Building practice time into a busy schedule

Edited: November 12, 2020, 3:49 PM · I have been trying to build practice time into a busy schedule during the last 9 months that I have been working remotely from home. I wanted to ask if anyone had any ideas or suggestions.

While considering work/life balance - and keeping a seperation between the two - I decided to move my desk out of my bedroom and into my living room space. That move paid immediate dividends. But then I stepped back and thought there is another way to look at this: perhaps since work is part of life, I should also be thinking of work/life integration. Hence, I have been scheduling outside work activities on my work calendar as a way of holding myself accountable. Curious what you think and what has worked for you.

Replies (9)

November 12, 2020, 10:28 PM · My home office is in the basement. It's in a basement bedroom that's very comfortable. My violin and viola are also here so it's also my practice studio. When I renovated it I put a lot of insulation in the walls and ceiling. The only downside is that the ceiling is 7 feet so I have to practice sitting down otherwise I'll break the tip plate on my bow (broke two before switching to seated practice).

What you have to do if you can is say "no" to stuff at work that someone else can just as well do. That's very hard, I understand, but it's really important.

November 12, 2020, 10:59 PM · If you've got a safe and private workspace, keep the case open and the violin out throughout the day, so you can pick it up when you have a couple minutes here and there. If you've got spots to drill, that works pretty well -- do a couple of bars for two to five minutes, work out a technical problem.
November 13, 2020, 6:26 AM · I practice in my dining room. It's a large space with wonderful acoustics. I keep my violin nearby always so if I have a sudden idea or looked up something on I can quickly go a practice it. While I don't have a job, I am a student so I have other responsibilities. I normally set goals for that day (like, today I am going to practice E scales, Kreutzer etude, and Bach in the morning and in the afternoon I'm going to work on my concertos.) One things that helps to give more time is knowing beforehand what your goals are for that day and getting right into accomplishing them. Good luck!
November 13, 2020, 10:04 AM · Since I'm full time remote and live alone, I try to practice when I have a free 30 minutes from work (like, really free, not just some downtime waiting for some process or another to finish). Mental health is a priority where I work (plus it's in the music industry) so taking 30 minutes to practice when you need a break from work is actively encouraged by management.

This has immediately increased the velocity of my learning since I'm actually playing at times of the day when my brain is fresh and focused instead of playing at 7 or 8 after work is done and maybe I went to have some beers already or I ate too much for dinner and I'm feeling lazy.

Splitting up practice I feel works very well for me. 2x 30 minutes for me is more productive than 1x 1 hour, but I have recently started working on something new so the new-ness may encourage me to practice longer.

November 13, 2020, 10:24 AM · It might be worth pre-planning different things you can work on in 5 minute chunks (like "I'm going to do this scale", or "work on this passage at this tempo"), that way you don't have to think about it in the moment
November 16, 2020, 8:15 AM · Thanks everyone for those great suggestions. Very helpful.
Edited: November 16, 2020, 11:30 AM · For a working pro, or a serious student wanting to be a pro, it is more a question of priorities. Practice is the #1 priority. It is hard to say No to everything else, and others may not appreciate why you would rather "play" violin than do xyz. Apocryphal story: A pro-level violinist would get up in the morning, get dressed, get in the car, drive around the block, go in the back door of his separate studio, and practice, without the distraction of a telephone.
November 20, 2020, 10:46 AM · I recommend about the same as Lydia:
Just work for very short periods of time.

Make a list of things to work on: Some technical stuff, some music to be figured out, something for which you need a very calm mind, for example intonation or sound quality of single notes, or, on the other hand, something wild and fast to work on.

As a result, you have somthing for every possible mood you might be in, and you will make the best out of each little session.

Edited: November 23, 2020, 2:34 PM · Lots of good ideas above, including brief practice spurts. Here's an idea for turning that brief spurt into a daily routine.

In 1975, I got a brief article published in The Instrumentalist, which I am very proud of because I am not a professional musician. It was written for amateurs like me. But as a psychologist I focused on the idea that you create a "minimum daily chore." Hopefully, of course, you would do much, much more on a daily basis.

The idea here is to make it so extremely brief that it seems ridiculous - 3 minutes. But that 3 minutes is 100% full concentration, playing something technical, but extremely slowly and focusing on getting it perfect. No distractions allowed. You can change the focus and the routine each day, but that's the daily chore.

After your 3 minutes, you do your regular practice routine, or whatever else you may want or need to do. The advantage is that for at least 3 minutes it removes the psychological burden of thinking about that hour of hard work ahead of you. It helps you focus 100% on this moment right now. It's also a good method for learning other things that you might otherwise consider a daily burden.

There is something about paying this kind of attention on a daily basis (even for 3 minutes) that within a week or two does something very positive for your attention and your motivation. You create a habit of focusing 100% on this moment right now. And you can do 3 minutes on your busiest and most difficult day. Who can't afford 3 minutes of concentration on even their toughest day?

Hope that helps.

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