on routines

About once or twice a season I fall into a little funk. It’s nothing as serious as depression, but it’s definitely a listlessness, a desire to be lazy and do the bare minimum. Being self-employed and making my own schedule, this can seem mighty tempting. What would it matter if I took a Thursday afternoon to watch TV instead of getting some arranging done or approaching my second practice session? Can’t I just get back to it tomorrow when my brain’s rested?

And sometimes I give in, and take a nap on the couch with my kitties.

And sometimes I fight it. And I’ve been fighting it more and more lately, as I get better at routines.

In January of this year, I officially become solely self-employed. I had been working a part-time office assistant job, mostly from home, that took up about 3-4 hours on weekday afternoons. When that ended, I found myself facing whole days with seemingly nothing to do until my lessons in the evening. I know from years of experience that unlimited free time is a killer for me, and that I need to have some sort of a schedule to keep myself on task.

So I made a routine. Mornings after breakfast, I set aside an hour/hour and a half to warm-up and practice my trombone. On Tuesdays I would blog, regardless of whether I had much to say or not. Somedays I would read or do research on a musical topic, or do lesson preparation, other days I would arrange. I had it blocked off, but over time what I chose to do each day became more fluid and dependent on what was needed next. In the afternoon another hour of practice.

After 5pm, if there are no lessons to be taught, I allow myself to fully ‘clock out’ and relax.

And Friday and Saturday constitute my ‘weekend’.

Last week was tough. I really didn’t want to do much on trombone besides get through my warm-up, and sometimes even that was hard. I had things to arrange that have been on the master list for a long time, but instead I conjured up an entirely different project, and that consumed most of my week. There’s nothing wrong with mixing up the routine from time to time, but for me it can make it a lot difficult to get back on track.

This week feels different. Practicing this morning felt fresh and productive. I’ve arranged a tune, finished my other project, blogged, networked, done studio housekeeping. I’m not judging myself for my week of ‘meh’, but I am glad I pushed myself to keep to a routine throughout it, even if it was just the bare minimum.

Your routine might look different. The only thread that connects your days might be that you make your bed in the morning. Or you might do the same task or go to the same classes everyday. If you’re in my studio, I might ask that you do the same exercise everyday. I might be trying to get you to establish a routine, or I might genuinely want to see what a week of daily work on an exercise will do for you. I’m learning some of these things too, especially what makes my teaching effective over time. Start to think about what you do that anchors your days, and how it helps you improve musically.

It doesn’t have to be boring.

It could be totally freeing.

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