Courtesy of Max Monahan
What's a musician to do? We need to find more hours in our day to practice, to study music theory and to compose - and here's how...
There just aren't enough hours in the day. You know it, I know it, anyone with goals knows it, but we have to keep the playing field level somehow. It's no mere coincidence that maybe the greatest commonality among the most successful people in the world is their ability to milk their waking life for every usable second. And not just for the sport of it, but to achieve a clear goal.
Being a musician, one of your primary goals most likely involves playing your instrument well. As any conservatory student can tell you, if you want to be the best great good bearable to listen to when you create sound with an instrument, you need to put in some serious practice time. But you also need to survive as a human being! Eating, sleeping, paying bills, and/or appeasing your mother is a full plate, but you've got a big steaming bowl of jazz chords just waiting for you.
So what's a musician to do? You need to find more time in the day to practice, and here's how you can make it all happen.
1. Get up earlier
This is step number one. You've never going to get good at your instrument, or do anything worth telling your future children about, if you keep waking up at 11:00 a.m. Get up at 8:00 a.m., then you'll be going places. A whole extra three hours to work with. Incredible. Whether you're going to hit the wood shed first thing or use those first few hours to get your morning routine out of the way, your practicing will thank you.
Now imagine pushing this forward another two hours. That's right, 6:00 a.m. Is it even possible? Virgin America CEO David Cush wakes up at 4:15 a.m. every morning. PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi rises at 4:00 a.m. every day and gets into the office by 7:00 a.m. However, no one touches Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, who's up and at 'em at 3:30 a.m. daily to deal with the European market. While it's a valid truth that different people have different work habits they prefer, by the time you've weathered a full day, your mind will likely not be at the peak working condition it reaches after a restful night of sleep.
If you want to find extra time in your day, start at the beginning... and then go a few hours before that!
2. Schedule your practice
So obvious, so simple, yet so underrated. You want to find more time to practice, but in reality, all the time is already right there in front of your face. What you need to do is delegate. Lay out a schedule to utilize the unused nooks and crannies of your day to turn them into lean, mean practice time. Take unused half-hour, 15-minute, even five-minute chunks of time and consolidate them into a solid practice block. Once that time is blocked off, just stay disciplined, as you're on the road to sweet progress.
3. Schedule the rest of your life
You didn't see that one coming, but we're playin' hardball here, folks; no stone will be left unturned. Picture this: if you're trying to maximize the capacity of a room, and you're only dealing with how you arrange the people when you've got huge, over-turned pieces of furniture lying all over, you're only fighting half the battle. Just like tucking that chaise lounge into the corner, you need to tidy up your work, play, and any other schedule you're juggling if you want to find all the time you can to practice.
Use your phone, use your computer, or buy a little Palm Pilot if you want to rock that proto-digital swagger. However you do it, you'll thank yourself in categories across the board once you tidy up your time. Your goals will come into focus, and if your goal is to become a better musician, you'll surely achieve it!
4. Examine your priorities
The final test: actually choosing what you do with your time. If you're victimized by time-leeching activities (*ahem* social media, Netflix binges), the good news is you're not alone! It's never too late or too early to change the way you spend your days. If you really want to find more time in the day to practice, it's time to trim the fat. Don't interpret this as a message that recreation is never allowed; in fact, it's crucial. Your special time to unwind is invaluable, but if you're a victim of excess, now is the time to stop.
That's it! Follow these four steps, and you'll be amazed at the time you can find to dedicate to your instrument.
Max Monahan is a bassist and a writer living in Los Angeles. He spends his time working for an audio licensing website and shredding sweet bass riffs.