Making an Action Plan for Improvement

I first started this blog during my summer before grad school as a means of focusing ideas and personal discoveries to continue the process of improvement before moving on to a new studio. Since graduating from FSU, I have had ups and downs in finding similar focus. Lacking the structure of school leaves me wondering: What should I do now? At the same time, everything feels like a possibility. Having no real goal in sight leaves me standing in front of an abyss. I'm constantly pulling pieces off my bookshelf saying: I'll learn this next! However, I have reached a point of feeling so sporadic (with everything from my bookshelves landing in piles around my room every week) that I'm ready to focus back in on improving mindfully with the bigger picture in mind.

I always tell my students to approach their practice sessions with this goal: Leave having made a specific improvement that can be described in words, regardless of how much time was spent.

Here's what I'm committing to in my own Personal Improvement Journey

Decide to Improve in 20 Minutes: Instead of letting time pass by while playing through the gamut of exercises assuming progress will occur, decide to practice on purpose. Don't let your practice session happen to you. Stay present and do work.

1. Make a decision. Focus in on what you're going to practice and commit.

2. Where are the issues? Record yourself for a fresh perception of areas to be improved. This can be an exchange of several notes in a scale, certain middle register notes in tone exercises, or technically difficult passages in a piece. The big picture and context within a piece are crucial points to be aware of when making musical decisions. Understand the big picture first, then extract the difficult spots for examination. To avoid the urge of straying back to the easier spots, cover the rest of the page with paper or sticky notes.

3. Why is it hard? Articulate what specifically makes this area difficult. Maybe the issue is a series of difficult fingerings. Why are these fingerings difficult? The more fingers that need to travel to change to another note, the more difficult coordination can be.

4. How can I address these difficulties? What action steps can I take to improve now that I know the 'What' and the 'Why?' To address the above example, put a spotlight on how you're moving your fingers. Observing which fingers tend to lift high off the keys allows the choice to keep them closer. Slowly and precisely move fingers exactly together to improve coordination.

Decide to fix the issues. Put a timer on and spend 3, 5, 10 minutes working through each step of your action plan. Observe, experiment, learn, and make an improvement you can describe in words when you're done.

Get your planner:

Download my Improvement Action Planning Template and commit to making more improvements every time you practice!