For a couple months straight, I’ve found myself with NO time to play guitar. Between my full-time job, this blog, and all of life’s other priorities I’ve found myself with zero time to pick up my axe, much less set down and get a proper practice session in. Kind of ironic in light of my other post about beating procrastination and drudgery.
So I decided to blast an email out to those of you on my email list and ask how you find time to practice. I got a lot of amazing responses, and I thank all who responded for giving me the kick-in-the-butt I’ve needed. I got permission to publish some of your responses in this blog post, so that others can also benefit from all this great advice.
Let the tough love begin!
Your Advice to Me
- You make time. That’s all there is to it. You have to find the time in a busy work schedule: during lunch, breaks, before work, or after work (if you have your own office).
- Get the kids into playing guitar too so you can have some time with the kids and get in your own practice time too.
- Get up half an hour, or an hour earlier in the day to have your practice time before the family wakes up.
- Conversely, before you go to bed at night take the time to get some practice time in. The wife may not like it, but…
The choice is really yours. You have to schedule in the time to practice wherever you can squeeze it in.
I make time. Anything important to you, you have to make time for. While watching the news 6pm – 7pm, I sit in my recliner and practice a bit. No amp, just going over theory or a lick or two. I make it a point to have my guitar-in-hand when the news comes on. I also use it as a way to calm down from work. Like you, I work M-F, 7:30am – 5pm, in Information Technology.
On the weekends, Sunday is laundry day. So, between loads, I practice with my amp before lessons on Monday.
I don’t have kids. Doesn’t mean I have more or less time–I just don’t have those extra curricular activities. I’m married though, and have stuff to do (honey-do) and bills, lawn, cars–same as every one else.
I’ve given myself a few self-imposed rules and I think these help:
- I pick up the guitar at least once a day – no matter how late it is and even if it’s only for 5 minutes – before going to bed. Often when I’ve gone to it feeling just too tired, the moment I start playing my enthusiasm wakes me up and I do more than the minimum time I first expected
- My guitars are all on open stands – none live in their case. This means that I can grab one at any time – again even if it’s just for a few minutes. So I often find if I’m waiting on something in the house I pick up a guitar and have a go.
- If a session is going to be a decent length, I use online courses and follow them lesson by lesson, rather than jump about to find the bits of interest. This keeps me ‘honest’ and puts some measure into my practice. By being able to measure what I do, I see progress. And that’s the best spur for me to keep going, and makes me eager to get back to the course as soon as I can. It fuels my passion for the instrument. I apply the same rules to learning songs. I pick stuff I really like. So getting it off to a decent level is much more satisfying than trying to learn a song from a book, specified by someone unknown, that just isn’t for me
- I think this is the ‘big one’ for me, and I’m not sure it answers your question but here goes. I’m entirely self-taught. I was in my teens, and I still am. In my teens I simply didn’t have the discipline to progress with an instrument. And I think that’s why I never got that far, and put it down for so long. When I picked it up again about a year ago, the discipline was there, along with an undiscovered 30+ years of ‘really wanting to do it’. So no matter how busy a day, I will ALWAYS make time for the guitar. Whether it’s between customers, while my wife is bathing our son, waiting to leave for the school run – now I pick up a guitar rather than veg in front of the TV.
Well my daily schedule is really busy with studio recordings and band practices and also family time. But, through all those i usually keep the guitar with me while recording songs, also I do my exercises. While spending time with family I play some because they love to hear me play..but my most free and effective guitar exercising time is midnight after 1 or 2.
I have time between last dog walk and before the dishes. I am working on new music and I put my PC and phone on charge and get 35 – 45 minutes an evening. When I am lucky enough I can fit an extra hour of practice when the family has left for the day!!
My wife and I get up at 5:30am each day of the work week. She leaves for work at 6am. I do chores until 6:30am & practice for an hour until I have to to work. Try to play some in the evening if I can, but most is done in the mornings.
All through my life I have always set aside at least an hour a day as a time of reflection (and practice), come hell or high water. There was no arguing with that. Anyone that came through my life knew that–they either accepted it or they didn’t. I mean, what the f**k. 1/24th of you day devoted to yourself is just a drop in the bucket in the giant scheme of things. You come out of your day a better person.
I’m working for a tech startup which is a very time intensive job. I am the primary caretaker for my father who is dealing with advanced Alzheimer’s. Then there’s my wife, kids and the rest of the family. So what can I do with so many priorities?
