How to get more done in less time?
Does anyone have any tips on how to incorporate more into my practice time, or how to get through material faster?
Ideally, I would like to have more practice time so that I could be able to practice everything slowly and as many times as I need, however due to my busy schedule, some days this is not possible.
I find that when I am practicing my scales for instance, I will end up playing them for an hour or two without even realizing, until I am satisfied, but then that leaves me with limited time to work on etudes and repertoire.
I have tried "rushing through" but then I feel like I wasted my practice time.
Do you think it is better to spend the time perfecting my scales, even if sometimes at the expense of other parts of my practice routine?
It's not clear to me that you are setting goals for your practice. For example, with scales, my normal routine is to choose a single key, do 1, then 2, 4, 8, 16 per bow, then arpeggios 1 bow per octave, then 2 then 3 or 4, then on to double stops.
Thanks for all the good advice Christian!
In that case, I think you just have to budget your time and be somewhat firm with your boundaries. Another thing is to rotate the order of the work you do. Start with a warmup sometimes, and sometimes without a warmup. Put scales and arpeggios at the front of your practice sessions. Other times, start with pieces or etudes. When you put scales towards the end of your practice day, you might find that it forces you to be more efficient with them.
I decide beforehand what I will practice and I divide the practice time into segments, each of which is planned in terms of which piece or scale or etude I will work on and has a goal which I may or may not meet such as to clean up bowing on a section of a piece. I have more things to work on than available time each day so I make a chart and rotate tasks each day. The segments are 15 to 30 minutes in length (usually 3 segments of 20 minutes) and have a short break of maybe 5 minutes in between in which I walk around a bit and relax.
Figure out how much time you want to spend, and divide it up into a schedule. Have categories for difficult parts, and focus on those. Try not to waste too much time with parts you can already do well, but do enough to maintain proficiency. Also, trust the cumulative effect of frequent or daily practice! Don't feel like you need to spend time each day to be perfect- that doesn't last, but the skills you build up over time through frequent, consistent practice do!
It's easy to zone out playing scales or studies. In addition to the "rotation schedules" proposed by Christian and others, you could have goals for improvement. "My first-inversion arpeggios always sound scratchy when I go from the D string to the A string" or "I always overshift that minor third" or whatever. Don't just hope for incremental (glacial) improvement by doing them over and over. Listen to yourself so that you know what is wrong with your scales or arpeggios so that you can improve exactly that aspect by setting your own customized study targeting that.
There are a few things you could try to make the most of your time.
Lydia Leong had a great post about efficient practice a while back: http://www.violinist.com/blog/lwl/20141/15383/
Have a look at Robert Gerle's book "The Art of Practicing The Violin" Isolate trouble spots and patterns and practice those. Use the rotation others have mentioned to apply those abstracted and abbreviated practice methods to different areas one after another.
If you tend to lose track of time in a practice session, I'd suggest planning divisions of what you're going to practice, using the Pomodoro Technique. Set a timer, Don't work on a thing any more when the timer goes off. I'd suggest that you set the timer for no more than 20 minutes. Personally, I'd prefer five or ten minutes, rotating between two to four different things in 20-minute chunks (put a brief break between chunks). Changing tasks forces your brain to wake up and pay attention.
Whenever I structure a few hours of practice, I do roughly 30 minutes on, 10 minutes off, and I use a kitchen timer. If someone prefers 20/10, I won't argue.
One thing that has not yet been mentioned: The geometry of learning curve. Goethe said it like this: All beginning is easy and the highest peaks are climbed the least often (translation mine; the German original sounds much more elegant). Meaning that crossing those last few percent to the summit of perfection are very hard and time consuming to overcome.
You might be spending too much time and energy on the technical phase of your practice time; warm-ups, exercises, scales, etudes,... More than an hour (for me) than that, can do more harm than good, like over-dosing on a medicine or vitamin. Time to move on to the main event--working on real music.
Thanks everyone for all the great replies so far and helpful tips! I actually did try using the Pomodoro technique and being very strict with myself about my time today. I may have not "mastered" everything I wanted completely, but I was able to make decent progress in various aspects of my playing, and not spend the entire time just drilling technical stuff like scales.