As musicians, we spend a lot of time developing powerful habits, especially in the practice room.
We plan and execute detailed practice routines.
We are disciplined, focused, and fully committed to our musical practice.
But what about life outside of the practice room?
These 5 crucial habits can make or break your career as a musician. We can all improve in at least one of these areas — which would make the biggest difference for you?
What’s the first thing you sacrifice when you get busy?
If you’re like most musicians (myself included), you’re happy to give up a few hours of sleep if it means getting caught up on practicing something important.
But if you regularly short-change your sleep schedule, you’ll undermine your progress in the practice room.
According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, sleep plays an important role in memory.
If you’re trying to memorize a concerto, the last thing you want is to start having fatigue-induced memory slips.
So, if you’re pushing your practice sessions late into the night, make sure you still get enough sleep to support your memory.
Plus, research suggests that getting enough sleep makes it easier to perceive things accurately…like how you’re playing in the practice room. Just think — how much more could you accomplish if you could perceive your playing more accurately?
Everyone has unique sleep needs. And those needs may change over time. But if you’re getting less than 7 hours each night, consider adjusting your daily schedule to get a little more sleep.
If your schedule is super crazy and you just can’t find more time to sleep at night, consider adding a nap to your daily routine. This Mayo Clinic guide will get you started.
2. Maintain Your Body (It’s Your Most Valuable Instrument)
Many of us play expensive, expertly crafted instruments. We strive to keep them in optimal playing condition and we devote a little time each day to do routine maintenance.
But don’t forget — our most valuable instruments are our bodies. It doesn’t matter how great your Stradivarius violin sounds if you can’t move your shoulder.
If you scratch the varnish on your violin or put a dent in your trombone, you can get that fixed pretty easily. Even if you drop your cello down a flight of stairs, a luthier can probably bring your instrument back to life.
But if you abuse your body until you develop chronic pain or a soft tissue injury, it can be difficult to rehabilitate back to 100%.
Our bodies need maintenance too.
Fortunately, it doesn’t take a lot to keep your body in good working order.
Find a physical activity that you enjoy (or think you could learn to enjoy). Go for regular walks around your campus. Develop a yoga practice. Run, bike, swim, hike, play soccer, do Pilates, hit the gym…
You don’t have to devote 4 hours a day, or even 2 hours… 30 minutes a day is plenty! Simply find a way to incorporate physical activity into your life on a daily basis.
The balance that you develop from your non-musical physical activity will do more than just keep your body healthy. Sure, you’ll feel better and play with more energy. But you’ll also feel happier, saner, and less anxious.
3. Fuel Your Practice with Food
How we eat impacts how we perform. And there are a lot of ways we can undermine our musical success with poor diet choices.
What we eat and drink each day can fuel excellent, focused, high-energy practice. Or it can leave us feeling tired, unfocused, with alternating spurts of energy and laziness.
Healthy eating habits don’t have to be restrictive or extreme. University of California, Berkeley offers excellent guidelines for healthy eating. Eat a variety of foods including fresh produce, fish, and nuts. Limit alcohol and excess refined sugar. Manage portions.
When I’m practicing, I don’t like to feel hungry. It’s a huge distraction for me.
A few years ago, I adjusted my diet to allow for regular snacks during the day (I’m a big fan of almonds with dried fruit). Now I’m always prepared if hunger strikes at a time when I need to practice.
4. Cultivate Healthy Relationships
This has happened to every musician I know:
Your Friend: “Hey, let’s go out tonight.”
You: “I wish I could but I really need to practice.”
A good friend will totally understand – they’ll be supportive and understanding. They may feel disappointed, but they’ll respect your career goals and want you to be happy.
A not-so-good friend will try to guilt you into coming out anyway.
Whether you’re a professional moving into a new job or an undergraduate just starting school, keep in mind that the friendships you develop have a huge influence on your day-to-day progress.
Surround yourself with people who will empower your success. Encourage each other. Talk about goals and motivations. Have fun, but not at the expense of your long-term development.
5. Be Your Biggest Fan (And Your Biggest Supporter)
Your thoughts are powerful.
They can inspire and motivate you to achieve your goals. When you believe that you are capable, skilled, and have great potential, those things have a way of coming true over time.
But when you engage in negative thinking, you sabotage your potential.
Instead of ruminating over negative experiences or obsessing over fear, try the following exercise:
- Notice when you are stuck in a loop of negative thinking.
- Once you observe that you’re stuck in a negative thought, take a moment to breathe slowly through your nose.
- How does your body feel? With a sense of humor and curiosity, see how much you can notice. Does your chest feel tight? Do you feel your heart racing? See how much detail you can observe.
- In a few moments, you’ll notice the negative thoughts losing their power. Let them float away.
Take time each day to remember the things that you do well. Visualize your success. Over time, you can develop a positive attitude – it just takes a bit of practice.
Develop Your Habits
Routines are crucial when you’re trying to incorporate new habits into your daily life. Jump-start your practice routine by joining the 5-day Mindful Practice Mini Course for FREE:
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