“Time is the most valuable coin in your life. You and you alone will determine how that coin will be spent. Be careful that you do not let other people spend it for you.” ~ Carl Sandburg
The answer, as usual, has to do with getting to know yourself. If you want to know when to practice you need to pay attention to how your energy level increases or decreases during the day. Only then will you be able to pinpoint the exact time when you are in the best state of mind-body for practicing:
- Full of energy
There are three types of artists:
- Morning artist
- Afternoon artist
- Night artist
People say that we musicians are night people, but I discovered a while ago that I’m a morning person. Morning is the best time for me to create. The melodies, ideas and words arrive effortlessly. I love the sense of freshness that beginnings have. At that time everything feels new and I sense that anything is possible. I also like silence (best music staff). There are no interruptions, calls, visits or things to do in the morning. And I enjoy the fact that I haven’t had a bad experience yet.
I usually wake up pretty early and full of energy. I don’t even need to set the alarm. Anyways, if I ever tried to stay in bed longer Frida and Kahlo (my dogs) wouldn’t allow it. When I have important projects I’m capable of getting up at 4 am. It’s a temporary sacrifice for a great cause. Anyhow, there is no weariness that a delicious afternoon coffee can’t remedy. If I know that I’m getting up that early I obviously try to go to bed earlier.
The point is that since I learned that I’m an early bird I’ve done my best to reserve mornings for my creative endeavours. I don’t teach, exercise, check my messages nor visit social media in the morning. I know that if I did I would be losing some very valuable time. Furthermore, I use a different type of energy for those activities so I know I can do them at any other time.
So if you want to know when to practice the first thing you need to do is find out what type of artist you are and the second thing is you need to do whatever you can to set aside that time. If your circumstances won’t allow it just do the best you can with whatever time you have available. Once you’ve defined your practice timeframe it’s best to do it at that same time every day. Consistence and stability will have a positive effect on your practicing. They will help you get into a rhythm. Believe me, even your muses will get used to showing up to your date on time.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that I’m not one of those people who hate Mondays. If I think about it, I’ve already mentioned two things that may make me a little weird (haha). It’s like I said before, I love beginnings. I have more energy on Mondays than at the end of the week. That’s why I also don’t teach on Mondays. I do this because I believe that staying artistically active and productive is part of my responsibility as an educator. I don’t think my words would have the same impact on my students if I wasn’t living and doing the things I talk to them about.
Now, among the qualities I mentioned before motivation is not absolutely required. Even though there are times when we honestly need a rest, sometimes you have to practice without it. Maybe your lack of motivation has to do with the material or the way you’re practicing (we’ll talk about that some other time).
Stay vigilant for attacks from the laziness, distraction and boredom and viruses. If you’re planning to practice only when you’re feeling motivated it will be so much harder for you to reach your goals. The natural order of things is: action FIRST and motivation AFTER.
On the other hand, if you are one of the ones that think that if you didn’t have to work or go to school you would practice more, let me tell you that usually the opposite is true. The people with the most responsibilities are the ones that manage their time well and the ones with little to do are the ones that waste it more. Do you identify with the following story?
You open your eyes at the same time you usually do. You look at the time. You’re about to get up when suddenly you remember it’s a holiday. You tell yourself: “today I’m really going to practice a lot”. You turn around and keep sleeping “a little longer”. When you finally wake up you’re first thought is “today I’m really going to practice a lot”. You check your messages and Facebook to make sure you haven’t missed anything important”. While you’re eating breakfast you decide to read the news, but not just the headlines like you usually do. That day you feel like reading the whole thing. For some reason you find the fact that tennis player Sarapova lost two sponsors interesting and want to find out more. Before leaving the table you check your messages again “just in case”. Right away you make yourself another coffee. Why not? It is a holiday. While sipping your second coffee you play you’re favourite game. You promise yourself you just want to pass one level. You end up passing at least seven. On your way to getting your music books you notice that the dirty laundry mountain has gotten pretty high so you decide to put a load of dirty clothes in the washer. You are just sitting at the piano when your dog arrives looking for your attention. You play with your dog “just for a little bit” because you feel sorry for him. The phone rings. A friend calls and asks how you’re doing. You tell him that you reserved the day for “practicing a lot”. He tells you a group of friends are going to the beach and invites you. You tell him you can’t because you’re going to practice. You hang up, look at the time and realize it’s lunch time already. Before fixing yourself something to eat you decide to do the dishes. Oh well… (you get the idea). Finally, the day ends with cero minutes of practice and the promise that “tomorrow I’m really going to practice a lot”.
The “don’t have time” excuse typically has to do with priorities. A simple way to have more time would be either to wake up earlier or go to bed later. If you were going away on a trip and your flight was at 5 am you would surely wake up on time. If you were hanging out with friends, you would be able to go to bed later than usual. And yet, when it comes to practicing, sleepiness is stronger than you. Hmmm…
The world is full of people who are capable of overcoming all kinds of obstacles. Some can create beautiful paintings without having arms, some play the piano with only two fingers and others run marathons without legs. Next time you feel tempted to use the “no time” excuse maybe you want to look into one of these stories.
When to practice? The answer is different for each person. Are you capable of staying up all night practicing, studying or composing? Are you an afternoon artist or are you a morning one like me?
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