What To Do If You're Too Busy To Practice Guitar - Part 2

In this article we continue looking at strategies to help you consistently practice even if you're really busy. In the last article on guitar practice we talked about the strategy of making a choice between letting go or building your desire. If you haven't read that article yet, I highly recommend doing it now…

All done? Cool.

I'm assuming that you have invested some time into building your desire, and have carved out a small amount of time from your busy schedule for guitar practice. If you haven't, then this article won't help you much! :-)

OK…let's now take a look at another strategy. This strategy is really all about maximizing the benefit you can receive from a small amount of guitar practice…


Strategy Two: Setting Internalization Goals

If you've read a lot of the articles I've written, you probably realize that I'm a big believer in internalization. Simply put, this means practicing something until you can play it without thinking.  

Becoming an excellent guitarist is really just the process of internalizing things so that things that feel unnatural eventually feel natural. Internalization moves things from the conscious to the subconscious. And this is essential. You need to eventually be able to do things without having to think consciously about what you are doing.

The great jazz pianist Bill Evans once said that a big reason why many people can't improvise fluently is that they try to bypass the internalization process. And I tend to agree with him. I would even go further than that what he said. Here's what I believe…

Trying to bypass the internalization process makes getting good on any musical instrument impossible.

 I feel very strongly about this. When you see a great musician, you are seeing the results of internalization. They have mastered specific skills so deeply, that those skills become "part of them".

So how do you set internalization goals? Lets take a look now…


 Setting Internalization Goals:

It is very valuable to set weekly internalization goals. I recommend that they have the following qualities…

  1. They take 15 minutes of practice in each practice session.
  2. They focus on ONE specific thing. For example…
    • One guitar lick.
    • A four bar section of a song. (Either a cover tune, or one that you've composed).
    • One exercise.
    • Transcribing a small part of a solo by ear.
  3. They have a predetermined number of practice sessions. For example, you might set a goal of practicing one specific exercise five times in a week.
  4. You have worked out specifically how you will practice the item in each practice session. If you are using a metronome, then write down what metronome settings you will use for each practice session. (Ask your guitar teacher for advice on what settings would be most effective).

 This is how I generally structure my practice. I tend to think in 15-minute chunks of time. So if I am practicing for 60-minutes a day, then I will set four internalization goals for the week. (I will practice each of the four goals for 15-minutes daily). This allows me to progress significantly on four specifc skills over the course of the week.


Putting This Into Practice

To get started with internalization goals, please do the following…

Step One: Make A Commitment

Decide on how much daily practice you will do next week. Once you've decided this, schedule each practice session into your diary. Think of it as making an important appointment with yourself.

Step Two: Set Internalization Goals

Set ONE internalization goal for each 15-minutes of practice you do each day. For example: If you practice 60-minutes a day, then you will set 4 goals. If you only practice 15-minutes a day, then you will set one goal. If you practice less than 15-minutes each day, then you need to find a new instrument to learn. (Maybe the kazoo or the nose-flute?).

Here is a worksheet that you may want to download and print out. It's got space for setting up to four internalization goals a week…

Goal Worksheet 

Step Three: Do It

Obviously, there's not much point to setting goals and not actually following through on them. 'Nuff said.


Alright, that's all for now. But before you go, please take a few moments to think of answers to the following two questions…

  • What are some of the benefits to this approach to organizing guitar practice?
  • Why would it be best to focus on one thing in each 15-minute block, rather than practicing lots of things?

Have fun, and I'll catch you next time.

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