Diary

How to practice regularly

Every now and again people ask me how I make sure I practice regularly. It’s usually musicians, but it can be anyone who has a hobby they want to get better at.

The answer is: Routine. It sounds simple, so why do so many people find it so hard? Here’s what you have to do.

Step 1 – Plan

Commit to 1 hour a day, or whatever length of time is realistic and appropriate for you, and make it sacrosanct. Commit to never missing it, no matter how busy you are, how tired you are, or whatever other excuse you’re using.

To achieve this you have to plan your day, week and life to make sure you fit that time in. Look at your calendar at the beginning of each week. For each day think “how am I going to fit my practice in?” Turn things down if it will mean you miss that hour, because what you don’t do in order to achieve your goals (i.e. not watching TV, not going out, not spending all your time on Facebook) defines you every bit as much as what you do (gigs, practice, jamming, etc.)

It takes conscious effort. If you want to achieve something difficult you can’t just hope it happens of its own accord. You have to make it happen, which means structuring your life to allow yourself the time to make it happen. If you don’t plan it in advance, before you know it the day will be gone and you’ll have run out of time. You have to take responsibility for getting where you want to go. That involves planning it in advance.

Step 2 – Execute

So, you’ve made sure you’ve got the time. Then you have to do it. When that time comes around, be ready. Be sat in your chair, amp on, guitar in hand, metronome set, books and source material nearby. Don’t think about it. Don’t talk about it. Don’t watch YouTube videos about it. Don’t google it. Don’t make a quick cup of tea. Sit down and do it.

If you’re struggling, ask yourself this: “Who do I want to be, the guy who plays great guitar or the guy who watched another episode of Game of Thrones (or alternative procrastination method of your choice)?” If the answer is not “the guy who plays great guitar” then sell your rig, use the money to buy a Netflix subscription, and stop yapping on about how you want to play.

So sit down and do it, even if you don’t feel like it. Even if you’re ill. Even if all your plans messed up and it’s the end of the day. Even if you say “I’ll just do 15 minutes” (because you often end up doing the full hour anyway). Do it, do it, do it. It’s the only way you will get better and it is the only way to establish a routine.

Step 3 – Repeat the next day, and the next…

Then, do it the next day. And the day after that. And the day after that. Never miss a day. Because if you miss one day it’s easy to miss the next. Then before you know it you’ve missed a few days. Then a week. You’ve got out of the habit. Suddenly a month or six have gone past. You haven’t done anything and you’re no better (probably worse) than you were before.

It might sound childishly simplistic, or possibly like a circular statement, but the way to establish a routine is to do something every day. Because that’s what a routine is!

Magic

Now here’s the magic bit. Eventually you get to the stage where you get really agitated if you don’t practice. That’s when you know you’ve cracked it. If you have a couple of days off and you start to get anxious and the feeling doesn’t go away until you get back into the routine, you’ve done it. Routine established. Now the real work starts.

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