We've all had those days where we spend hours in the practice room but don't get anything done. Below are some simple tips and tricks to make a tough practice session more productive.
1. Gather your materials - Make sure you have everything you need before you start practicing. Gather your instrument, sheet music, pencil, music stand, metronome, tuner, and anything else you might need. This will keep you from having to break your concentration to find something in the middle of your practice. It's also a good idea to remove unnecessary items that don't relate to music to make your mind less vulnerable to being distracted.
2. Unplug - You won’t believe how much more you can get done when you’re not interrupting yourself to respond to texts and emails, check your social media, etc. Try turning off your phone, iPad, computer, and other electronics or keeping them in another another room while you practice. This will help get rid of the temptation to cut into your practice time to check them.
3. Stay hydrated - You should always keep a water bottle in your practice room with you because staying hydrated can help you get more done in the practice room. According to two studies conducted at the University of Connecticut’s Human Performance Laboratory, even mild dehydration can alter a person’s mood, energy level, and ability to think clearly.
4. Use a practice journal - Keeping a practice journal is a great way to stay motivated and organized. Add structure to your practice session by making a to-do list of everything you want to get done. This will help you stay on task, as well as allow you to record and analyze your productivity.
5. Take breaks - If you notice that you are losing focus, take a short break from your practice session to reenergize your brain. A study from the University of Illinois found that participants who were given short breaks during a 50-minute task performed better than those who worked straight through.
8. Remember the “Why” - Let's be honest, practicing will aways involve some necessary but difficult or boring tasks, such as playing scales. It can be even harder to keep your mind from wandering when the piece or exercise you're working on doesn't excite you. Cultivate your interest by reminding yourself why you’re practicing it in the first place, and how you will benefit from spending time on it.