When I was 14 years old, I was a great candidate for “Worst Singer in the World”. I would have been perfect for American Idol. Thank the gods I never did anything in public.
But I was “in a band” with my friend on drums on and two guitarists. One time my father was listening to us and he said “You’re pretty good, but you should get a bassist. The problem is, you won’t get a bassist by next Tuesday, and none of you ever think past next Tuesday”.
We all laughed but it was true. Even now it’s true. It’s like my brain is semi-permeable: only thoughts that are relevant to the next 7 days are allowed to enter.
But usually that’s okay because the best predictor of a successful tomorrow is a successful today.
In high school I remember I got a B+ in literally the easiest class everyone is required to take. I think I got a 97% on the final exam, but I never did my homework. And I never did my math homework either. I remember being (foolishly) proud of doing about 10 assignments in two years.
99% of every essay I’ve written in my life was done on the night before it was due. Any project that I’ve had two or more weeks to work on was done in about two days.
I’m not bragging. These are bad habits. And I did a great deal of damage to myself.
One time a friend of mine (who is a really great bassist) said “If you want to be a great jazz musician, you have to lead a life conducive to being a great jazz musician”. He was quoting someone else I think but I don’t remember who.
I can’t cram 10 hours of practice on a Sunday night the way I used to write essays. For one thing, I don’t have a single stretch of 10 hours at any point during the week where I don’t have either class or work (or sleep). For another, it’s far less effective than spreading out practice. The brain needs time to absorb and integrate the skills practiced by the body. It needs sleep to remember. Improvement actually occurs during sleep. I notice that if I practice something and come back to it 3 hours later I am almost no better at it even though it was sounding good 3 hours ago.
And on top of the raw science of practice, it’s unprofessional to be disorganized. Disorganization is a risk. A risk of being late, a risk of not completing tasks, a risk of any number of things. I’m not a working professional but already at jams or from older students I hear about really talented people losing jobs because of their lifestyle and personal habits.
I didn’t realize this until maybe a year or two ago but people don’t work with “who is the best” they work with “who can I trust?” If you don’t know that already then you will learn it soon enough.
So basically, there are three huge benefits to making a daily schedule.
- Everything I need to do gets done
- I am never anxious about “When will I do this? When will I have time to relax? When will I eat?” etc. Anxiety is an absolute killer of productivity and happiness. And learning. And making friends.
- It is one aspect of being professional
Here’s why I need a schedule: I have 2 jobs, lots of practice, play in two ensembles, taking at least 18 credit hours of classes that give a medium amount of homework, run this website, take the occasional gig, I need 8 hours of sleep, I need to exercise, and I need to make room to just have fun. Icing on the cake is going to jams, visiting my family, travel, reading, and some other things.
So the first thing I do is prioritize and simultaneously plug in things that are definite responsibilities like attending class.
My first priority is make 2.5 hours of practice every day. Class schedules are set. Rehearsals are set. Job schedules are also (pretty much) set regularly.
Then I make time for homework, working out, the website, and leisure. In that order.
Those are my priorities, yours might be different. You might have to zoom in to see it properly.
I wake up an hour and a half before the first item every day. On Tuesday/Thursday nights and Saturday/Sunday I can do my homework because of my job at school (computer lab monitor). I do this website on my approximately 45 minute commute.
In addition to the weekly schedule, I typically map out my practice plan in the morning. For instance, on a Wednesday, you’ll notice I have two 15 minute sessions. So I’ll think, “What can I finish in 15 minutes?” and that’s usually one form of scale (like major pentatonics) or one element of a tune (play the chord tones in x,y,and z pattern of Donna Lee).