Setting goals... and creating an action plan

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One of the things I have ever heard is the advantage of setting goals. This is something what I believe in, however I have realized I have not done it properly.

During my practice I usually work in some areas I want to develop. I design or take exercises to practice and to improve. Usually I keep track of my improvements. This has created in my mind the illusion that I have clear, defined goals. But it is not true. The thing is: I have wide, vague goals that guide my practice, but very few times I have set focused targets in my routine.

As a result of my reflective process in my own practicing, I have realized this fact. So I have decided to change it. Now, in my notes I usually set goals when I am working on a new exercise. These goals are clear, and specific: play a passage at a certain tempo, develop endurance keeping an exercise for X minutes, transcribe a solo in X days (being able to play it by hart)...

It seems I have taken the first step into the right direction... However, I have noticed that it is not enough. While I was revising my writings (my thoughts), and my practice journal, I have realized that there are some goals that remain written down, but I am not working towards them.

I am thinking about bring productivity strategies to my practice, but meanwhile I have to take action in these kind of issues. 

So, what can be the reason why I am not properly working on my goals?

The answer is simple. I have realized that, while I have set clear goals, I haven't set a so clear action plan, nor implemented it in my practice routine. So I know I have to work in a specific direction, but I don't have a clear route map. This means I am approaching my goal, but not as fast as I could.

This makes me think about the difficulty to stablish a routine... and the difficulty to change it! When I go to practice I stick to my usual exercises, and leave a few time to work in these new goals. I need to have a clear plan, and I have thought that the best tool for it is to write it down, so I can check it when preparing my next practice session, or just before start practicing. I need to know clearly what I am going to work on, and why.

There is also important not to try to do more things than I can. If I am working in one exercise for a long period of time, that means I am not able to work in too many exercises. So, there are some goals I have to pospone. I am thinking also in working alternating goals, something similar to alternating muscular groups when you go to a gym.

I think I can group my goals according to their characteristics, so I can play with these groups as I achieve some of the goals. This will be related with the productivity strategies I talked about...

I hope my own experience can help you if you are having the same kind of difficulties.

Thanks for visiting!

All images in this post are taken from:

The importance of knowing yourself

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It has been some time since I started with this research into how to improve practice. I've realized many things so far, and I am happy I can share my findings and thoughts with you.

One of my main concerns in regarding my practice is setting a regular schedule. I know there are many ways to approach practicing; for me, I think some kind of practicing routine is beneficial. It helps me focus my attention, knowing what to practice and setting goals. It is easier to keep track of my work and development. In the end, when I am able to stick to a regular practice routine, I can say that I get overall benefit since I feel balanced. The reason is I truly believe I am in a right path to improvement.

However, setting a basic routine is not as simple as it seems. I guess many musicians can agree with this point. It gets more difficult as time goes by, and you find yourself dealing with a lot of things that demand your valuable time: work, studies, family, housekeeping...  Even worse, since you want to find time to practice, but you aren't able to do it, this situation can generate a lot of frustration.

I have been experiencing this situation lately, and then a question comes to my mind: how can I find a solution that allows me to practice in a regular way? Is that possible?

The key for me: to be realistic

Well, to be honest, I think it is possible to deal with all these matters. However you have to be realistic, and begin with knowing yourself. This takes time, and you have to be committed to be honest. For me it has been possible through a trial/error process. Usually, I have a lot of plans for my practice. However, there are also a lot of things to do apart from practicing. The result used to be that I was postponing my practice until it was too late. Or maybe I planned to wake up early, but the night before I went to bed too late, so when my alarm sounded I wasn't able to get up.

I was falling in the same error again and again, until I decided to stop acting and to reflect on why I wasn't able to stick to the practice routine I had in my head. The answer was easy: I wasn't being realistic. So, instead of thinking a plan out of the blue I decided to take seriously my habits and make my practicing plan with this information in my head.

This does not mean to put my practicing in a second place, but to know the things I will have to change in order to carry on my planning. So, if I have to wake up early next morning, I won't stay awake until late in the night. Otherwise the best thing is to think of another moment to go to the practice room. The same if I know that I have some other obligation like do the shopping: for me, it's better to think it will take me a lot of time, so I set my practice time according to that. Or maybe I change my practice plan so that I can buy relaxed, not thinking I am losing valuable practice time.

It is also important to know what time of the day you are most productive, and try to set the practice sessions on these hours. But again, being realistic and not thinking in how you would like to be, but in how you know you are.

For me, it has been helpful to try to approach my practice schedule weekly, and with some flexibility. So I know the things I will have to do this week, and how to set or adapt my practice time to take the most of it.

Since I plan my time from the knowledge of myself and my reality, there is no reason to get anxious or frustrated because I am not able to stick to a plan that I cannot accomplish.

Further Reading

If you feel identified in some way, I recommend you to have a look to this article by Dr. Noa Kageyama, which actually was what made me think about being honest to myself:

Thanks for your visit!

Image by Alexandra Person under a Creative Commons license (cc by-nc-sa 2.0)
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