Hello, my friend... I’m glad to see you back here :) In the last post, I gave you the run-down on how I came to making the Efficient Musician Practice Planner.
Now, let’s get to the good part and talk about how it will take your practice to the next level.
DESIGNED FOR THE ACADEMIC YEAR
This planner is dated specifically for the academic year. This is because most musical events and calendars are structured this way, not to mention the events important to music students, like competitions, festivals, and auditions. Quite frankly, I never understood why (any) agendas would start at the beginning of the year. This might be just me, but it was a major annoyance to have to go out to pick a new planner in the middle of the school year.
Anyone else? 🤔
As a teacher, parent, or even a member of society, everything seems to be structured around the academic year - summer holidays are a time to recharge, and in the fall the grind begins once again, with work and/or school starting at full throttle. The winter holidays are meant to spend more time with your family and celebrate... not to be picking out a new planner!!
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s move onto the actual contents of the Practice Planner...
ORGANIZE YOUR REPERTOIRE
The first pages of the planner are dedicated to planning out your repertoire for the year. It’s easily accessible at the beginning of the planner, so you won’t need to slip through any pages to get to it, AND you can add pieces to it all year as they come to mind.
Having experienced the full range of planning methods, from having a go-with-the-flow teacher, to having a super organized (almost controlling) teacher, to being a teacher myself, I have learned that having a dedicated space for repertoire is a must. Many musical planners lack this, which I do not understand, because it increases motivation by ten folds in students (myself included).
Not only do you have a chance to organize your repertoire ahead of time (if that’s your thing), but you can also track your progress and add pieces and songs to it as you learn them.
And you can’t deny that looking back at your rep list at the end of the year is super satisfying... 🤤
For those of us that have pieces on our wish lists that we simply “do not” have time for, it’s nice to be able to visualize them as the first step to getting them done. Sometimes it’s just a matter of seeing it on paper :) Not to mention, sometimes the standard musical education doesn’t leave room for “fun” pieces, which are super important to keeping that passion for music alive.
BREAK DOWN YOUR GOALS
The next section of the planner gives you space to write down and elaborate on FIVE GOALS you want to focus on this year. This section is quite flexible in that you can choose literally any goals you would like, as long as they are large enough to break down.
To give you some ideas... (this list is by no means exhaustive)
- A class you are in (a chamber music class, for example, for which you need to plan rehearsals, coachings, and performances)
- A performance or recital (you will need to plan a location, mock performances, recordings, rehearsals, etc.)
- A larger goal such as learning a set of pieces, such as the WTC or Chopin Etudes (breaking them into smaller steps, along with lesson planning, and listening to recordings, etc.)
- A piano exam (breaking this down into the different requirements you need to fulfill, along with steps such as learning, memorizing and performing)
- Recording a single piece or an album (breaking this goal down into learning, listening to recordings, taking lessons, memorization, scheduling rehearsals, and preparing for the recording day)
If any of these goals inspired you to go and practice, great! Go practice, my friend, and come back to read this post a little later 🎵
The pages following the goal list were fully inspired by the BuJo (Bullet Journal) method. Having experimented with its systems for several years in undergrad, I loved its open-ended nature, and the freedom it gave me to create exactly what I needed. And while I suffered from analysis paralysis while using it (I often needed more structure than it could offer) its benefits could be fully transferred to the fleshing out of practice goals in the Practice Planner.
Personally, I love working with mind maps and brainstorming onto a page in a web-like style. The dotted BuJo-style page definitely accommodates that, along with literally any other method, starting with simple lists and ending with a wild brain dump. Go wild here!
Also, while using these pages, try not to overthink what to put in each category (although I would recommend starting out with a pencil instead of a pen). The opening pages are simply there to empty your mind and promote a healthy creative process, which includes writing and planning out your next steps.
Now for the most important part of the journal...
