right after a lesson while the material is fresh in your mind and right before your next lesson- giving you a chance to warm-up and get out any last kinks out prior to playing for your teacher.
I would not recommend waiting 5 or 6 days after your lesson to practice for the first time. By then your retention of the material may be minimal.
Number 3: Quality over Quantity
When it comes to practicing, the amount of time spent is nowhere near as important as the quality of the practice session. If you simply “play through” pieces and don’t work on any of the difficult sections, the difficult sections will not improve.
You could sit down to play for 20 minutes, get up every couple of minutes to go on the computer, haphazardly play through pieces getting nothing accomplished, though you technically did practice.
Or… you could spend 10 quality minutes where you are extremely focused on the task at hand and drill through difficult passages and pay attention to the details. At the end of the 10 minutes you’ll have accomplished far more than you did in the 20 minutes of non-focused time.
A lot of people think that since they only have a few minutes to spare, they shouldn’t practice. Actually, it’s a great way to fit in practicing. Several, shorter, high quality practice sessions add up to 1 larger session and make a big difference in a student’s overall progress.
Quality wins over quantity any day, and I can easily tell which of my students take this tip to heart.