Deadlines Work


Nothing motivates me more than a deadline. If there is an upcoming performance, I get to work. When I was taking piano lessons, over the last couple of days before my next lesson … I’d get to work for real. When I am preparing to go to a jam session or workshop, I tune my instruments and … yep, start limbering up the fingers.

It’s just a true fact of life, deadlines motivate musicians to practice. So how can we make deadlines work FOR us instead of AGAINST us?

  • Break down your musical project into pieces. For example, if you are learning a new piece, break it down measure by measure, then phrase by phrase, and finally Part A vs. Part B.
  • Look for similarities to shorten the job. For example, very often Part B will have a few lines exactly the same as Part A, and you really only need to learn one or two new lines.
  • Track your progress. You don’t have forever to prepare for that performance or learn that tune. Figure out how far you need to be to reach your goal day by day, or week by week, and then track your progress.
  • Add buffer time. Hey … life happens. Things get in the way of your detailed plans. Make sure you have scheduled enough time to allow for life’s interruptions.
  • Set reminders. I love our smart phones. You can set up reminders of where you need to be and what you need to do on a daily basis. Use technology to keep you on schedule.
  • And finally, avoid procrastination. Putting off practice one day can easily lead to two days, and then even three days without feeling guilty. Procrastination is the thief of time. I like the Japanese proverb that says, “Vision without action is a daydream.” (The rest of the proverb says, “Action without vision is a nightmare,” and I’ve been there too!) </li)

If you don’t have any events looming on the horizon, create your own deadlines. For example, mark your calendar for the date when you want to have learned 3 new tunes. Sign up for a workshop or festival, and then start tweaking your rusty skills in preparation. Plan a camping trip, and prepare a few tunes to play around the campfire.

There are all kinds of ways we can create our own deadlines to make ourselves accountable so we will be driven to keep practicing and continue getting better.

Happy dulcimering,



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