Piano Parent Tip: Scheduling Practice Time

Photo by Sadie Hernandez

Back-to-school time is when I focus on organization. I’ve got my household notebook for the year set up (I’ll be posting about that soon at my other blog), and my daughter’s activities all scheduled. I’m hoping that with some advanced planning, we’ll have time to do everything on the calendar!

I’ve posted already about time management, but my current obsession with organization has my mind still stuck on these things. Today, I’m writing about the benefits of scheduling your practice time rather than leaving it as a catch-as-catch can activity.

Do you work out or run? If you do, then you know that you’re most likely to do it regularly if you set a specific time for it. If you leave it to chance, chances are it won’t happen. Especially with children under 12, setting a specific time for practice in the schedule and then protecting that time is the way to continue to make progress from week to week.

Another benefit of having scheduled practice time (besides the fact that this approach gets it done) is that it reduces performance anxiety. When I know that I’ve set aside a reasonable amount of time to practice and then I’ve kept that practice appointment, then I don’t feel bad about myself if I make some mistakes at the lesson or in the performance. I know that I’ve done everything reasonable to be prepared. When I know I haven’t done everything I could have, then I go to the lesson or to the performance with an extra level of worry, and I feel worse about myself if I don’t play well.

In our house, the munchkin’s practice happens after supper because that’s her first shot at the piano after my teaching day. My preference would be to include it in the after-school homework routine before she’s tired out at the end of the day, but evening practice is better than no practice. For some students, practicing before school is a good routine.

Remember that it takes at least 21 days to establish a habit, and some research now suggests that it takes as many as 66. When you repeat an action over and over, especially at the same time every day, the neuron connections in your brain actually change to fit the pattern of the habit. You can help to establish those neural pathways by connecting something really pleasurable with practicing. In the case of my munchkin, I make it a point to sit with her and give her lots of positive feedback, so she’s getting the reward of dedicated parental attention and feel-good pats on the back for her effort. Make a commitment to stick rigidly to your plan for at least 4-6 weeks, and then sit down and anticipate all of the temptations that could sabotage your commitment. Make a plan ahead of time for how to resist that temptation. Now, lest I sound a little too perfect, I’ll confess that we have rough weeks just like everyone else! Don’t be too hard on yourselves; just get back on track as soon as possible!

You can do this! Thanks in advance for your support!