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Establishing a Practice Habit, Part 1: Finding a Good Practice Time

Our days are filled with habits. Some are good, some not so good. But from the moment we open our eyes in the morning until we fall into bed each night our routines, or habits, fill most of our waking moments. Most of them are so ingrained that we do them without even thinking.

Practicing is a necessary habit for learning any skill. Piano students who make regular progress with their playing skills are students who have developed a good practice habit. Regular practice time at home between lessons is an essential part of learning to play easily and enjoy music making. Some students already have a good practice habit, while others struggle to fit in any practicing at all. In either case, it’s important to look at your new schedule at the beginning of a school year and find a good practice time.

In his book Atomic Habits author James Clear outlines four steps to establish a new habit. The first one is “make it obvious.” Plan when you’ll perform the new habit and then follow through regularly.

Here are some tips for establishing a practice time that works:

· Have a realistic expectation for the length of practice time you or your child needs. Younger students may only be able to focus on practicing for ten minutes at a time. As students age and progress, their practice time should increase.

· Link the practice time to a habit or routine that you or your child already has in their daily schedule. Use the already established habit as a cue for the practice habit. For example, try a practice time right after school, after dinner, after 30 minutes of homework, or after getting ready for school in the morning. “After I ______, then I practice.”

· Make the cue a part of your environment. Perhaps post a sign on your fridge with a reminder or put an alert on your phone. Some parents are now letting Alexa or Google do the reminding! “Hey Susan, it’s time to practice piano.”

· Consider when you’re most likely to be successful. Ensure that practice is at a time when the student can focus and concentrate. Trying to fit in a practice session at the end of a tiring day, when the student is exhausted from a sport practice, hungry, or not feeling well is a recipe for tears, frustration, and unproductive practice.

· Regular practice sessions are more beneficial than trying to cram the preparation for a lesson into one or two longer sessions. Although the minutes of both approaches might be equal, the shorter regular practice times will produce better and longer lasting results.

I hope this week you’ll find these suggestions helpful as you begin to establish a regular practice habit. If you or your child has a very busy schedule, the practice time might vary from day to day. Some days it may be impossible to fit it in. But planning ahead for those days will make the practice habit a part of the routine and not an afterthought. Here’s to stress free, tearless practicing!

#practicing #time management


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