I make playing my guitar a priority.
It takes work and commitment, but you can make it work. For me, guitar playing is my primary stress release for all that is going on in my life, both good and bad. I have developed sleep issues since my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s almost four years ago. Playing my guitar helps me clear my mind and helps me sleep. In addition, I am a songwriter and I use that as a method for coping with this difficult situation. Finally, am I at risk of this horrible disease? I don’t know. So I challenge my mind to learn new things to keep it healthy. Learning difficult, chords, scales and even taking up slide are things I look at as tools to keep my mind in good health.
So my answer is playing guitar is one of my priorities. Finding the time? Well, I never sit and watch TV without having my guitar with me. I started doing that years ago. If I only get 10 or 15 minutes, I take them. And, I don’t let the brevity of my windows for playing frustrate me. They all add up because I am mentally and spiritually committed to my playing. That’s my method. Results may vary, so play anyway you can.
It’s difficult to find time to practice guitar with responsibilities around. I have a school-going kid and it’s mostly my responsibility to make him study or at least be with him when he is doing his school work. But I do, quite literally, squeeze in time for my six strings.
I’ve started getting up early rather than practicing at night with a tired mind. I found it more invigorating, so now I start my mornings with my guitar. I have made it a point to never go a day without practicing. I make sure to make it a priority and mostly practice after my morning walk as well because that’s the time I can give 100% to my practice. So, in a nutshell, there goes not a day when I do not play my guitar. Having said that, still there’s a long way to go. You can also practice while you have 10mins waiting for someone to get ready or you need a break from some office work.
I know how hard it is to make time when you’ve got so many other responsibilities, so I’ve learnt to look for those hidden minutes:
- Instead of hitting snooze on my alarm, I get up and use that extra time to practise (of course that only works if the other people in your house don’t object!)
- I don’t rush after cooking to wash the dishes and clean up the kitchen, I grab a little time to play my guitar (they’re still going to be there in 20 minutes!) • I will sit in my kitchen and play whilst I’m waiting for something to cook, or a load of laundry to finish.
- Sometimes I take my guitar with me when I go to visit my family and play whilst I’m with them.
- Despite my long suffering boyfriend’s protests, I have been known to put the subtitles on television programs and watch them whilst playing (I love multi-tasking!)
- Even when I’m on my laptop chatting to friends on Facebook/Twitter etc, I keep my guitar by the side of me and pick it up to play whilst waiting for them to reply.
- I know not everybody has guitar lessons but having that fixed point in my week acts as a constant reminder that I should try to practise (otherwise I’ll stuck learning the same song for several weeks which I find very frustrating as I have a constantly growing list of songs I want to learn!)
I’ll find myself playing while sitting on the couch and the rest of the family is watching TV. Or, I’ll bring the acoustic outside while watching the kids play. One of the best times is whenever my youngest child was taking a bath, I started a habit of either playing my guitar in the bathroom there with him (while I watched him) or I would be doing a chronological read-through-the-Bible series at the same time. I’d play my guitar while watching him play in the water.
For consistency-sake, I suppose I play in my church’s worship team at least every Sunday–so there is that. This helps keep me consistent and used to playing in front of crowds and lots of other people.
So, I’ll play just about anywhere and do my best to bring a guitar with me if I can. I’ve even thought about bringing a guitar with me to work and playing on my lunch break when there is no other time to do so in my day!! (And I got two jobs currently!)
Summary – My Big Takeaways
Again, thank you so much to all who responded–including all those whose emails weren’t expressly featured in this blog post. You all are amazing, and I love hearing from you. The biggest takeaways that I got from your advice was:
- You’ve simply got to make time. No excuses. If playing guitar is important to you, you should make time and schedule it as part of your day–just like anything else that’s truly important to you.
- Find creative ways to “squeeze in” practice wherever possible. This could mean getting up a little earlier and practicing in the morning, practicing over lunch break, or using little 10 – 15 minute windows of time to squeeze in a few scales or licks here and there.
- If you’ve got time for TV, then you’ve got time for guitar. Instead of watching TV, play guitar instead or play guitar while watching TV if necessary.
How do YOU find time to practice guitar? Please let me know in the comments section down below. I’d love to hear how you juggle life’s priorities and still make time to play guitar.