THE WEEKLY JOURNAL
My friend, I am going to be honest with you. This part of the planner took by far the longest time to create. In trying to find the best planning structure, I tested it on myself, my peers, my students, even a secret group of subscribers (you know who you are 😉), taking notes of criticisms and improving with every new version.
In the next blogpost, I will give you a sneak-peak into the process I went through to create this final design, including my own drawings, test booklets, and various design failures and successes. But for now...
Starting off in the top right corner of the page, the planner includes a neat little calendar showing you exactly where you are in each month. In the past, I have found it is easy to lose track of a repetitive journal page (as is the case with a weekly layout), so this is a simple way to remember whether you are at the beginning, middle or end of each month.
Another important aspect for me was the weekly journal, governed by the days of the week rather than the dates of the month. Again, speaking from personal experience, I found it incredibly disorienting to start a new month inside a planner that followed the dates instead of days of the week. That’s why, at the risk of sounding repetitive, each month starts with the first Monday of the month, not simply the first day.
Moving on, I include equal space for weekdays and weekends alike. I never understood the musical planners that gave less space for weekends, as if the days we are off from school or work mean less practice...
If anything, I always preferred more planning space for the weekends, as those were the days where I truly controlled my own practice schedule. And do we have to talk about having 7 days in a week?! Wouldn’t you like to have the freedom to choose which day you take a practice break on?
Moving downwards on the layout, we have the Habit of the week. This is where you can focus on any habits or aspects of your playing you would like to improve. Some ideas are: a looser wrist, finger independence, counting while playing, practicing from the end, or a pinky that sticks out (again, by no means an exhaustive list). Staying true to the spirit of the Practice Planner, this section opens your practice up to endless possibilities of improvement.
Then, we have the To-Do List (aren’t the checkboxes soooo cute? 🥰 ). This is the meat and potatoes of your practice planning, where you write down all your weekly goals, and pieces/sections/movements you would like to practice. Checkboxes were a no-brainer, since it is just sooo satisfying to check things off your to-do list as you accomplish them. (And no shame in writing some down just to check them off, either...🙃) Go wild here, but also be structured to make sure everything that needs to get done gets done.
For the daily practice tracker, there really is no set structure. Again, it’s all about what you find helpful.
This is where you take notes, as needed, about your practice. Feel free to add reminders, bar numbers, and even plan out tomorrow’s practice session as you’re done for the day (my personal favourite). At the end of each practice session, track your time spent at the instrument, your mood, as well as how you felt about your efficiency. This is a great way to end your practice session on a fun note, and keep yourself accountable if you’ve been slacking :) Also, looking back at your week to see patterns in your mood and efficiency are a fun perk!
STAFF PAPER AND NOTES
Finally, we come to the end of the journal. A handy 24-page set (2 pages per month) of staff paper and notes give you some extra space for lesson notes and brainstorming.
How many times have you wanted to write something down at your lesson, but didn’t have a notebook nearby, or didn’t want to mess up your weekly practice journal? Did you end up writing it in your phone notepad, only to forget it? Or maybe you grabbed a nearby paper, only to lose it on your way home from the lesson?
Too many practice planners don’t account for the random thoughts that occur during lessons, or even during practice (that’s when I come up with most of my amazing ideas). The Efficient Musician Practice Planner takes care of that, giving you the tools to write down your intrusive thoughts, lesson notes, or reminders that may come up during your practice. No need to get up and search for a piece of scrap paper - you have everything at the tip of your fingers!
Phew! That was a long one...
In short, the Practice Planner is the perfect balance of structure and freedom, giving you all the tools you need to take control of your practice and make the most of it. Drawing inspiration from years of research and experimentation from a self-proclaimed planner nerd, you can trust the Efficient Musician Practice Planner to be your best friend on your musical journey.Give your practice the attention and structure it deserves, and grab the Practice Planner, while supplies last on this website. It’s time you took control of your practice and started focusing on what matters.