How to set up a practice schedule (and stick to it) in 7 steps

Posted on: 23 January 2019

Our top tips for creating a practice schedule that works for you

As musicians will know all too well, you don’t become miraculously good at your instrument just by staring at it. It involves practice, practice and more practice – which can often be a hard slog, no matter how passionate you are about your instrument.  

If you’re still struggling to kickstart your 2019 practice regime, or just need some advice on how to make your current practices more effective, keep reading for our top tips.

1) Practice when you're at your peak

When are you at your most focused and productive? Is it first thing in the morning before breakfast? Or is it in the evening after dinner? 

A lot of people find they focus better in the morning and feel lethargic in the afternoon, but this might not be the case for you. Try and identify the time of day when you feel most alert, and schedule your practice session for then. 

Are you a morning person?

2) ...but pick a time that actually works on a practical level

You might be at your most productive at 10pm, but this may not work for practical reasons. Perhaps you have neighbours that wouldn’t take too kindly to you practicing at this time, or maybe you have other commitments that often get in the way.

Try to find a time that works well with your schedule and your mind-set. Maybe you’re a morning person, but can only fit in two morning practices per week. To work around this, you could try practicing the more challenging things in the mornings, and leave the things you find easier for your other evening and afternoon practices.  

3) Don't be over-ambitious

As much as you might like to fit in two hours of practice every day, is this realistic?

There’s nothing to say you can’t build up to this level in the future, but if you’re trying to adopt a new habit, it’s usually better to start small. Plus, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that practicing little and often is more beneficial than practicing for hours at a time, but only once every three weeks.  

Try committing to as little as 15 minutes every day to begin with – and if you do end up practicing for longer, you’ll feel a real sense of achievement. 

Write down what you're going to practice

4) Make a plan 

Plan out what you’re going to do in each practice session beforehand, so you don’t waste time deciding what to do. This will make things much easier on days when you’re feeling sluggish and your motivation is low.

It’s also a good idea to add your practice session to your calendar – this way you’re less likely to make excuses and move it around, or forget it entirely!

5) Practice with a friend

If you and a friend play the same instrument, you could book a time to practice together. If you both play different instruments, you could book separate practice rooms but at the same time, and agree to meet up afterwards for a coffee. You’ll find it much harder to bail on a practice session with a friend, because you’ll be letting them down too if you cancel.

Even if you have friends who aren’t musical, you could make an agreement with someone to go and practice every time they go to the gym, for example. You won’t be physically in the same room, but you’ll still both be encouraging each other to keep on track with a new habit. 

6) Keep yourself accountable

Do you get a lot of satisfaction from crossing things off your To Do list? You could try making yourself a practice chart and ticking off every day you’ve practiced. At the end of each week, you’ll be able to see how much you’ve really practiced – so you won’t be able to kid yourself that you’re doing seven hours a week, when in reality it’s only two.

Check off the days when you've practiced

7) Give yourself a reward

If you’ve hit your personal goal of practicing for 20 minutes every day for two weeks straight, why not treat yourself to a new purchase, a gig ticket, a cinema outing or something else you’d enjoy? Acknowledging your own achievements every once in a while will help to keep you motivated and in a positive mind-set.

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