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How to create a guitar practice schedule that works?

guitar-practice-schedule-createWarning: This is article is about creating a guitar practice schedule.  It is quite long and it also contains a worksheet that should help you apply information from the article into action. Make sure you have enough time to actually do it . Please don’t use this as a entertainment. It can change your playing, so make the most out of it.

Creating a schedule that will work for you is not easy. It is one thing to plan your practice another to actually do what you have planned. But as I said in my previous article, having a guitar practice schedule has many benefits.

I have created many practice routines since I started playing guitar and most of them were pretty dumb. Maybe you remember this example. I almost never stick with my practice schedules for more than a week. Same as most people, I actually stopped creating schedules. And this really wasn’t a good decision because I was even more lost than before.

Even though I think that every plan is better than no plan, some of my plans were just silly and didn’t help me much. At least I have learned something.

After a while I decided to find a way how to make a practice schedule that would work for me instead against of me. I started to read books, articles and blogs. I started to learn from people who were successful and who were big fans of creating schedules.

As I learned more about deliberate practice and as I kept getting better as a guitar player my practice schedules started to make sense.

I identified several reasons why people do not follow their schedules. Inspired by Tim Ferriss’s book The Four Hour Chef I call this reasons  failure points.

Here are those failure points:
1) It is too time consuming.
2) People don’t have clear goals and time frames.
3) People do not have enough reasons to follow through.
4) It is too overwhelming.

Those failure points alone or combination of them always make people quit. No matter who you are, if you follow a plan that is too time consuming or too overwhelming, you will eventually quit.

So what I would like to do is to help you overcome all those failure points, so you will have a much better chance to actually follow through.

Creating a guitar practice schedule that works …

First download this worksheet!

Failure point #1:  Too time consuming

You can plan to practice 10 hours a day but it is not sustainable unless you have nothing else to do. It is not a smart decision to create a schedule that you can follow only on special occasions. I know that this is common sense but you wouldn’t believe have many people create a practice schedule that is just not sustainable.

Time allocation exercise:
This is one of the best time management techniques that I know. For three days write down everything that you do and how much time it takes you. You will get a clear picture of how much time you use productively and how much time you waste.

After you have  finished the time allocation exercise, find out how much time per day can you realistically put into practicing guitar.

Rule of thumb: Try to make your practice sessions of approximately same length. Be as consistent as you can be. Don’t try to cram 3 hours in one day and then 5 minutes for the rest of the week.

Make small adjustments so you can get used to them. Consistency is the key.


Failure point #2: People do not have clear goals and time frames

One of the mistakes I see people doing when creating a practice schedule is that they don’t define their expectations in the beginning. In other words, they do not clarify, what goals they are after. They just create a list of things that they think they need to practice and that’s it. After spending few weeks practicing this stuff they get frustrated because they are not getting results. But you can never get results that you did not define first.

What are your musical goals?
Define exactly what it is that you want to accomplish. Don’t say: “I want to get better.” or “I want to become the best guitar player in the world.” That’s not a goal.

Be very specific. In fact, the more specific you are, the greater the chance that you will accomplish that. Define exactly what you want.

A good way how to find what are your goals is to find out what you don’t want (thanks to Les Wise for this thought.) If you know what you don’t want, it will reveal you what you do want.

Write all your goals down. Make sure everything is out of your head.

Organize your goals from the easiest to accomplish to the hardest to accomplish. 
This step is vital because we want to reach  for the low-hanging fruit first. This will give you confidence and motivation to go for more.

Now set a time frame for first three goals of your list. I said many times before that your goals need to have a time frame. Your practice schedule is a mean to an end. You want to get results. Once you reached your goals, you create another schedule to pursue your other dreams.

I really don’t like to plan my guitar practice for more than month or two. So many things can change that you cannot control  and your schedule is not usable anymore. That’s why it is important to be very clear on your goals and time frames.

Don’t be too hard on yourself but make sure that the time frame that you set is challenging. It should take you out of your comfort zone. That’s when you know you are growing.

Finish that song that you have been working on for months until the end of this week. Just cut out all the garbage and do the work. Don’t stop until you are done.

Now  that you have defined what you want, go through your list of goals and write down what obstacles are stopping you from reaching those goals. This way you can clearly see why your playing is not at the level you would like to.

If you made it this far, I am very proud of you. Keep going.

Your next task is to find a solution to every obstacle. This is were it can get tough because you may not know how to solve some of those musical problems. Find a guitar teacher that can help you or find your solutions online. It is crucial that you know how to overcome those obstacles. There is no other way how to become a better player than overcoming your weaknesses.


Failure point #3: People do not have strong enough reasons to follow through

“Reasons come first. Answers come second.” Jim Rohn

Do you know why you really play guitar? What are you reasons? Why should you spend 2 or 3 hours everyday practicing guitar? What is your why?

You can have the greatest plan in the world, but if you don’t act upon it, you won’t get anywhere. It is your why that wakes you up in the morning and it is your why that activates your abundant sources of energy. Your why will help you when you feel stuck and frustrated.

So, what is your why?


Failure point #4: It is too overwhelming

Oh boy, am I guilty of this? I fell into this trap for so many times. Feeling overwhelmed and frustrated of my guitar playing was a normal state of being for years. Don’t make the same mistake.

You just cannot learn everything. There is just not enough time for that. Especially now when you are only few clicks away from any information that you need.

You have to have priorities. Otherwise you are never going to be good enough. Jumping from one thing to another is not the solution. Finding what is important to you and than mastering it is the key. Your focus, energy and time are not limitless. You have to be smart how you want to use these resources.

It is not a good guitar practice schedule if it overwhelms you every time you look at it. Yes, it has to stretch you. But it cannot paralyze you.

Putting it all together:

Now that we went through this process (make sure you download the worksheet) you should have much clearer view on your musical goals, problem areas, time possibilities and your reasons why you want to become a remarkable guitar player.

What you need to do now is start working toward your first goal. By now you should know how can you overcome your weaknesses and what you need to work on. The next step is actually do it. No it won’t be easy but who cares. It is not supposed to be easy. Just do it.

I cannot tell you exactly what you need to work on because I don’t know you personally. I don’t know anything about your guitar ability and skills. I don’t know which exercise will work for you. This template for creating a guitar practice schedule has to be general so you can understand the thought process behind it and apply it. The rest is upon you.

If you have any questions, just let me know. And if this article and worksheet were helpful for you, please share it with your friends.

Photo by: JanneM

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4 Responses to How to create a guitar practice schedule that works?

  1. Marko March 19, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

    Wow, what an excellent article! The only thing left is to stick to it :).

    • Lukas March 19, 2013 at 7:09 pm #

      You are right Marko. Theory is the easy one, taking action is hard!

  2. Phil Johnson March 23, 2013 at 12:33 am #

    These really great tips Lukas. And that worksheet looks very helpful. I find a lot of self taught people get caught up in the “I’m practicing, but I don’t know why” loop. A good teacher will help a student set those goals, but a lot of teachers don’t.

    The process reminds me of a few years ago when I realized my performing career really dictated that I spend more time improving my songwriting than my guitar skills. So sometimes going through these exercises may lead you into a very different area than you thought.

    • Lukas March 25, 2013 at 10:28 am #

      Thanks Phil.

      You are right that many people don’t really know why they practice. They just do it because somebody said so. But having a clear vision what you want to accomplish and why you want it brings completely different results.

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