I woke this morning at 5am, not wanting to get up at all. Mornings are tough, even when I go to bed on time, and I really am a morning person. I hit snooze, delaying the inevitable, and when those nine minutes were up, I sat up, smiled intentionally and felt a new wave of energy to start this Monday well.
First steps are always, prayer and meditation, brushing my teeth, and getting some water. Then, it was journaling, and making my workout count. I got the kids off to school, and then tried something different. At 7:15am, I pulled out my hardest technical routine, and got to work.
I read an article by Daniel Pink the beginning of January all about how our resolutions can meet greater success if we schedule our goals around the right times of the day. Our brains work differently around the clock, so harnessing the most focused time for technical tasks means greater effectiveness and progress. This really caught my attention because my time is so limited and I really need the minutes to count the most in each area I get to spend my time as a violinist, writer, teacher, mother, business owner, etc.
Morning is the most productive and focused time. As I make an effort to work on my most technically demanding problems in my repertoire first thing, I will have greater success. I used to wait for babies to be napping, mid afternoon, but we all know that “afternoon slump” is no joke. I’m sure I wasted so much time as not much great practicing was happening at my most tired point in the day.
Pink shared the research backing the idea that early evening is then best reserved for creative efforts. This fits well with my small segment of time to write and when I teach private lessons. I feel invigorated and new ideas come more easily when I align these tasks with the creative part of the day. It also aligns well with being a mom, as my kids are arriving home from school and we get to talk about the day together.
Often the only time of day we have to work on a task is not at the ideal time. That afternoon slump is killer! But there is still much good that can happen if we schedule the type of effort needed within the hour that we have to work. For music practice, for example, I teach my students to warm up, and then tackle the most technical problem first, for just 3-5 minutes. This is when our brain will be most alert and capable of making the most connections and progress. After that 3-5 minute focus, work on something easier, more enjoyable for another 3-5 minutes. Then take another short burst of focused effort on something challenging. Working in intervals and small bites in this way makes practice time more effective and enjoyable, too. I am a big believer in taking notes throughout practicing after each short burst of focused work. It cements the work that has just happened, and keeps a record of where to begin next time.
My personal goals don’t always happen at the right times of day, but this perspective helps me as I schedule my priorities. Because as Stephen Covey has taught, “The key is not to prioritize what is on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
Make today matter!