Recently, I started to practice with Pomodoro technique. Sometimes I think I practice just because I feel obligated to spend “time” on the drums. “OK I’m going to practice for the next hour – Damn It”. So I flip open some of the Method Books On My Music Stand and play through various exercises at semi-challenging tempos until the hour is up. Or I spend most of the time practicing the first few exercises that I end up skipping or skimming over the rest. Sound familiar? Well recently I heard about the Pomodoro Technique. Here is a brief explanation from Wikipedia:
The Pomodoro Technique:
It is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. These intervals are known as “pomodori”. The method is based on the idea that frequent breaks can improve mental agility. There are five basic steps to implementing the technique:
- Decide on the task to be done
- Set the pomodoro timer to n minutes (traditionally 25)
- Work on the task until the timer rings
- Take a short break (3-5 minutes)
- Every four pomodori take a longer break (15–30 minutes)
So what I now started to do is “plan” what I am going to practice for each of the “Pomodori” and for how long and at what tempo. I just use the stopwatch app on my smartphone. When the allotted time is up, I stop and take a brief break (if it has been 25 minutes) or move onto the next activity. I don’t keep a complicated spreadsheet or anything. I just write ideas down in a notebook. Usually during each session I will list what I want (need) to work on the next time I practice. By making a “plan” and practice with Pomodoro technique, I can focus and have objectives for each practice session. I now feel more productive and have been enjoying my “time” spent in the practice room.
Don’t Always Start at the Beginning
You need to mix-up your practice routine to make progress. I am reminded of the story about the guy hired to paint lines on the road. The first week he painted 6 miles. The second week 4 miles. The third week 2 miles. And the fourth week only 1 mile. His supervisor called him in and asked why his productivity was going down. The guy replied: “That’s because I have to keep walking all the way back to the paint bucket”.
Too often I practice that way. I always start at the beginning of a piece or with exercise #1. If I want to warm up with the Stone Stick Control I practice 1 – 72 (in that order). If I want to work out a Latin groove I will play through the Reed Syncopation exercises 1 – 8 (in that order). Why? I’m just like the guy painting the lines on the road. If I struggle with exercise #16, I don’t have to play 1 – 15 to get there.
Mix up your practice routine. What you usually would do at the end of a session do at the beginning of the next session. Play the exercises in reverse order. The point is: MOVE THE BUCKET! And just like the guy painting the lines on the road, you will make better progress and be more productive.