The following list is based off personal experience. I recognize that ten is a huge number of steps to implement so don't try to get it all in one go. If getting yourself to practice is a stuggle, I suggest you start with steps 1 & 4. Otherwise feel free to experiment with these ideas in any order. 


I would also want for you to see each of these steps as individual "practice motivators". Each with its own chance of increasing your effectiveness and likelihood for practice. As you implement them, observe any results. And make a habit doing the ones that help the most. In other words, you are practicing how to stay motivated, a practice before practice!




1. Decide to do it
Tell yourself in the morning as you awake or before bed the night before. Be specific, set a time and a duration. Skipping this step makes it more likely for you to slip into any usual routine that does not involve your instrument.


2. For how long?
You don't need to practice for an hour. But you can. If you don't find yourself practicing on the regular, aiming for an hour or even half hour a day may be a bit much. Set a small goal for five to fifteen minutes a day or try breaking it up into micro sessions. For example, aim for three, five-minute practice sessions: one in the morning, another after work/school, one before you go to bed. A single five-minute session should be short enough to tackle. And once you complete the first, you would have already proven that the remaining two will be just as easy.


3. Know what you're going to work on
Being vague about your next practice session leaves a lot of room for wasted time. You may end up noodling around on the instrument, or having a very imbalanced approach to your own growth...


You need to create a list:


For beginners, the list is usually very small. For more advanced players however, spend time creating a categorized list of everything that you want to practice. From there, decide on fewer items you wish to focus on and work on those. Don't be over ambitious with the number of items you choose; you can adjust your focus over time. For list making, a trusty notebook, Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets can get the job done.


4. Eliminate or reduce your distractions
Don't rely on willpower. It is not motivation that you lack, you are just distracted. Now think about your habits... what actions do you habitually take that pull you away from the feeling of practice? Phones, TV's and other devices are the usual suspects, but not for everyone. Spend time thinking about what distracts you in your spare time. Get creative and get rid of them. If it's something you can't get rid of, then just find ways to reduce it. 


Here are two personal examples:


a) I no longer practice at home, instead I put the time in at my teaching studio. Being home is too much of a comfort and I hardly ever get anything done. (This was before the outbreak of COVID-19, but i'll probably resume as restrictions are lifted).


b) I limit my usage of social media on my phone to 15 minutes a day with the use of an app called Stay Focused. Social media is a slippery slope of distraction that, for me, leads to hours of wasted time.


Once again, get creative! Solutions exist once you think about it.


5. Organize your practice space
This ties in a bit with the previous step. Make your space distraction free. No phones, no TV, no game consoles. Find a place with the least distractions and work from there. 


Make your practice material readily available. Time spent searching for your next exercise is wasted energy. With hardcopies, arrange them into folders. If you use a computer like I do, keep your files organized. Also, ensure your PC isn't loaded with distractions! Remove games, disable the Wi-Fi if you have to and transfer all your practice material via USB. This ain't no joke.


Lastly, always keep your guitar out of its case. Make it easy to pick up and play and you'd be more likely to get started. 

6. Use a timer!
I wrote about this in previous article. Countdown timers are great focus tools. Know what you're about to work on beforehand to be effective. Set them in small amounts at first like 3, 5, or 10 minutes. Start the timer and you will immediately feel a sense of responsibility to make the best use of the time that is now quickly going by. It works, try it.

7. Break it down
As much as you can, break your practice items into smaller, manageable parts while working your way up over time. A quick path to frustration is taking on more than you can physically and emotionally handle. Improving on smaller tasks also help to fuel confidence for the bigger picture.

8. Have balanced expectations
Don't expect huge results from one practice session. Most noticeable improvements come after a period of rest. It could be after a fifteen-minute break or even a after a couple days. Progress is not always straightforward. Just focus on the task of practicing... results will follow.

9. Be consistent!
Inconsistency is a huge factor in demotivation while the opposite does wonders for progress. If you struggle, aim to practice at least one more day in the week and slowly work your way up from there. Pay attention to the points made in step 2. Aim for regular smaller practices over the course of the week rather than a single, two-hour session on a Sunday. 

10. Acknowledge progress
Many people fail to see or appreciate their achievements, while others thrive on any feeling of improvement. Results come in small doses, noticing your gains converts them into motivational fuel while a lack of attention blinds us to the progress of our efforts.

Thursday 28 May, 2020