For most people the demands of a job, family, errands, etc. leave almost no time for any daily practice routine. With zero time during the week and an hour or so on the weekends, it’s easy to resort to playing the same old stuff, and breaking out of this routine can seem impossible. My years of teaching overworked adults have shown me ways to cope with this challenge. It’s challenging, but not impossible!
- START SMALL: I have no magic bullet; you must lower your expectations, at least for the short term. If you don’t practice 8 hours a day, six days a week you will not be making major changes any time soon! However if you practice 10-20 minutes a day, four or five days a week (plus that hour or two on the weekend) you can make small changes, and small changes add up! I think Bill Gates said ” Most people overestimate what they can do in a year, and underestimate what they can do in ten.” Does ten years sound too long? How many years have you already wasted fooling around? Life is a journey, you might as well relax and enjoy it. Just get started!
- MAKE A TIME TO PLAY: This is easier if you start small, (10 minutes). If it’s important, you can at least come up with 10 minutes most days at a time when you’re still functional, and can negotiate some peace. The earlier in your day the better, the later it gets the less willpower you have. Try for the same time every day, or schedule it with an event, like around a meal. It doesn’t have to be every day, 4-5 days a week is plenty, (plus that weekend jam).
- MAKE A PLACE TO PLAY: Most people don’t have separate music studios. Find the quietest corner of the house, maybe the bedroom. Get a small headphone amp and shut the door. Keep your guitar out on a stand if possible,( if you have small kids you may need to keep it in the case under the bed). Make it as easy as possible to start playing, you should be able to start (or stop) in 2-3 minutes.
The reason why I’m starting so small, and emphasizing such basic and obvious points has to do less with becoming an overnight sensation and a lot more with building a habit. The first few weeks it doesn’t matter what you practice, only that you play. That ten minutes of playing, at the same place and time needs to become a habit, like brushing your teeth. You probably spend 10 minutes a day in total, brushing your teeth, but it’s no big deal, you just do it because it’s a habit. Once a behavior becomes a habit, it’s much less of a hassle. The first few weeks are the hardest and you will probably use every excuse in the book to quit, but keep at it! It’s only 10 minutes, set a timer and you’re done. It will get easier after a few weeks and after a few months, it will just be something you do. (If you are not brushing your teeth, get that down first.)
What can you do with only 10 minutes a day, 4-5 times a week? Not a lot obviously, but something ! Most people don’t realize how learning and applying just a few things can have an exponential effect over time. My next post will give some ideas on what to practice in that 10 minutes.