In this post, I’m going to tackle a rather large and very relevant issue: not practicing because you’re simply busy.
Losing practice for reasons such as school, your job, family/relationship commitments or other reasons SUCKS. Part of the reason why it’s such an incredibly tough thing to get through is that you really want to be practicing, and you feel like, to some degree, you are wasting time that you could have used to become better at your instrument. This is quite different than simply feeling unmotivated to practice. For me personally, my biggest issue with this is balancing my schoolwork and my practice time. Sometimes you just feel like there are not enough hours in the day to get both done, and when you finally have a free moment, you’re too tired to do anything productive. I’m absolutely certain that I’m not alone here.
So, what are some ways to manage this kind of situation?
Scheduling and Time Management
Granted, this should be obvious. When you’re trying to fit things into your day, the first thing you should turn to is your schedule. Sometimes you’ll find wasted time in unknown areas. Try sitting down one day (first thing in the morning) and writing down what you want your day to look like on paper. As you go through your day, try to forget what you wrote, and instead write down everything you do inside a notebook. Make sure that you are doing this on a normal day. Include specific times. For example:
12:40- went into town for lunch.
1:12- returned from lunch.
1:12-1:37- read book.
1:37-1:56- checked Metal Amino.
And so forth.
What is the benefit of this? Well, after doing this all day, you can return to the sheet where you wrote down what you want your day to look like. Compare the two, and see what should change to make that happen. You will also find pockets of time that are spent doing unnecessary things, which you can convert to practice time. For example, doing this I found that I would have time for everything I needed to do by changing things around and waking up just one hour earlier. This is a really important step to solving this problem.
Prioritize Your Practice
Now that we’ve talked about time management, it’s time to look at practice management. This involves several different things. Firstly, you need to start looking at your practice as more than just an optional activity. Sometimes you have free time and decide not to practice because you’re tired or would rather do other things. If I have learned one thing in all my years of playing, it’s that you should never wait to be motivated. Motivation is a bonus, but the best players still practice without it. Even if it’s the last thing they feel like doing at that moment. Tom Morello still practiced guitar a staggering number of hours a day while in Harvard for law. I guarantee you that he had a more intense workload than most of us here. If he could do that, we can at least try. However, don’t deprive yourself of sleep and social activity to the point where it affects your health or your schooling. You have to be tough on yourself, but be careful not to go over the top.
As for the second half of this point, you have to look through your practice routine and prioritize it a bit. Make a list of all the things you work on, and arrange it from most important to least important. That way, if your routine is cut short or you only have a small amount of practice time, it still means you’re practicing the things that need to be done.
Don’t beat yourself up over it!
If you’re in school, accept that it’s only a short few years of your life. Especially if you plan on becoming a musician, you will have much more time to practice soon. In any case, even if there’s something else holding you back from practicing, the ability to recognize that it’s not your fault is invaluable. Just enjoy the other parts of your life and stop thinking about it so much. If the situation is causing you to be unhappy all the time, then that may mean that there are larger issues at hand- you may need to make some changes in your life. Don’t react drastically or do anything major until you are absolutely positive about what you want to do. A lot of people get confused, and they think that dreams and goals are different. They really aren’t.
Thanks for reading! Are you having similar issues? Is there a point you want me to cover in a future post in this series? Questions? Let me know in the comments.