Practice Tip of the Week:
Use These Two Timer Techniques to Get in the Zone

Timers have gotten a bad reputation with musicians. We may have visions
of parents putting a timer on top of a piano and telling their child to keep
practicing until the timer goes off.

This technique is a sure way to take the joy out of playing music. However,
timers can also be used in positive ways.

Give Yourself Time to Practice
One technique is to decide how long you want to practice and to set your timer
when you start practicing. Unlike the parent scenario above, you are making
your own decision to play your instrument. It’s not being forced on you, and
this is a crucial difference.

This technique does wonders for people who are very busy, easily distracted,
or just have trouble getting motivated. You can promise yourself that you
won’t answer the phone, read a text message, or even look at a clock until
the timer goes off. Your time will be filled only with music!

Get in the Zone Instantly
Even better than timing your practice session, you can use your timer to assist
you in developing the high level of focus needed to have major breakthroughs in
your playing.

Here’s how this technique works:

Pick one item to work on. This could be a single scale or exercise, a very
specific section you’re learning, or something difficult you’ve been avoiding.
The main thing is to choose just one item.

Then, set your timer for a very short time increment: 1 minute, 2 minutes,
maybe 5 minutes. Your goal will be to work on that single item while the
timer is running.

Don’t worry about time. Don’t think about your overall progress. Just focus
all your energies on the task at hand. When the timer goes off, stop playing.

You can use this technique multiple times during a single practice session. Each
time be sure to focus on a single item.

This use of a timer is actually profound. It has a paradoxical effect, allowing
you to completely forget about how long something is taking you to practice. It
will free you from the usual constraints of time and focus your brain on important
details. And, it can get you in the “zone” faster than any other technique.

To Your Musical Success!