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How do you make time for lessons/practice when your life gets crazy busy?

That was the recent Facebook post.

A number of people responded to suggest getting up an hour earlier each day. We all know people who get up early to run or go to the gym or walk the dog. I’m guessing the early morning people have already scheduled their piano practice accordingly. For students who are still working and raising children (like the person who posted the question), I’ll venture to guess waking the kids up extra early may not be a magic bullet.

A teacher’s response was to commit to the same exact time of day, every day so that piano could become a daily ritual. I found that worked perfectly for me throughout childhood, and works for children in general. If a busy working mom is posing this question, I’m going to venture to guess this is not going to be a workable solution. She's surely already considered this option and it’s just not panning out.

Another teacher suggested never letting a day pass without practicing the piano. This teacher needs a reminder to "Read the Question Carefully."

I’m a practical person. Life makes demands of us, frequently handing us assignments we never asked for or anticipated. I’ll list some real-life experiences from my own students as reported over the last few weeks:

  • Managing the affairs of a feisty elderly aunt who has no other living relatives.

  • Traveling regularly to take care of a mother-in-law, who lives out of state, and continues to enjoy living alone, age 96.

  • Busy executive, mentally practices in his office between clients whenever he can -- too tired when he gets home after the long commute or business travel.

  • Mother of three, practicing nurse, military wife -- still manages to find whatever time she can, whenever she can. Just received word they’re moving again.

  • Medical concerns for students or family members …. appointments, medications with side effects, hospital stays, etc.

  • On a more positive note: travel, post-Covid vaccinations!

In the words of Frank Sinatra, That’s Life.

It can be messy and unpredictable -- and wonderfully exciting --- all at the same time. My opinion is that it’s best to find what works for YOU. Are you an early morning person who might enjoy practicing with your morning coffee? Do you have kids but work from home so that lunchtime might be an option for practice? Do you have a baby or toddlers at home? Grabbing five minutes here and there, and slowly checking items off your piano practice “task list” will likely be the best approach for you. Are you a night owl (who lives alone)? Beats the late-night news, for sure. Are weekends your only option? That’s ok. You have to find what can work for you and just settle your mind to being content, knowing you’re doing the best you can.

Try to set realistic goals so you can feel a sense of accomplishment rather than setting goals that are unattainable. If you can only get to the piano once or twice a week, that’s ok. It’s a start. Keep your practice plan close at hand and practice mindfully.

Enjoy every moment because this is a big part of what it means to “play the piano.” It’s the work, as much as it is the playing. No matter how much or how little time you have, be present, listen closely, observe yourself and your music. Try not to rush through things even when time is limited. Perhaps you’ll do “less” but don’t sacrifice the moment to rushing. Listen closely and make the most of every moment you do have.

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