Complete Practice Planning
“Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning.”
— Gloria Steinem
It can be difficult to organize your practice time if you have a lot of repertory to learn. My own tendency as college student was to spend too much time on one or two pieces that I was learning because I was obsessed with making things perfect and I would often get stuck in the details.
An idea came to me one day that finally helped organize my practice time. I am not sure where the idea came from, but I decided to assign a percentage to each piece that I had to learn and then apply the daily practice time accordingly.
After listing all my repertoire, I would set aside a specific % of my practice time for practicing the most difficult passages. When I had a lot of repertory to prepare, the list would often be 40 or more difficult passages! When having 40 passages to practice I divided the list in half and practiced 20 passages every day.
As an example, if 90 min was set aside for practicing 20 passages each day, there would be approximately four and a half minutes available for each passage. While four and a half minutes is not a lot of time, if repeated 6 times per week over one or two weeks it is 27 min for one week or 54 min for two weeks. It is common for inexperienced students to practice difficult passages the same way each day instead of imagining how the practicing and learning process should expand and evolve each day.
The idea of using percentages to organize a practice session is implemented in the Complete Practice Schedule within the book PracticeMind: The Complete Practice Model by Hans Jensen and Oleksander Mycyk. Read on to learn more and to access the free online practice scheduler!
Chapter 10: Complete Practice Planning
Many accomplished musicians have harnessed the ability to implement a mental schedule for the day or week in order to achieve their musical goals. For musicians who struggle to keep track of time and goals, we recommend keeping a written schedule, either on paper or on screen. Building an effective practice session helps maintain consistency of focus and clarity of purpose. It is easy to get carried away with one task and neglect other more difficult or less enjoyable ones. By scheduling goals and assigning them a set or minimum amount of time, it is possible to convert an initially overwhelming amount of material or goals into a manageable day of practice.
Using a schedule clarifies goals and practice strategies that can otherwise lead to murky results. It only takes five minutes before each session to incorporate this tool into an effective daily practice planning routine. The process of writing helps you focus your thoughts and goals while providing just the right amount of accountability. For many people, organizing their day through a schedule and using checklists is incredibly gratifying.
As explained in earlier chapters of the book and in the Complete Practice Model, the three core components of practicing are Plan-Implement- Evaluate. We advocate for an approach to planning and structuring your practice that includes each of these components.
During the planning stage, organize your goals and allocate time. During the implementation phase, track your progress through your schedule. In the final evaluation stage, look back and assess how well your practice went so you can adjust your goals for future sessions and days.
Practice Planning tools
Depending on your learning style and specific goals, select one of the practice schedules below and commit to using it for at least a week to get a sense of how it can benefit your practice time management.
Build a t-chart
A simple T-chart with Time and Goals in the two columns is the foundation of a powerful practice schedule. Set the minutes in the left column and the goals on the right. Cross out or check off the goals as they are completed. Start fresh each day to allow for adjustment after self-evaluation and to track changes or see how much time was used in past days/weeks on certain goals:
A third possible column to add is Evaluate. This additional column would allow a self-evaluation alongside each goal:
Utilizing digital spreadsheet software is a great way to build and customize a powerful and unique practice planning schedule. This method allows for scheduling access across devices and easy revisions from day to day or week to week as goals change.
Click here to access our free Complete Practice Schedule. Before filling out your practice schedule, click File->Make a Copy. Once the document is copied to your own google account, then you are free to edit it and fill it out in Google Sheets. Alternatively, you can download the spreadsheet to save it and open it in your favorite spreadsheet software such as Excel or Numbers.
Follow these steps to complete your own Practice Schedule:
Here is an example of a more complex chart that is built around practice time percentages. Giving percentages to your weekly repertory is a great way to prioritize the amount of practice time you allocate to the various works. This Complete Practice Schedule is interactive and calibrates the daily amount of practice time after the weekly percentage has been entered.
The above excerpt is from Chapter 10 of PracticeMind: The Complete Practice Model by Hans Jensen and Oleksander Mycyk