Strategic Practicing: The Pomodoro Technique

After reading a post from The Crossfit Musician, I decided to try the Pomodoro Technique in attempts to make practicing more efficient. The Pomodoro Technique is a form of time management using intervals consisting of 25 minutes worth of work and 5 minutes of rest. Yesterday I used this technique to section my practicing into workable chunks.

Although I have not employed the method long enough to determine if I am satisfied with the results, I do see some ways in which this practicing strategy will be very helpful to my lifestyle. For one, since I am quite busy during the school year, the best way for me to practice is to make it a routine. For example, I try to devote large, “free” chunks of time in-between classes to practice. Over the past year, I found that if I don’t make these times regular enough, I’ll often put practicing off for more “urgent” obligations, such as homework, for example. (It’s not that practicing is any less important, but let’s face it–the only real “due dates” are performances.)

Since these “chunks” are fixed time periods, I have no choice but to aim to accomplish my practicing goals in the time given. Practicing for hours and hours on end simply doesn’t work for my schedule. Therefore, dividing my practice into sections also helps me to cover more material instead of being imbalanced. For instance, I often go into the practice room and get overly focused on my solo repertoire, only to realize that I still haven’t ironed out sections in orchestral literature, etc.

After using the technique yesterday, however, I realized that dividing up my time without setting goals first is futile. Therefore, I plan to not only decide that I am working on a certain passage for the 25 minutes, but also to take the time to determine my goals within that passage before I start playing through it. (That was a “duh!” moment for me after I finished practicing. It happens.)

A feature of this method that I may modify in the future is its time blocks. Ironically, I feel that they are still a bit too long–I tend to get unfocused in the meantime. Resting for 5 minutes after each 25 min break is perfect because it gives me a chance to sit down, look at the music, and think through my practice strategies before I start sawing away. However, instead of adding more breaks in between, I would probably practice more effectively by dividing the 25 minute intervals into smaller ones, each one focused on a particular goal. For example, I may spend 5 minutes improving shifting and bringing it up to speed, and after four more 5-minute blocks of different focus points, then I would take a rest.

I will continue to let you know how that goes, and I would like to give the method a thorough trial for the rest of this month.

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