Before we even sit down to practice the piano, certain things need to happen, and others will optimally happen. Putting the following foundations into practice before you practice can help you find more practice time and get more out of the time you do find.

Sleep Better

If you don’t get the sleep you need, or your sleep is inconsistent, you’ll be sluggish and less productive. Good sleep, each and every night, is a critical foundation of daytime efficiency.

Plan Your Day

Without a rough idea of what you want to accomplish, it’s easy to waste time idling while you decide what to do. Make a rough sketch of how you’d like to spend your day in advance, so your actions will have purpose.

Contemplate Your Goals

Before your day begins in earnest, take a few minutes to check in with your plans. Are your goals realistic? Do you feel particularly inspired to work on something different (or particularly uninspired to put something off, with good reason)? Consistency and discipline are important, but so is flexibility. Besides, you’re more likely to reach your goals if you allow yourself to be human as you work towards them!

Leave Time for the Unexpected

Life is full of unpredictable delays that sometimes get in the way of meticulous planning. When you sketch out your day, leave some room for long lines, surprise phone calls, emergency take-out after you’ve burned the dinner, etc. You’ll avoid overcommitting yourself, and occasionally get some bonus free time to spend how you choose.

Track Your Time

Pay attention to the amount of time you give yourself to do something, versus how long the task ends up taking. Soon you’ll have a better grasp of the length of time things take, and you can plan more efficiently.

Be Purposeful with Your Order of Operations

Sometimes, getting the small daily chores out of the way makes the rest of the day more fun and meaningful. Other times, saving the mindless chores for when you need a mental break after a strenuous job is more constructive. Think about what sequence of activities will make you the most productive and happy.

Learn to Say No

Always giving in to others’ requests can leave you much less time to work on your goals. Remind yourself that it’s sometimes OK to be “selfish” with your time to avoid hampering your productivity.

Don’t Use Guilt to Motivate Yourself

Doing work out of guilt is as unhelpful as it is unpleasant. If you find yourself performing chores, practice, or work out of a sense of penitence, take a step back and examine why. Did you avoid practicing until the day of your lesson? Did you commit yourself to something you didn’t want to do in the first place? Do you feel lacking in self-worth when you fall behind on your work? Leave penitence to monks, and explore ways you can be productive without being so hard on yourself, whether through planning, speaking up for yourself, or practicing mindfulness and self-care.

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