GamePlan1The title of today’s blog is a quote from Dr. Barry Rovner, a psychiatrist at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. He says to “follow the plan” to help his elderly patients who are losing their sight. It turns out that patients who have a specific plan to work around their difficulty with seeing are able to remain positive and move forward with their lives.

Patients who just spend their time thinking about how difficult their life is often suffer from depression.

What’s all this got to do with musicians?

Well, I’ve long felt that the typical way that musicians practice can cause mental difficulties for them. While it might not lead to full-blown depression, the wrong practice routine will certainly have a negative effect on musicians’ moods.

Here’s the Typical (UNHEALTHY) Practice Process for Most Musicians:

(1) You go into a room by yourself to practice.

(2) In your practice room, you do a bunch of repetitive things.

(3) While you’re doing these repetitive things, you tell yourself – over and over – everything you’re doing wrong.

(4) You start to wonder why you’re doing so many things wrong. You get to the point where you’re not sure you’ll ever do them right. Maybe you even think something is wrong with you!

(5) You repeat this process every day for 10 years…

After a while, you’ll look like this:


There’s Got to be a Better (HEALTHY) Way!

Like Dr. Rovner, I think there’s a better way. And, it all starts with a plan.

Every day before you start your practice session, here’s what you need:

(1) A specific list or practice priorities (What you’ll practice.)

(2) A specific goal for each practice priority. (Why you’ll practice.)

(3) A predetermined amount of time to spend on each practice priority, so that it’s ok, really, to walk away from that item at the specified time. (How much you’ll practice.)

(4) A starting time and an ending time for your practice session, so that you make practicing a priority and so that it’s okay to stop practicing when you reach your end time. (When you’ll practice)

Your Plan Eliminates Negative Feelings

success-signHere’s what this process does:

  • It gets rid of guilt.
  • It frees you to simply work your plan for today and then walk away from playing music.
  • It lets you know that you did exactly what you intended to do today – and that’s a great feeling.

If you work your plan – no matter how you feel while you’re practicing – then you did what you were supposed to do today. That’s all you can ever ask of yourself.

Just show up, put in the work, follow your plan, and congratulate yourself.

Of course some days will feel better than others. Of course you’ll get more done on some days than others. Of course some days you’ll feel successful and some other days you’ll feel unsuccessful.

These feelings do not matter.

What matters is the plan. Set it up and follow it! Don’t practice only when you feel like it, and don’t trust those feelings that tell you that you’re not making any progress today. You ARE making progress!

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