I get off on organizing things. I like bags with lots of little compartments in them. Sometimes, at the bookstore, I find myself browsing through books telling me how I could better organize my kitchen, or my linen closet.
As of yet, this mild obsession has not negatively impacted my life. In some cases, it actually helps.
But I also have to admit that even though I have completely organized drawers, I still put things in the wrong places.
And this same trait bleeds over into my guitar practice. I can be incredibly organized, but I’ll still find a way to have a disorganized practice.
But there is something I have found that helps.
What is the Pomodoro Technique?
In one of my web surfing binges reading about efficiency and time management, I ran across the Pomodoro technique. It is been an amazing tool in my daily practice.
It is ridiculously simple, but effective.
It’s called the Pomodoro technique because the Italian chap who came up with it was using a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato (Pomodoro in Italian).
It goes like this:
- Decide on what you will be working on.
- Set the timer for 25 minutes. Focus only on your task (s) for that 25 minutes.
- When the timer goes off, set it again for five minutes and take a break.
- After your five-minute break, set the timer for another 25 minutes and get back to work.
- After three or four of these cycles, take a break for 20 to 30 minutes.
You can go like this all day long and stay incredibly focused.
The Benefits of Working in Bursts
Of course, for guitar, we probably won’t have very many of these 25-minute sessions every day. But I have found that using it has some great benefits.
Perhaps the greatest benefit the Pomodoro has on guitar practice is that it forces us to decide specifically what we’re doing. If we only have 25 minutes, and then we’re going to take a break, then we had better make this 25 minutes count.
It’s easy to just start playing and go where our attention takes us. This is great occasionally, but if we are going to keep all the balls in the air (scales, sight-reading, multiple pieces, etc) then ideally we manage our time in some way.
If we look over our practice log or consult our practice notebook, and see that we have X number of things that it would be great to practice today, having to compare that list to our time available forces us to prioritize.
Taking regular breaks gives our brains time to assimilate what we have just learned. As I have written about elsewhere, our brains like beginnings and endings. Working in short sprints creates more of these, and we learn more deeply and reliably.
Good on the body
“Take care of that beautiful body!”
Guitar practice is physical. Standing up and moving around every 25 minutes or so helps us keep the blood flowing and the muscles loose. This is especially useful if you play with a footstool.
Encourages challenging ourselves
It also may encourage us to spend less time in our comfortable zones and actually show up to challenge ourselves a little more. More of the hard work equals better playing over the long term.
We can tell ourselves, “even if I don’t really enjoy XYZ, at least it’s only for a few minutes.”and then it’s done, and we feel great because we know that we practiced well and sacrificed some personal comfort in service of our greater skills and musical growth.
Announcing: Fabulous New Gizmo!
In case you haven’t seen them, there are these fabulous new gizmos called “smart phones”. Not only are they a phone, but they also include a timer! Yes, we truly live in the future. Grab whatever timer you like and turn on your laser focus!
How about you?
Do you have a special way you organize your practice? Let’s hear it in the comments below!