I often find myself saying...

Me: “You have an awful lot on your plate! I think you should consider a detailed practice schedule.”

Student: “But I already schedule my practicing!”

Me: “A detailed schedule is more than deciding when you are going to practice (though I am glad to hear you are doing that!). A detailed schedule means working backwards from your goals for the week, breaking each goal into manageable steps, figuring out how much time each step should take on a daily basis, and then deciding what is the best order to do them in.”

Student: “That sounds like a good idea – except how do I know how much time each goal will take?”

Me: “Only by doing it. Start with your best guess and then refine as you go along.”

Student: “The problem is, I never seem to stick to things like this. I always lose track of time, or get too involved with what I am doing in the moment.”

Me: “Well, here is the great thing about this system; the schedule lets you be two places at once!”

Student: “…”

Me: “Imagine how well you would do, if one part of you was organizing your practice, standing over your shoulder, while the other part was practicing. The overseer (let’s call it the executive) calls all the shots, and is a tough customer. The part of you doing the practice only needs to focus on the immediate task, and do it as well as possible…do you see where this is going?”

Student: “You mean that when I am making the schedule, I am making decisions for my future self, so I can just be in the moment when I am practicing?”

Me: “Exactly! You get to have the best of both worlds; clear headed, logical planning, and purely in the moment practicing. I find the most useful part of the schedule is that it provides a clear stopping point for a task, so you don’t practice a skill or a passage too long. You only bring your best, concentrated work, and then you move on to something different.”

Student: “I think this could work really well, if I actually do it.”

Me: “If it works for you, you will have a tool you can bring to any area of your life. Imagine if you used this in all your classes!”

Student: “That’s almost a little frightening!”