As 2021 comes to a close, I've spent a lot of time reflecting on this past year and all of the changes that have happened. There is so much to think about-- all of the happy, the sad, the successes, and the "failures." I put that in quotes because I don't believe a failure is ever just that, there is always something to be learned. Coming up in the new year, I have a lot of high-pressure performances and I'm reflecting on this year to help me to move forward in my practicing. What habits are helping me? Which are not? and how can I make my practice more effective than it was last year? These are my personal New Years Resolutions and I hope they help you to create your own.
1. Create a practice schedule that fits into my daily schedule
Sometimes, I get so caught up in my work and school that I forget to schedule my practice. If you’re anything like me, if I don’t put practicing into your calendar, I take that time to scroll social media, snack, chit-chat, or even catch up on a new show I'm behind on. I’ve noticed when I routinely set aside time to practice, not only do I get it done, but then I feel much better at the end of the day. I don't go to bed with practice guilt because I know I put in the time I could. The biggest thing I'm going to do is make sure I also schedule time to eat and have downtime in the evenings. No one practices productively when we're skipping lunch or even cutting into our sleep/relaxation time. This goal moves directly into my next goal: to take time off.
2. Take 1 day off every week
I find having one day off a week from playing is crucial to my mental health. We can’t play our best when we’re overworked or worse, verging on burnout. Having a day off can be very helpful in feeling refreshed when picking up the instrument the next day. I'd like to be clear that taking the day off doesn’t mean it can’t still be productive. I plan on spending my off day often listening to recordings, both mine and ones I find of the works I’m working on, as well as getting other important things done that may take time later in the week. This includes meal planning, scheduling, school work, etc. Don’t forget that this day should also include a lot of time to relax, spend time with friends, or even just laying around. There should be no guilt for taking time for yourself! No one can perform optimally when they're exhausted.
3. Set goals for every practice session
In my grad studies, I’ve found it incredibly helpful to set goals for every practice session. Setting goals can be tricky because they should be small goals that are attainable, as well as working towards a larger goal over a period of time. This is a process that takes time. I’ve found by setting specific goals, I can get much more done in less time. The goal should not to spend more time with the instrument every day but to get more done with the amount of time that you have. These goals can also help with focus in the practice session and this is why I'm making this one of my 2022 resolutions. In 2021, I found myself often distracted in my practice and sometimes my practice was aimless and I was unsure of what was even accomplished at the end. This year, I'm going to make sure I use my practice journal much more diligently than last year!
4. Record myself more frequently
This is another way of doing more with less time. For years, I have heard this to be a very important part of every professional's practice routine but I never had the guts to listen to myself over and over every week. But the thought process of this makes so much sense, that I just have to do it more diligently. We, as musicians, listen to enough recordings to know what we want to sound like, so why don’t we spend more time listening to ourselves in order to improve faster? I never did it before because I would catch myself falling into a negativity spiral. This leads into my last new year's resolution: finding the good along with what could be improved upon.
5. Finding the good and what could be improved
When I listen and analyze my own playing in the past, I have found that I HAVE to have a listening plan or I will become very negative and start to dislike everything. That's why this year I'm going to make sure I stick with creating a listening plan. I plan to listen multiple times, listening for something different each time. For example, the first time I listen I will listen for clarity of rhythm, the second time I'll listen for intonation, the third time I'll listen for clarity of tone and vibrato, etc. These could be in any order and could be anything that you believe that specific piece needs. The goal is to not overwhelm yourself and spiral into a path of negativity. Make sure every time you listen you find things that you like about your playing as well! This is the most important!
I hope my resolutions inspire you to create your own if you haven't yet.
What are your New Years Resolutions? Will you create any new practice goals?
Flute Foundations wishes you all a Happy New Year and may the new year bring success and happiness to all! Cheers!!