Thursday, October 24, 2013


A musing on starting - and sticking to - routines

Well, the first hiccups have come around, and I've dropped the ball on the new regiment. This is one of those things that has been a recurring theme in my music career for the last several years. Things have come up, on weekends and on weekdays in my personal life, that have made it hard to stick to the regimen.

I find that I'm most likely to do my full practice under several conditions:
1) I've had an uneventful day at work, and get home at the standard time,
2) I immediately begin practicing, un-interrupted by things outside my routine,
3) I practice in one solid block
4) Nothing delays or stresses me during the day.

It amazes me how necessary these conditions are, and how fragile my regimen is. For example, I normally work a 6:00-2:00 schedule - a benefit of being mostly self-directed - and have a short commute. If I get home and immediately begin practicing, I'm on the ball from 2:30 to 5:30, when my wife and housemate begin arriving home, and then have only an hour and a half to do after dinner to get my full time in. If I'm delayed by an hour, there's a 50/50 chance I'll bail on the whole day's practice. If I'm delayed 2 hours, the chance that I'll practice at all drops to 25%, and if I haven't begun practicing by dinner, I will almost certainly get no practice in that day. Weekends are similar. If I'm not practicing before lunch, I will not practice at all on a Saturday or Sunday. Days with long gigs, jams, or workshops of course, will sap my ability to do practice on my remaining instruments. Lessons, taught or received, don't generally impact me, as long as other interruptions to the day are minimized.

If I come home with a sinus headache, done. If I sit down and play more than 30 minutes of Minecraft, done. If I have to deal with stressful personal situation, done. If someone is in the living room while I'm trying to start the first half of my practice, done. If someone bails on their duty to make dinner, and it shifts to me, done.

There's some psychological research that suggests that one's self-motivation is finite, and when one spends it in one area, one loses it in others. I think there may be some merit to that.

This is why routine is so important, I think. One doesn't need as much motivation to do what one simply does at that hour to do it, compared to when it's not part of a routine. And a routine must be strictly adhered to for some time, perhaps 6 weeks it seems, before it becomes routine.

Unfortunately, I'm having difficulty with a friend who's in trouble right now, I'm heading out of town for a wedding gig this weekend, and when I come back, my mother and her husband will be visiting for a week and a half. Getting anything in will take all my strength.

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