I love to write things down, sometimes as lists and sometimes just a way to organize my thoughts, like a family-tree styled flow chart. Just the action of writing things down really helps carve an item into my memory, and then sometimes I simply take special enjoyment out of crossing things off that list!
At this point in the semester, I'm starting to hear a few grumbles about being a bit frustrated. Most typically, though, this grumbling stems from having personally set goals and being a bit overwhelmed by the rapidly-approaching end of term, if not year. A life-changing experience I had was attending Burton Kaplan's Practicing Marathon Retreat (yes, you read that correctly!) a few years ago. It was rewarding on so many levels for me, even as an established professional musician, primarily because it carved out time for me in which I could totally focus on my playing, my being a flutist and musician. I'm sure I will write more about that experience, so to get to my point here: a terrific strategy Burton writes about is goal-setting. This may hardly seem revolutionary, but I think we often don't really determine exactly what our objectives are other than playing well and being successful. How does that all happen, anyway?
One of the great things about the Baylor School of Music (if I may toot my own flute, so to speak) is that we embrace and encourage studying music education. All music ed majors here have every opportunity afforded performance majors. This path may not be right for everyone, but I still believe that if you're studying music, you'll be teaching in some form at some point in your life! That means that if you're great at multi-tasking and time management, this career path with a pretty established occupational trajectory could be a good undergraduate plan. As a music education major, something you will have to do is write a lesson plan, so let's all start this activity together for our OWN practicing sessions:
For one week, come up with a basic plan. Here's a helpful website that uses this trifecta, through my personal practicing lens:
1. What do I want to learn during this week's practice sessions? This particular session?
2. What strategies will I use to accomplish this?
3. How will I measure this "new" skill to see?
*If nothing else, check out the steps for outlining learning objectives. Often we practice and just figure that we are putting in the time, therefore it will improve somehow. Define goals and see how that changes your perspectives, your skills, and the next steps!
Ok - there's one more important step:
4. At the end of your practicing day (split your sessions up, right?), sit down and make a list (!) of what you did, what you accomplished, and what needs to be done. Try to be fairly specific but this shouldn't take more than ten minutes so that you maximize your time. NOW, make a quick lesson plan for tomorrow - no more than five minutes on this task!
See how this works for the week. Believe it or not, this list-making is actually part of your practicing! Even if it takes 15 minutes, this saves me tons of time, gets me in a totally different zone for getting things done, and I feel a greater sense of accomplishment. It also helps me see the long-scale trajectory of development, rather than just being overwhelmed by where I currently am and where I really want to be in my playing. Try it out and let me know what you think!