Its the end of January. I bet most of those resolutions have fallen apart already. I know, I know: You were going to get more exercise, eat healthier, do more practise on your instrument… Don’t be to hard on yourself, this happens to everyone, including me.
Last week somebody was asking how I’ve managed to “cram so much productivity into this year already”. Although, I suspect my friend was overestimating how much I’d actually got done. It did get me thinking about some of the things I that I have found really work on setting goals for each year.
1, Temptation Bundling
This idea comes from actual research that showed that combining something you enjoy with something that you struggle to get done, yields better results than will- power alone. Here is an example: You want to go to the gym but you love TV, so you end up watching TV instead of going to the gym. The solution is you find a Gym that shows your favourite TV shows so you can workout while watching them. To make this super effective, the idea is that you only watch TV while at the gym…
Personally, I hate the gym but I know that running is essential for stopping me getting back pain. (A side effect of years of stooping over my guitar for years). I run 3 times a week through muddy fields in the countryside. I love listening to podcasts, but I decided to ONLY listen to them when I’m running. If I want to find out what happens on the next episode of Serial… I’ve got to go for a run. It really works!
A lot of musicians talk about how G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) stops them practising. Looking for a guitar, amp or guitar pedal…watching reviews on Youtube etc etc. Why not set a timer 30-45 mins practise, reward yourself with 15 mins gear gazing! The key is to limit yourself do the gear gazing when ONLY when you’ve practised.
What about rewarding yourself with a new guitar ONLY if you learn that really difficult thing you’ve been meaning to tackle for years?
OK, so there is still will power involved, but trust me, it works. I’ve got to the point where looking forward to listening to podcasts and looking forward to running are the same thing.
Are there any things you can bundle together, to help you get the most out of 2016?
(If you were thinking alcohol and the treadmill… I urge you to reconsider, ha ha!)
2: Find your niche: Focus on doing “less” and not “more”
I think one of the reasons so many new years resolutions fail is because we try too do too many things and set goals that are unrealistic.
The challenge is to do less good things and more great things. Many successful athletes and businesses have succeeded by focusing on being really good at one thing.
Last year I decided to stop doing cover gigs and depping, This year I have decided to stop teaching band workshops. The strange thing is that as soon as I stopped doing cover gigs, and investing the time into getting the album done things really started to take off.
What ‘good’ things can you drop this year to focus on GREAT things?
3: Build it into your daily routine. Just 10 mins.
I have a 10 minute practise regime: It can feel overwhelming when thinking about what to practise. There is so much to learn. For me the solution has been to really focus on ONE thing. This ONE thing should be something that will raise the level of my playing over all.
My one goal for this year is to improve my time feel. Specifically, I want get really good at playing flowing triplets up to 250BPM.
I have a series of exercises and that I play through super slowly and then then my metronome increases speed automatically over the 10 minutes. Even if I don’t get time to do any other practise in the day, I know I’ve my “technical practise” is done.
What ONE thing could you focus on for 10 mins a day, to raise your game?
It doesn’t just have to be practise, it could be things to further your goals like making one phone call, sending one email etc.
4: Set Challenges
For me the thing that motivates me the most to get things done is setting challenges.
I hate running, but I’ve found that when I’ve registered for and event, I seem to find the motivation to get out running even when its raining. I’ve run 2 marathons, completed Tough Mudder and all sort of crazy things.
What Challenge could you set yourself to get closer to your goal?
Perform a song in public? Book an album launch gig?
5: Be Ready
Another running analogy. I keep all my running gear in tub, when I finish my run, it all goes back in the same tub. (OK maybe not the pants and socks)
Why? Often by the time I had found my running stuff, I had run out of time or enthusiasm for the whole thing. So now I keep it all in one place, so its ready to go.
I’m the same for practising and composting. I have a nice place where all my guitar gear and software is all set up and plugged in, ready to go.
How could you set things up so your are ready to go?
6: Be Regular
When I’m busy its easy to lose track of time. Often I realise that I only have 5 mins for a run rather than my usual 30 mins. The temptation would be to think, “there is no point, I’ll skip it for today”. In reality I have found that even if I only get out for 5 mins, its worth it.
Why? Because regularity is important. If I skip it once, its easy for it to stop being part of my routine.
The same goes for writing music, practising, composing. I think regularity is so important.
What regular time could you set aside each week to work towards your goals?
10 mins? 30mins? How often? Once a week? Three times a week?
7: Have fun!
Don’t be to hard on yourself. Its gotta be fun. Life is for living. Enjoy the journey towards your goals, that is more important than reaching them.
How can you make it more fun, so that you enjoy the journey?
If you enjoyed this feel free to read some of my other blogs. Why not have a listen to my music while you do it? Click here to stream the album.