Planning practice with a particular start/end time doesn't really help you. It makes you frustrated if you are late starting, it makes you concentrate on the clock instead of your goals, it means that no matter how much progress you are making towards your goal you will feel you should be stopping. It is just an extension of the 30 minute myth. What if you are watching a sports match that overruns? Do you miss the exciting ending? Do you watch it and think "Oh well, I missed the start of my practice, there's no point now?" Even if you do go and start your practice will your playing have your full concentration? I don't think so!
Planing practice by event solves these problems. Plan to start practicing 30 minutes after you come home from school or work, or 20 minutes after your homework is finished. If there is a certain TV program you like, start your practice as soon as it is over. Challenge yourself to get a couple of scales done by the time the credits finish. If you get up at variable times during the weekend or holidays plan your practice for 30 minutes after you get up or you finish breakfast. By planning practice around events in your life instead of strict times you find it much easier to stick to your practice plan.
If you plan your practice around the same events each week you will form a practice habit. Within a few weeks your brain will automatically know it is time for practice after a certain event has taken place.
Do you have a very flexible schedule with different things happening each week at different times? You can fill out a practice chart at the beginning of each week instead of working from one all the time. If this is the case try and keep at least one or two sessions fixed to allow good practice habits to form because we all know how hard a habit is to break once we have it!
Once you have a practice plan... stick to it. When you arrive home from your lesson each week spend 5 minutes planning your targets for each session. Don't plan for sessions you know you can't make! If you have a session on your overall plan and you know in advance you won't be able to make that one because it is your friend's birthday... don't plan for any practice! The overall plan by event is flexible. There will be times you cannot follow it exactly. It is simply there as a base to work from.
Remember to give yourself clear practice targets for each session during the week. Again... life happens. These may have to be very flexible some weeks. The important thing is to have a plan to start with. As Benjamin Franklin said
"By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail"
Those few minutes of planning practice each week will save you countless hours of needless practice within a few months and you will actually be making more progress in less time. Now that is worth planning for!
If you have an iPhone or iPod touch check out the Music Practice App for iOS. This helps you plan your practice effectively each week to ensure you make the most possible progress. Read more about the Music Practice App here or click the icon in the column on the right.
Clear practice targets every week
Lesson Notes and Practice Targets is the best way to make more from your music lesson. With clear sections for teacher's notes, targets for the week, planning practice and self evaluation for students, Lesson Notes and Practice Targets teaches all music students how to make better use of their practice time, helping them achieve more in less time. Click here for more information on the Lesson Notes and Practice Targets book
Frustrated with your practice? Read Practice Makes Perfect and hack the 10,000 hour rule. Cut your practice time by up to 25%! Make faster progress, learn scales, memorize pieces more easily and much more. "If you play an instrument you need this book!"
Learn more about my ebook Practice Makes Perfect here. Also available on iBookstore and Amazon.
Subscribe to the monthly Perfect Practice e-zine for extra practice tips and techniques to help you supercharge your progress