Do you feel like you’re sabotaged by the clock every time you try to start a new practice or invigorate an old one? As a lifelong guitar instructor, I’ve seen a lot of people struggle to make time for what they want to do. In fact, time management is the largest hurdle most of my students face.
It’s no secret that we live in a fast-paced world. Most people have more on their daily to-do list than is reasonable to accomplish. It’s easy to feel like you never have enough time to do what you “need” to do, much less grab a few minutes of time to complete an art project, play a musical instrument, or sit with your journal and a cup of tea. But with the right strategy, you can claim the time you seek.
The first step in finding the time for a new or renewed interest is determining how much time you really need for it. In the case of guitar practice, that’s hard to do until you’ve developed a routine and assessed your level of satisfaction with the results. Each person has unique experiences, goals, and expectations. There are some general guidelines you can use, though.
If you’re a beginning guitar student, try starting with 15 – 20 minutes a day and work up to 30 – 45 minutes within a few months. By that time, you’ll probably be hooked on practice and unlikely to miss. If you’re loving playing and want faster results, feel free to practice several hours each day – but be sure to take frequent breaks and use healthy posture and technique. And regardless of the length of practice sessions that you choose, keep in mind that consistency is key.
Once you’ve decided on your schedule, you may wonder how much time it will take to achieve both your short- and long-term goals. Again, the answer will be different for everyone, but like most things, you get back what you put in – and that takes time. When you surrender to that truth, you’ll step into the practice room regularly and take your eye off both the clock and the calendar. That kind of practice invites the delicious state of flow that nourishes our soul and inspires us to return again and again.
But what if you can’t come up with the time to practice daily? You can solve that problem with a little forethought, and possibly some self-examination.
Is it really true that there’s no time for what you want to do? Or is it possible that with some creativity and commitment, you could establish and maintain a productive practice routine?
Start discovering the answers to these questions by examining all of the forms of entertainment you devote time to on a daily basis. Do you spend time on social media? Watching movies? Listening to podcasts? Make a list of the things you do and then rate them, with the highest numbers being the ones you most value.
There’s no right answer, so just be honest about what activities provide you the most satisfaction and pleasure. If playing an instrument is toward the bottom of your list, you might want to reconsider pursuing that dream. If, however, it’s close to the top, you can make a decision to spend less time on your less-valued activities.
Bringing awareness to your daily activities and making conscious decisions in this way is often all you need to make space for what you love. But if you do that and still come up short on time, don’t throw in the towel. There are other factors that may be at play, and they’re worth considering.
Are you in – or have you been through – a period that left you with little or no control over your time? Whether it’s coping with a demanding job (or two!), navigating a change in location, or being on-call 24/7 as a caregiver, you’re doing important work. But in doing that work, you may often feel like the pressure is relentless and your life is not your own.
When you feel this kind of pressure, it’s natural to resist new activity or perceived demands. That resistance is a protective device that can work in your favor until circumstances rearrange to allow for greater balance. But when you arrive at a time when you can take a breath and re-create your life, you may have carried over some unconscious patterns. Resistance is likely to be one of them.
Running away from things that require a commitment – even things you long to do – can become a default response. Bringing awareness to the resistance can help you dissolve it and get on with what nourishes you the most deeply.
Of course, there are other things that can be at the root of unconscious resistance. The most common of these are fear of failure or self-disappointment, feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of a goal, or fear of feeling incompetent. But regardless of what causes you to unconsciously avoid what you consciously desire, the solution starts with recognizing resistance for what it is. Once you’ve done that, you can make empowering choices, not just in music practice, but also regarding your other activities.
Be kind to yourself and set realistic goals. Remember that those goals will grow and change as you do, so stay flexible. Just don’t give up on the things you really want to do. By exploring the patterns in your physical and emotional life that throw up roadblocks, you can find ways to resolve them. Add in a little discipline and before you know it, you’ll be running joyfully toward the things you love.
Are the things you do today still as valuable to you or the people you do them for as they once were? Have your daily routines changed in the last few months or years? If so, how have you cleared or rearranged your activities to meet your current values?
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