Struggling to find time for your piano practice routine? 10 practical tips!
If there is one thing almost all beginner adult piano students struggle with, it is finding time for their daily piano practice routine.
When you start learning an instrument, regular practice becomes a new daily reality – and a new daily challenge! Because let's face it, finding the time to practice each day can be difficult.
What follows are practical suggestions you can use to set aside the time you need to create a regular practice regime.
The key to my advice is simple: to find time for practice, you need to make the time.
It's important to realise that you won’t magically find the necessary time (or motivation) to practise, just because you engaged a teacher or bought a piano.
Every day, life will throw things your way that will make you want to shirk the responsibility to practise, and procrastinate instead.
But that doesn’t bring you any closer to your goal of becoming a competent pianist!
So, we’re going to have to get tough and real, and really think about our priorities!
Still with me? Great!
Let’s go through some practical strategies for making piano practice a part of your daily life.
Setting up your piano practice routine
First up, let’s start by agreeing that piano practice is a non-urgent, important priority using the Eisenhower Matrix. (Google this if you don’t know what this is!). You want to have a clear idea of the level of priority you should give your practice. If you DON’T prioritise correctly, NONE of the below is going to help you!
Secondly, let’s also put a clear time limit on your practice sessions. If you’ve never practiced consistently before, I recommend 10-15 minutes to start with in the first month, and increase that time by 5 minutes for each following month until you hit anywhere between 30-45 minutes. That should suffice for many years of learning!
Now that you have decided to prioritise your practice and how long you’re going to be practicing for, let’s look at some strategies to incorporate and set up your practice routine.
Tip #1: Analyse how you fill your days.
I highly recommend keeping track of what you do day to day for at least a week. You might want to note down what you do hour by hour so you can get a real good sense of how you fill your day.
Can you find some time each day for a 15 minute practise session? Often, the answer is yes, because you will have many moments doing low priority, low urgency things that could have been replaced with practice.
Ideally, see if you can find days/times that are consistent week to week that you can fill with practice time moving forward.
Tip #2 - Adjust other activities
Perhaps you really are SO busy that you simply cannot find a free 15 mins. No need to panic! The next step is working out whether you can adjust some of your other activities.
For instance, do you really need to spend 45 minutes cooking dinner? Why not invest in a good 15-minute meal cookbook you can use 4 or 5 times a week? There are TONS of those available with easy, healthy family meals you can whip up in 15 to 20 mins. That’s 15-30 mins saved you can use for practice instead!
Tip #3 - Don’t overschedule yourself
Obviously, if you start 3 hobbies at the same time, you might struggle to find time for it all. So think hard before you take on the next hobby. Will this interfere with my practice? Is it really a higher priority than my piano practice?
If the answer is YES, you might want to think about how much you still want to become a pianist. Because NO ONE can do it ALL. It’s about prioritising what matters to us.
Tip #4 - Ask for help
Can you ask your partner/housemates for help with certain chores to free up some of your time? This is particularly relevant for those people who tend to take on the majority of the housework.
Often, asking for help can make a huge difference to your daily time allocations.
It’s not easy to ask for help, especially if you feel you will be burdening your partner with more work. But remember, it’s not just about you not wanting to do a certain task, it’s about requesting help in one area of life to succeed in another, namely fulfilling your dream of becoming a pianist.
Tip #5 - Practise at / on the way to work
A lot of time is wasted in commuting. If you commute by public transport, why not use that time to listen to a recording of your pieces, do some ear training or read up on your favourite composer.
Take your score to work and spend 10 minutes during your lunch break singing the melody, analysing the piece or tapping the rhythms. That way, when you get home that night, you can focus on the physical act of playing.
If you work from home, can you spare some time during the day to practice? Perhaps use some time during your lunch break to head over to the piano.
Tip #6 - Get real about motivation
If you wait for motivation to strike before you practice, you’re NEVER going to practice.
Motivation comes from doing!
Set up a schedule, and practice even if you don’t feel like it. Or do you really think professional musicians WANT To practice every single day? I can assure you they have many days where they would rather do other things too!
Tip #7 - Schedule and communicate!
Like I mentioned in the previous tip, you have got to schedule your practice in advance.
Don’t forget to communicate to your household when you’ll be practicing, so they can give you the time and space to do so in peace.
Perhaps your partner can look after the kids for 15 minutes, or your housemates can refrain from playing loud music. Remind them it’s only 15 minutes after all!
Tip #8 - Stack your habits!
If scheduling and relying on your sense of discipline isn’t helping you establish practice as your new daily habit, a great way to build that habit is to chain habits.
Chaining habits is a known productivity hack whereby you link a new habit to an old one.
For instance: say, each day as you come home from work, you head straight for the shower and get changed out of your office clothes. To create a new habit for piano, perhaps you can change up your routine by first revising your practice journal from the previous day and jotting down your practice task of the day, BEFORE heading to the shower and your dresser. After getting changed, head to the piano and take 5 minute to practice your daily task.
Yes, this will result in ‘only’ 5 minutes of practice, but remember, we are trying to build HABIT of going to the piano first and foremost. So work in small chunks of time. Nothing stops you from spreading multiple 5 minute chunks throughout the evening, by linking them to other activities (brushed your teeth? Go to the piano for 5 minutes)
Tip #9 - Start small
This tip goes hand in hand with the previous one, and that is to try and establish the habit of going to the piano at a certain time of the day FIRST, before you try and lengthen the time spent at the piano.
Don’t schedule or expect to practise an hour each day. That’s a very high commitment and very, VERY few people are able to pull that off. You’ll probably just feel overwhelmed.
Tip #10 - Practice SMART and TRACK!
Finally, one great way to ensure your practice happens regularly, is to be crystal clear about what you want to achieve each session, and keep track of what you do and whether you accomplish it.
Start a practice diary, either a paper one you write in OR use an app to track your practice. (my studio uses Better Practice).
You can also check out my blog post on how to track practice here and download my free practice planner.
If you follow these tips, I'm sure you'll find not only the time for practice, but you'll be able to create a routine that works for you and your family!
Now, what are you still doing here? Go practice! 😉