Let's be honest: almost none of us practice as much as we want to. And for adults learning music for fun, it can be doubly hard to make time and space in a busy schedule for practicing.
I'm as guilty as anyone - it seems things always get in the way or pop up at exactly the time I'm getting out my music to start singing. What's a girl to do?
The time management industry is insane. Some estimates place the global time tracking software market alone at $636 billion in 2021, expected to reach $1.7 TRILLION by 2028. Then there’s calendar and scheduling apps, task management tools, and productivity software, as well as services such as consulting, training, and coaching.
And that's not even the half of it...the time management industry also includes books, courses, and other resources related to personal productivity. Getting Things Done, Eat That Frog, and of course the good old favorite 7 Habits of Highly Effective People have been bestsellers around the world.
So you’d think we’d have it dialed in by now, eh?
Nonetheless… Fitting practice into your day can be incredibly challenging!
Here are my top tricks to help you actually make time for your singing practice. Do them, now, as you’re reading, and let me know the results.
1. Set a specific practice time
You'll need to find a specific time of day that works best for you to practice. Whether it's early in the morning or late at night, make sure it's a time when you are able to maintain the energy (specifically, the energy to get started) for a practice session. If you’re too tired from the day, or too antsy that you might be late for work, you won’t be able to focus on the practice and will lose momentum.
If you aren't sure where to start or find yourself constantly pushing your practice sessions back, try to make a habit of practicing as soon as you get home (or finish, if you work from home) from work or school and adjust from there.
Basically, know thyself.
2. Make a schedule
Plan out your practice sessions in advance. This will help you stay on track and make sure you are spending enough time on each aspect of your music practice. Stuck? Start with 2 days each week. If you can maintain that for a few months, increase it to 3.
It’s better to undercut yourself and actually succeed than set unrealistic expectations.
3. Prioritize practice
Make sure to prioritize your music practice over other less important tasks. Then, stick to those priorities. If you've decided practicing is more important than doing the dishes, don't do the dishes until you've practiced.
You may need to actually write down a list of things you do every day and rank them in priority. Where does practicing fall on that list?
If you're having trouble, finish this sentence:
"I don't get in bed until I've finished ___"
And yeah, maybe practicing is at the bottom of the list, just before bed. Well, don't get in bed until you've practiced.
4. Use small pockets of time
If you can't find a large chunk of time to practice, try breaking your practice sessions into shorter, more manageable chunks. Even just 15 minutes of practice can be beneficial. Trust me, I can tell when my students have practiced 15 minutes, 2x/week. They never believe me, but I can always tell.
Your teacher always knows
5. Use a timer
This one is so simple, but one of the best ways to get yourself started! Set a timer for your practice sessions to keep yourself on track and make sure you're spending enough time on each aspect of your practice. I'm telling you, this is gold.
6. Communicate to your household
Boundaries are crucial to a good practice schedule! You may have everything together... you have a time, a schedule, you've prioritized it, you're sitting down...
...and your child comes in needing something and your spouse is playing video games and all of a sudden you're on childcare duty.
...or your roomie barges in and says they're going to the store RIGHT NOW and you need to make a shopping list or they'll buy the wrong kind of milk.
We don't exist in a vacuum, we exist in an environment. Your household needs to know that you're not available for other things at this time. Partner knows they're on childcare duty for these 15 minutes. Roomie knows you're tied up for a bit and then we can go to the store.
If you're introverted or a people-pleaser, this may be really hard for you. This is why in my Discover Your Voice course I go into much greater detail on how to make your environment conducive to a regular practice schedule!
7. Reward yourself
In the beginning, reward yourself after each practice session with something you enjoy. This will help to make practicing a positive experience and motivate you to keep going. You probably won’t do this forever, but it’s a great way to start for a lot of people.
Now, rewards don't have to be spa days or cookies (though they can be!)... it also could be another task that makes you feel good. Maybe for you, your reward for practice is a nice hot shower or using your special face wash. Or maybe you'll read a book or work on your crochet project for a few minutes.
Again, know thyself!
You've earned this
7. Make it a habit
All the other steps are leading here. The more you stick to your practice routine, the more it will become a habit and the easier it will be to find time for it.
If you make practicing a part of your daily routine, you'll be more likely to stick with it. That said, you might find it hard to start here. I mentioned earlier that a good place to start could be 15 minutes, 2 days/week. Maybe you work that into 4 days/week and that's what works for you. Either way, once it's a habit, you're golden!
8. The most important step… Give yourself GRACE!
If you miss a day... WHATEVER. Seriously, WHATEVER!
Give yourself a pass for that session and recommit to the following day.
Waaay too often my students will devolve into guilt over not practicing, which snowballs into a load too heavy to crawl out from under. They beat themselves up, get demoralized and disengage from the music.
Instead, take a breath, release yourself from expectation, and commit to starting fresh the next day.
Let me help you stay accountable! When are you going to practice? Go through the exercise RIGHT NOW and post your commitment in the comments.
If you want a step-by-step guide on boundaries, complete with scripts you can use for different household members and workbooks that help keep you on track, check out my Discover Your Voice course for introverted women.