In Praise of Practice Routines
For years, I resisted any sort of routine. Now, I’m finding that sticking to daily routines – practice or otherwise – is making me a better musician and happier person.
I’m embarrassed to admit this, but it took me over a decade to find and stick to a good practice routine. Reflecting back, I think I associated routines of any kind with boredom (something I can’t stand and avoid at all costs). Once I graduated and embarked on my journey of self-employment, I realized it was up to me to create order, structure, and, ultimately, routines in my life. While it took a long time to form “foundation habits” and figure out a good daily practice routine, I’m thrilled with the results. Far from boring, it’s a satisfying mental challenge that frees up time for other endeavors.
If you’re thinking of getting into (or getting into a better) practice routine, here are some suggestions and considerations:
- Be realistic about practice time and allow some margin. I’ve taken issue with what I think are unrealistic expectations regarding practice time among music educators. Even if you’re pressed for time, you’ll still get results as long as you’re consistent about practicing 4-6 times per week. Make sure to allot some extra time for setting up and transitioning in and out of other activities.
- Practice as soon as possible. This doesn’t necessarily mean as early as possible – I would die before my neighbors had a chance to kill me if I practiced at 6am. This is one of the conventional pieces of practice advice that I actually agree with because, honestly, the longer you wait to practice, the less likely it is to get done.
- Be prepared to make sacrifices. I say this from the privileged position of being childless and self-employed, but setting aside time for practice means giving up something else that you would’ve otherwise been doing during that time. On the one hand, this can lead to personal and/or professional tensions as you make these sacrifices. On the other hand, making these sacrifices may lead you on the difficult, but ultimately rewarding process of prioritizing the things in your life that are most important to you.
Do you have a practice routine? If so, what helped you create and/or stick to it?