Slow But Steady in 2022

Sometimes, my motivation level feels kind of like a roller coaster ride. Because of my busy schedule and work obligations, I feel a constant pressure to stay busy. I keep thinking I should be doing something, anything, to be productive all the time. Some days it’s not a problem. I’m “up” and feel like I can conquer the world and learn 100 new tunes in one sitting. I enjoy getting things done and scratching items off my to-do list.

Other days, I don’t even want to pick up my hammers, and my back aches just thinking about spending time in practice. My heart’s desire is to just relax in the recliner and read a good book or go to the beach and watch the waves. But then I feel guilty.

Now that’s just stinkin’ thinkin’. We can’t have the same level of productivity every day. If we push ourselves too hard, running at full throttle until our fuel runs out, we’ll get run down and sick of it all. We need to find that happy medium … making progress slowly but steadily and consistently without burning out.

Here are suggestions of ways to leverage your practice time so you advance steadily without burning out or getting discouraged. (And these may apply to life as well.)

  • Break it down. Divide a new tune or technique up into small achievable goals and spread them out. Taking smaller steps will help you achieve something every day and feel productive without switching to overdrive.

  • Prioritize. Consider what skill or which tune you really want or need to learn next. For example, in December I dropped all my self-assignments and just focused on Christmas tunes.

  • Take breaks. I’ve suggested this before … a little “time-out” could do wonders for re-energizing your motivation. The break from practice might last a couple of days, a week. But don’t let a month go by without strumming your instrument or you might never return.

  • Stay organized. Do you ever sit down to practice, but then can’t find your tuner, you’ve misplaced your favorite pick, or your music got shuffled and you can’t find the tune you were working on last? Get your music center in order, with a place for everything and everything in its place. (Now I sound like my mother. Aaaarrrgh!)

  • Cut back other activities or obligations. Maybe there’s just too much on your plate already. Is there anything you really don’t enjoy that you might eliminate? I did this recently … dropped out of a supper club and passed on a recurring obligation to someone else. It made all the difference in my attitude.

  • Adjust expectations. Sometimes new players feel like they’re putting more into their practice time than they’re getting out of it. They expected to speed from beginner to intermediate in maybe a month. For those with a musical background, this is often possible. For others, it’s going to take a little more time.
Keep Going to Keep Growing

Keep in mind the well-known English proverb that may have originated from Aesop’s fables. It says, “Slow but steady wins the race.” It suggests a person is better off being methodical than rushing through something and then failing or giving up. It’s a good piece of advice that we can apply to learning to play our instruments. Pace yourself.  Steady and consistent practice, rather than intense but sporadic bursts of practice, will result in success over time.

Make it your New Year's resolution to just keep on keepin’ on and you’ll get there.



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