I have thoroughly resisted any attempts to make me use a computerized calendar or scheduling software. Since I do not have a laptop, an iPad, a smart phone, a Palm Pilot, or any other portable brain, I’m not able to enter new appointments or check my schedule on-the-go. Instead, I have a 3″ by 6″ appointment book that fits in bag or pocket, which for all these years has amply served my needs to write down what I am doing when.
Then my harp teacher introduced me to events-based practice planning. This is another idea from the essential music practice website. With this idea, instead of scheduling specific times to practice, you plan your practice sessions after specific events in your day. There is a download-able worksheet on the website, where you can write in the event after which you plan to practice, such as “as soon as I arrive home from school” or “after breakfast.”
While I was working, I was doing event-based practice planning, though I didn’t know to call it that. On weekdays, I consistently practiced harp after walking my dog and before going to work. For recorder, I would eat my lunch, and then practice for 30 minutes either sitting in my car or at the picnic table, depending on the weather. On Saturdays, I practiced both instruments after going to the farmer’s market, and I took Sundays off.
Since retiring, I don’t have a routine that is set in stone, with the same events repeating themselves day-after-day. I also needed to add time for voice and alto recorder practice in addition to practicing harp and the soprano recorder pieces for the ensemble. Without a set routine it’s hard enough for me to keep track of all the events in my days, let alone what I am going to practice after them.
So here I am, falling in love with iCal, the calendar program on my Mac. (There are similar programs for window-based computers.) I entered classes and lessons in one color, drive times to school and lessons in another, and other appointments in a third color. With the auto-scheduling function I can enter a repeating event once and the calendar adds it to future weeks for me.
At the beginning of the week I can see what “events” I have scheduled, and then enter my practice session (in a bright kelly-green) after these events on my calendar. I can readily check that I’ve planned practice sessions for each instrument. I can see if finding practice time will be challenging because of an overly scheduled day. I can see if there is free time for some wriggle room to reschedule a practice session for mornings like this one, where I am writing instead of practicing. And I can tell if there’s any time to add an extra practice session if I need one.
I print the upcoming week’s schedule on Sunday evenings and clip it to my music stand to remind me of my scheduled practice sessions. And of course, I mark each completed practice, so that at the end of the week, I can experience that wonderfully perverse pleasure of seeing my scheduled practice sessions checked off.
I’ve been using iCal to plan practice for a month. It’s done a wonderful job of freeing up space in my brain to focus on the actual practicing, instead of having to use time and energy to figure out when I would practice. And it’s decreased guilt about the days I don’t practice, as my days off are planned and scheduled on the calendar.
If there’s other music students out there who give this a try, I’d love to hear how it works for you.