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Time Management and Organization

We all know that practicing is the only way to get better, but most of the time many people struggle to have an efficient and productive practice session. This has nothing to do with their talent level or commitment. I feel that many people over look the importance of time management and organization.

No matter what style of music you play there are so many topics that must be covered to even come close to mastering the guitar. To practice all of these topics in a balanced and thorough way takes planning. The first step to managing your time is knowing how much time you have to practice. If at all possible try to give yourself a consistent amount of practice time each day. It is much more beneficial to practice for one hour every day of the week than three hours on just one day. Next you must figure out what topics you need to work on and practice. Always remember the difference between practicing and playing. When someone just plays the guitar they by instinct play to their strengths. Practice is where you can improve your weaknesses, to eventually get to the point where you have none. Most players when they sit down and “practice” are just playing, which has a lot to do with a lack of time management and organization. Another thing to remember when you are picking your areas of focus for your practice sessions is to stay balanced in the aspects of playing your topics will cover. It is easy to focus on just technique, but to become a balanced and accomplished player you must be well schooled in theory and composition as well. What use is playing super fast technique if you don’t know what to do with it? What is the use of knowing every scale and arpeggio if you can’t physically play these exercises? What is the use of technique and theory if you can’t write songs or improvise? Everything ties into one another, the better you become in one area, the stronger you are in the others.

After you have selected your areas of interest, divide your practice time by how many topics you have. For example, let’s say you have two hours to practice and you have six topics you would like to cover. One hundred and twenty minutes divided by six is twenty minutes. You will now spend twenty minutes practicing each topic you have selected. To take it one step further, if your topics are concepts that you can do exercises for, spend five minutes on each exercise so your twenty-minute block has been broken down into four five minute sections. It is much easier to concentrate on things for five-minute intervals than it is for twenty minutes or the full two hours. You’ll be surprised by how fast time goes by. It may be very beneficial for you to log the results of each session you do. This would be very helpful to those of you that are using a metronome. It is the most frustrating thing to not feel as if you are making any improvements and moving in a forward direction. But when your accomplishments are staring you in the face from a page, it can be a very rewarding feeling! Keeping a log is also a great way to be accountable. When things are written down it is much easier to get yourself to do them.

You should also try your best to keep your practice materials organized. Even if the exercises you have are magazine clippings or excerpts from an online lesson, keep them filed under topics where they fit so when you have four five-minute sections for alternate picking in your practice session, find your filing system and pick out four exercises. This helps minimize the time you spend wondering, what am I going to do now? Remember that when I say filing system this does not have to be an expensive intricate system yet it must be a way that keeps things organized so they are easy to access and not a mess.

The concept of time management and organization you can utilize the rest of your life. People of all levels of playing still practice and can improve upon the level they are at currently. That is the beauty of music, there is always so much more out there you can learn. For those of you that read this and are saying to yourself, “ I already do this”, congratulations and keep it up because you are on the right track to accomplishing your goals! For the rest of you that have not attempted this yet give it a shot, it is never too late to start taking strides toward achieving what you want. You will be surprised by the results you WILL get from an organized and consistent practice regimen. Anyone can reach a high level of playing; you just have to put in the time.

Tim Gibson

timmgibson@yahoo.com

(c) 2006 by Tim Gibson. All Rights Reserved

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