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Finding Time For Personal Practice While Teaching

Although you probably preach how important practice is for your students, many music educators find scheduling practice time for themselves very difficult. You know the benefits of personal practice and you know that deliberate practice leads to rapid improvement, but finding time to incorporate practice time into your own schedule often seems elusive for instructors. However, music educators can change this dynamic by instituting some common sense changes into their daily routines. All it requires is determination and habit.

Once you’re able to introduce regular practice times, the important thing to remember is to remain consistent for at least two months. Unlike Maltz’s misunderstood “Psycho-Cybernetics” research, a recent study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology found that it requires approximately 66 days to form a new habit. And although the exact time-frame depends on the person’s individual behaviors and circumstances, for most people, a new behavior becomes automatic between two to eight months.

This means that once you find ways of scheduling your personal practice time, you’ll need to maintain it. Regularity is the key to success. These ideas can help you arrange for personal practice time, while working within your current daily or weekly routine.

Refresh Your Schedule

Firstly, if you don’t currently employ a weekly scheduler, you should do so. Regulating your day into segments has the power to illuminate free time, especially during the workday. For example, do you have an off period to arrange lesson plans? How about time directly before or after school hours? These are the times when you could consider including 20 minute practice sessions for yourself. There are plenty of free online scheduling resources, such as this one, that will transform the way you plan your daily activities and improve your time management.

Don’t Overwhelm Yourself

Although you may notice that you have an extra 30 minutes during each day, don’t automatically commit to scheduling practice time during that slot every day. It’s a good idea to begin with reasonable changes. For example, choose two or three days each week to integrate personal practice. One of the best ways to ensure that your resolution fails is to build unrealistic expectations. Remember, you’re already busy. If you overwhelm yourself, the changes you make to your schedule will just produce additional stress and disappointments.

Don’t Replace Your “Me” Time

This is a very important part of your day. Like everyone, music educators need to have daily “me” time to unwind and relax. Whether this involves watching TV, playing sports, or reading, you need to have downtime for yourself to prevent stress. Don’t schedule your practice time to interfere with your relaxation time unless playing your instrument is something that will replace that soothing emotional and physical release.

Evaluate and Remove Time Wasters

Part of your day, most likely, involves certain responsibilities that you can’t ignore. However, things like internet time, checking emails, reading news, taking personal calls during work hours, and other distractors can end up taking more time than you originally intended. For example, do you stop at the grocery store more than once a week rather than planning ahead, end up spending hours online when you only meant to be on for a few minutes, or do you agree to do things that you’d rather not, simply because you were asked? Recognizing and eliminating things that waste your valuable time is one of the best ways to find the time for personal practice.

Recruit Help

There are many chores and jobs that you can ask for help with, which will free up more time for you to practice. Asking for help with yard work, cleaning, laundry, and other odd jobs isn’t unreasonable and it has the power to alter your schedule in a positive way. Also, it’s not the end of the world to prioritize. If you need to leave dirty dishes in the sink so that you can take time to practice, go ahead.

Best Practice Tips

These tips will help ensure that your practice sessions are productive:

  • Choose a quiet location. Avoid phones, noises or other distractions
  • Have all your supplies on hand (pencils, music, and other items)
  • Set goals. If you have a key goal in mind, your practice will be more productive
  • Schedule your practice like a work out. Warm up, break up exercises into small segments, use alternate rhythms, etc.

You don’t have to just wish for more time to practice, you can take steps that ensure that your practice time becomes an integral portion of your weekly schedule. By regularly practicing your chosen instrument, you’ll hone your skills and be able to become a better teacher and performer.

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