If you are like most guitarists, your answer is a resounding, “Yes!”
Well, I’m quite tired of it too. I often think that I should be better than I really am given the amount of time I spend playing.
I’ve been working to make my practice time more effective lately by cutting down on noodling, always warming up and playing with a backing track. But now I’m onto a new experiment. I want fast results. I want to close the gap between where I am and where I feel I should be.
Get Results with Deadlines
Imagine, you’re getting ready to go on vacation. You’re all set with your travel plans, but have a mountain of work to do at your job. Of course, the work must be done before you leave or the boss will be none too happy. Somehow you see the challenge and jam pack five days of work into three days. You’re off to SXSW without a worry, but how in the world did you accomplish so much in so little time?
The answer is there was a huge, immovable limitation set on the work. You didn’t have the luxury of putting things off. Your mind kicked in and prioritized everything that must get done and ignored the things that didn’t matter. You skipped coffee breaks in favor of staying on top of your projects. You shortened your lunch break to stay ahead.
Maybe this has happened to you. It seems to happen to me every time I take a day off!
So what does this mean for practicing guitar?
Focus on One Thing at a Time
I am intrigued by the notion of setting limits to really bolster progress.
If you think about the story above, what happened was limits were set on the workday. What if we set limits on our guitar practice time? Could we accomplish an amazing amount in a short time?
I’m not talking about shortening the time you practice. Although that could be a productive option, I’m really talking about putting some constraint on your playing that makes you focus.
Pick a technique or bit of theory that is challenging you and work on it exclusively with intense focus. The limitation is that your practice time is 100% devoted to just that area. Work on nothing else (do warm up though).
This isn’t a long term plan or you would never study a variety of topics. But focusing in on one key topic at a time can yield dramatic results. Fast.
Say to yourself, with absolute resolve, that you will only practice the harmonic minor scale or legato playing – whatever your current struggle. Then, stick to that.
Focus on this challenge for 30 days centering your practice around this area.
Setting Limits for Practicing Guitar
Maybe you already have limits on your practice time that you could use to your advantage. Whether self imposed or not, most folks just don’t have the time they would like to devote to practicing and getting better. Why not design a quick routine that focuses on keeping your hands limber and learning a lick in just 15 minutes?
You could also engineer some limits. If you are comfortable with your scales, remove a string and then practice your old familiar scales? It might open up new ways of thinking about old ideas.
How about you? What could you focus on for the next 30 days?