By Matti Carter
Would you like to achieve bigger and better results at playing your instrument? Would you like to reach your musical goals faster?
I am going to show you how to plan your practice time more effective, so that you can get better and faster results at playing your instrument. To do this, we must first figure out what we ultimately want from playing our instrument. Down below is a list of action steps you can take now to ensure that your progress on your instrument gets faster.
- Set Musical Goals
The first thing to do is to set some musical goals for yourself. If you have a hard time figuring out what your goals are, think about these two questions and answer them for yourself:
- How good do you ultimately want to be as a player?
- What do you ultimately want to be able to play?
You can give several different answers to the questions above if you like. Try to think about big long term goals as well as small short term goals. When you have answered the questions, ask yourself another three questions related to the ones above, and answer them separately for each goal:
- In how much time would you like to achieve this goal?
- How much practice is required to achieve this goal?
- Why do you want to achieve this goal?
Finally, write down a list of your musical goals in the order of how long they are going to take to achieve. Next to each goal, write down how much practice is required to achieve the goal and the reason why you would like to achieve the goal.
You may have written down 10 goals to begin with, but it is important that you figure out what is the most important goal of all. Your reason behind the goal is going to determine the most important goal for you. Usually the biggest goal will be some type of long term goal. Choose the biggest and most important long term goal that you want to achieve.
After that, get rid of all the goals that are not congruent with your biggest long term goal. Your other goals might be leading you towards your long term goal, which means you can keep them on the list. If your goal is not leading towards the big goal, it is no use to have that goal on the list.
- Create A Timeline For Your Goals
Now that you have figured out the biggest and most important musical goal for you and written down all the other goals that lead towards the big goal, it is time to start placing the goals on a timeline.
Create a long timeline from now until the time when you should achieve your biggest long term musical goal. Then add the shorter term goals where they belong on the timeline. Your first short term goal might be only weeks away from now. Make sure the timeline is large and there is space to write on it.
- Work Backwards From Your Goals
Now that you have written down all your goals on a timeline, it is time to start working backwards from the goals and get more specific as to how you are going to achieve them. Ask your self these questions for each goal seperately:
- How can I plan my practice time, so that I can reach this goal in the most effective way?
- What do I need to practice daily in order to reach this goal?
- How much practice time will it take daily/weekly/monthly to achieve this goal?
- How can I minimise the time I spend practising for this goal while maximising the results?
Answer these questions for all of your goals. These questions might take some time to think about. While answering these questions, try to be as specific as possible, so that you can get maximum clarity on what you should be doing.
- Create An Action Plan
After you have all the answers figured out to the questions above, it is easy to create an action plan based on them. I suggest planning your practice schedule at least once every week. You can create your action plan on the same timeline that you wrote your goals on, or you could have it separately. Just make sure that your plan will allow you to reach all the goals that you set for yourself.
Whenever planning your practice, make sure that you are on track to reaching your biggest goal. Think carefully about what you really need to do, and eliminate the small things that you do not need. Write down all the things you need to practice for that week, and you are ready to take action.
- Take Action
Once you have your plan in place, it is time to take action. Taking action is the most important thing you can do to reach your musical goals. Follow your action plan as well as you can, and if you discover a problem in the plan, just modify it. As you keep taking action, your plan will improve and you will start advancing quicker.
If you fail to reach a goal by the deadline that you set for yourself, don’t worry too much. At least you have taken action to move closer towards the goal. Now you can simply move the goal forward on the timeline slightly and you will reach it eventually.
© Matti Carter
About the author: Matti Carter is a piano instructor and composer living in Tampere, Finland. Feel free to contact him for advice on playing the piano or music composition. He will be happy to help you with any music related questions!