Whether you’ve been looking forward to September for a while or are still in denial that it’s here, there’s no denying that back-to-school season means a big change of pace for many people. Our lives are suddenly more routine-ful and our schedules busier; we have more commitments, more homework, and perhaps longer work hours; and, it often feels, less time.
If you haven’t already, now is a good time to give some thought to your back-to-school routine so you don’t feel overwhelmed by all the additional things that are suddenly in your schedule. At the very least, establishing a sustainable schedule for basic things like sleeping, eating, and homework will help you to fall into a comfortable rhythm much more quickly.
It’s also a good time to think about your back-to-school practicing routine! Maybe you kept a good practice routine over the summer, or maybe you took a break from singing; no matter what, your practice routine is probably going to look different now than it has over the past two months.
My practice routine! you think. That’s pretty much the last thing on my mind with everything else I’ve got going on right now.
Maybe so. However, it would behoove you to think about it now, rather than wait until all the other aspects of your life settle down. Why?
The longer you wait to establish a practice routine, the harder it is going to be. Think about it – you make a schedule for everything else in your life, and the hours fill up. Two or three weeks go by, and when you try to add something else in, there’s all of a sudden no time for it. You try a few times, but you’re so busy that practicing always feels like an afterthought, that thing you don’t really have time for. Oh well, you think. I guess I don’t have time for practicing after all. Maybe I should put my voice lessons on hold.
Noooo! Don’t do that!
Okay, fair enough, you say. But I don’t know where to start!
First, start incorporating practicing into your weekly routine as soon as possible. Even if you don’t have any lessons scheduled yet. If you’re really busy these first couple weeks and can only swing 3-4 short practice sessions a week, that’s definitely better than nothing, and is enough to brush up on your skills before your lessons begin.
If you’re struggling to feel motivated, take some time to think about what your goals are. Why did you decide to take lessons in the first place? What accomplishments do you feel good about from last year? What are you hoping to accomplish this year? Think about something you can address with your teacher, even if it’s just a question you have or something you’re curious about – as long as it motivates you. Having some kind of concrete goal in mind will give you something to focus on in your practicing.
Get back to your lessons as soon as possible. This will motivate you to practice more and get into a groove more quickly. If you wait until mid-to-late September (or later) to reach out to your teacher, her schedule might be full and it may take another week or two to book a lesson. Even if you do manage to book a time right away, keep in mind that it will take 2-3 lessons to really get the momentum going again. Do you really want it to be mid-October – at which point the semester is already half over – before that happens?
Once You’ve Started…
Devise a reasonable schedule for yourself. It’s good to be ambitious, but be careful not to bite off more than you can chew. If you set your sights too high, you could start to feel overwhelmed or burned out. Make sure your goals are realistic and attainable.
Stick to your schedule as best you can. Good habits can only be built with consistency. Sure, there are times when you will fall off the wagon, but if that happens, get right back on. Don’t use one “failure” as an excuse to stop altogether. Cut yourself some slack, and re-focus on your goals.
Plan ahead. I’m talking weeks and, if possible, months in advance. If you know, for example, that your school musical rehearsal schedule will eat up most weekday afternoons starting in November, make sure you are communicating with your teacher well enough ahead of time about a schedule change for your lessons, and adjusting your practicing routine. If you do not give this some thought ahead of time, it will be very hard for everyone to adjust once it creeps up on you, and you will suddenly be “too busy” for voice lessons. NEWS FLASH: you are not too busy. You just didn’t plan ahead, and now you feel overwhelmed.
Stay healthy. This means getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, drinking lots of water, exercising regularly, and preventing sickness inasmuch as you are able. Remember to be mindful of your mental health too. Give yourself time to decompress, especially when you’re really busy, and try not to fall into negative thinking.
Back-to-school season can feel overwhelming, but just remember: stay focused on your goals, and be disciplined but realistic with your schedule. Just keep truckin’, and it will be Christmas break before you know it!