We always start the new year eager to achieve new goals. This is going to be our best year ever! That’s a good thought, but achieving goals – any sort of goal – takes planning and effort. If you’re serious about achieving your practice goals in 2018, use these tips to improve your odds.
1. Make the goal measurable.
You can’t tell if you’ve achieved a goal if it’s not specific. For example, goals of “practice scales more” don’t give you a target. Instead, you might set a goal of spending an hour a week practicing scales.This gives you flexibility as to how much time you practice scales each day while holding you accountable to reach specific goals.
2. Focus some goals on eliminating bad habits, not just achieving something new.
You may be surprised to find out how one bad habit was holding you back from achieving your other goals or making progress, despite your other best efforts.
3. Write them down.
Write them down in two ways and for two reasons. First, we’re more likely to achieve goals we write down. Second, you want to write out practice schedules so you know you’re giving time to all your goals.
4. Share your goals with other people.
This could be teachers, friends and family. First, you’ll need their help. Second, like writing it down – sharing a goal with someone else makes it more real. It also gives you an extra layer of accountability as to why or why not you’re achieving your goal. This is especially true when you share your goals with your music teachers or some fellow musicians.
5. Vary the purpose of different goals.
Of course, you’ll have different goals that you can hit in the short, medium and long-term. That’s not what we mean. Don’t have all your goals run in same direction. For example, you’ll have some technique goals, but you also want to set some goals on improving your fundamentals, like transcription or developing your ear. Throw in a broader music goal, like preparing a performance-worthy piece in a new genre.
6. Set a big development goal that many of your smaller goals can work towards.
A big picture goal could be getting ready for a masterclass or preparing for a competition. The competition in question may not be until summer, but you can start specifying and attacking the smaller goals you want to achieve that will help you achieve this big picture goal. It’s also easier to maintain motivation on the hard days when you can point to the big picture purpose why you’re doing this.
7. Select an inspiration to help you stay motivated.
Your inspiration could be a famous musician – “would So-and-So skip practice today?” Other inspirations could be a teacher or a specific performance you can listen to whenever you need a spark.
8. Ask for help.
This is part of sharing your goals, especially with a teacher or tutor. Ask for help in how to break down your goal into specific tasks you need to take on to reach the larger goal. If you feel like you’ve plateaued, ask for help to get past it. Ask for feedback on how you’re doing and what you’re doing. This will help make sure you don’t waste time on the wrong stuff that either won’t help you reach your goal or creates obstruction to it.
9. Be disciplined, but give yourself a break.
Maintaining discipline – doing something every day to reach your goals – is critical to actually achieving them. They won’t just happen. However, don’t beat yourself up if it’s taking longer than you’d like or you skipped a day of practice. The key is don’t make a habit of it. If you skipped a day of practice, be clear about why. What can you do differently so you don’t find yourself in that position or mindset again? Let’s say you blew off practice to hang out with friends? Well, are you keeping enough time to socialize with your schedule? If not, figure that out. That way you’ll be less tempted to go out on the spur of the moment, when you know you can hang out with them another time.
It’s hard to improve without goals. Setting and achieving goals is a necessary part of growing as a musician. Getting in the habit now will only set up to achieve even greater and bigger goals in the future.