Monday, November 30, 2015

Productive Procrastination & Sneaky Practicing

For musicians, procrastination can be a pretty serious offense.  After all, you can't memorize an entire concerto in one all night coffee fueled practice session!  Practicing music for a performance exists on an entirely different time scale than many other tests in life.  In my mind, starting to practice a difficult piece 2 or 3 weeks before a performance IS the equivalent of a musical "all nighter." 

If you want to be a serious musician, but also feel that procrastination is pretty much programmed into your DNA, all is not lost.  Use your procrastination skills to turn yourself into a sneaky practicer!  Here are three of my favorite ways to sneak in lots of practicing while indulging in the feeling of procrastination.

1. Alternate Practicing

Keep your flute right beside you while you work on the computer, read, do homework, watch Netflix, paint your nails, anything!  Alternate the activity you have to do or want to do with short bursts of practicing.  Small practice sessions add up to big practice sessions over time.  I especially like having my flute beside me when I have lots of emails to answer.  Five emails equals a fifteen minute practice break and it feels great!

Sneaky Practice Secret: When you alternate practicing with another mandatory activity, you indulge your inner procrastinator either way! 

2. Multitask Practicing

Score study and listening are essential elements of effective practicing.  You can score study while waiting at the doctor's office, in the hallway before class, during breakfast in the morning, or any other time when you are sitting still doing an activity that doesn't utilize all of your concentration.  You can listen to the repertoire you are studying in the car, or using headphones anytime you are cleaning or exercising. You are never too busy to sneak in some score study or listening! 

Sneaky Practice Secret: Not having your instrument in your hands feels like you are procrastinating with practicing, even though you're being quite productive!

3. Bare Minimum Practicing

Often, your inner practice procrastinator is triggered by the thought of how much you have to practice and how great you want to play your music.  Make a deal with yourself that you can be guilt free for the rest of the day, as long as you do the bare minimum amount of practicing to get by.  Depending on your level and upcoming performances, this might include just a warm-up, a few touch up practice games, and one run-through of your etude or solo.  If you're only going to practice "the bare minimum," it won't seem so intimidating to get started. 

Sneaky Practicing Secret:  Once you're warmed up and have gained momentum by practicing a little, odds are you'll feel like doing much more!  If not, at the very least, you'll have kept yourself in decent shape for better practicing tomorrow. 

Happy Practicing!

Terri Sánchez

P.S. Do you struggle pretty badly with procrastination?  For some practical tips on "making yourself" get started, try reading Steps 1, 2, and 3 = More Than The Sum of Their Parts!