Take a deep breath… Exhale! It has been quite a time for me lately. The semester at the University of Miami came screaming to a close. I worked every day over the last two weeks of the semester, and only had one night at home to lick my wounds. During that time I had 4 student recitals and a solo performance of my own over a 4 day period. Can you say frantic? I knew you could (written in classic “Mr. Rogers”).
For my performance with the band, I played Excursions by Bruce Broughton. This proved to be an effective choice, and I recommend it to anyone looking for something to play with a band. This piece doesn’t have the sophistication of a piece like the Jolivet Concerto No. 2, but it works very well compared to other pieces for trumpet and large band. Plus, it isn’t nearly as difficult for the ensemble or soloist.
Once the semester finished in the first week of May, it was time to do some serious catching up with my responsibilities outside of work. The good news is I am now looking at 4 months of time to devote to whatever I see fit. Yeah, teaching in College is not half bad.
I look forward to a return to normalcy, and to resuming regular posts on this blog.
There’s no escaping it. It is always there, nipping at your heels, nagging at your conscience, trying to convince you that this time is different. You had it all planned out: what to practice, when to practice, that essential strength session at the end of the day. But now “something” has come up, telling you that today is different, that today is special, that this time you just can’t work according to your plan. “Tomorrow will be different,” the little voice in your head tells you. “It will be better. This will be done by tomorrow. This is something special.” And you know what? It’s right. Well, at least it’s half right. It is right in that this particular event may well be very special and may need to take priority today. But it isn’t totally forthcoming in telling you that tomorrow will be better, that all of these distractions will at last have passed you by. “Just wait until tomorrow,” the voice urges. “Tomorrow there will be no exceptions. It will go absolutely according to plan.” When you hear that phrase, you should be afraid, very afraid indeed.
You are likely wondering what this mysterious “something” could be. In reality, it could be anything: it could be a repair on your home or car, it could be an errand you have to run, a big project that you have to finish for school, a girlfriend’s birthday, a boyfriend’s party, a holiday, a big game, a chance to see an old friend, a chance to make a new one… In short, it could be any one of about a thousand things. But this “something” always has one trait: it always believes itself worthy of an exception or deviation to your original practice plan.
Life is full of unforeseen responsibilities or opportunities. It is full of things that you simply can’t miss. The problem comes, though, when you realize that there just isn’t enough time left over to fit in those long hours of practice that are required in order to have a successful career. If you always listen to and agree with that little voice that is telling you to change your plan just this once, then you will be changing it almost daily. In the end, you simply won’t be able to put in the time that is needed.
This doesn’t mean that you should always stick to your plan. Indeed, there are many times when something comes up that absolutely warrants a change in what you practice, or when. Sometimes the occasion is joyous, sometimes tragic; sometimes it is simply a matter of necessity. Whatever it is, it takes priority, and you simply must adjust your schedule. The magic word here is priority.
You must have a very clear idea of your priorities. You need to know what is absolutely pertinent and what is a passing whim. If you succumb to too many day-to-day desires then you won’t be able to maximize your potential. On the other hand, if you lock yourself in your practice room every day and do nothing but practice all day, then you won’t have any life experience to express through your music. It can be a tricky balance, and, in the end, you are the one that has to be comfortable with the decisions you have made; it is your life, after all. You will be the one that has to decide if it is more important to go out with your friends or get in that evening practice session. You must choose between giving your friends or family a helping hand, or staying home and lending your helping hand to your career. Sometimes you will be able to find a way to do both, other times you will not. Knowing what to do comes down to the priorities you have made for your life.
Sit down right now and make a list of priorities. List 5-10 things that are of the utmost importance in your life. The list should include things like: immediate family, extended family, boyfriend/girlfriend, school, job, trumpet, and other hobbies or interests. As best you can, order them in order of their importance to you. Warning: if you put trumpet ahead of important people on this list, you may want to rethink your priorities, or at the very least, keep the list to yourself! Now, take your list and estimate the amount of time per week you need to spend on each item in order to achieve your goals for that item. Make a second list based on these weekly time requirements. This list is your list of practical priorities. The items at the top of this list are the items you have the least flexibility with, simply because they are the ones that demand the most time. They may not be the things that you care the most about, but they are the things that will take the most consideration the next time something threatens to derail your daily plans. Try to maintain your schedule for the things on the top of this list, because they will be the things that will be the hardest to fit in later.
With these lists in hand, draw up a schedule for your week. First, put in anything that is required and has no flexibility, e.g. work, school, appointments, etc. Now, begin filling in the gaps. Start with the top thing on your list of practical priorities, schedule it in at the ideal times, and then proceed accordingly down the list. Once you have plotted times for every item on your list, you can fill in the rest of your schedule with other responsibilities and desires according to their importance.
In the end, these lists will help you think about what is really important in your life. They will help you create a schedule that will lead you to fulfilling all of your important goals. Of course, as we all know, life can be demanding in surprising ways. Always maintain the flexibility to be able to adapt your schedule to whatever curve ball life has thrown at you. It is these types of on-the-fly decisions that can greatly affect your overall productivity, for better or worse.
The next time that very important “something” comes careening into your life, think about your list of priorities and decide where it fits in. Decide if it is really as important as it seems, or if it is merely one more in an endless stream of self-important distractions. Look at it carefully. Weigh your options. Remember, it is always something — something standing between you and your dreams.