Friday, September 16, 2011

5 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Practice Something

Whether it be playing an instrument, taking a class, or working on a side project, practice is essential for success. It's easy to tell yourself  that you need to practice something, but it is much harder to get into the habit of it. Here are 5 ways to start motivating yourself to get into the habit of practicing.

  1. Make practicing fun.
    One thing that makes it really hard to practice is not being able to enjoy what you're doing. Finding a way to enjoy practicing is a great motivator. If you are playing an instrument, try warming up by playing around on it and making up some cool riffs, or playing a song or piece you really like. If you're studying for a math class, try thinking of the problems as logic puzzles or challenges, or finding something interesting about what you are learning. If you can get yourself interested in what you're doing, it's much easier to do it.

  2. Set (realistic) goals for yourself.
    Having realistic, defined goals makes it easier to know what you need to do. When you know what you need to do, you can make it a kind of game to complete everything. Start with small goals. Try going through a set of scales the first day, starting a rough sketch of a painting you want to do, or doing 15 minutes of studying. There is no need to overload yourself. I've seen a lot of people (including myself!) become overwhelmed when they want to do or practice something regularly because they take on too much. Don't let that be you. Take on a reasonable amount of work.

  3. Appreciate your work.
     It's easy to get so caught up in working on your goals that you forget to relax and see what you've done. Every now and then, step back, look at what you've done, and pat yourself on the back. It's satisfying to see what you can do. Also, don't over-criticize yourself. No one is perfect.

  4. Keep track of your progress.
    Being able to see what you've been doing and how close you are to reaching your goals is a huge motivator! This tip has worked really well for me. If you record how long you practice, how many problems you've done, etc, you can see that you are, in fact, making progress. Also, being able to write down how much you've practiced gives you a sense of mastery and makes you want to keep on going. Another good way to track your progress, especially for daily progress, is through checklists. If you make a list of the musical exercises and pieces you want to cover that day, the specific homework problems you want to do in a night, or the milestones in a project that you want to reach that week, you can go down the list and check off each item as you go. It's extremely gratifying.

  5. Just do it once.
    One of the hardest and most important parts of practicing or do something regularly is starting. The first thing you have to do is just try it once. Once you've practiced once and realize that it's not so horrible, you can practice one more time, then one more, then one more. Take it day by day. Slowly but surely, you'll build up steam, and practicing or performing a task that needs to be repeated will become part of your daily life.

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