Have you ever heard Peter Drucker’s phrase, “What gets measured gets managed.”?
It’s absolutely true. And one way to apply this to your guitar practice is to regularly check-in and evaluate how your are doing.
This simple act of reflection acts as a powerful cue to our subconscious minds. This leads us to be more alert, more focused, and more on-task in our guitar practice. It also leads to more fun and enjoyment, in part because we see forward progress more easily.
Evaluating Your Guitar Practice
There are many different ways we can approach evaluating our guitar practice and our guitar playing.
Here are just a few things at which we could look:
- Speed (metronome markings of scales, pieces, arpeggios, anything else)
- Time (How much guitar practice did I do? on specific parts of my practice?)
- Progress (on learning pieces, memorizing chords and scale shapes, etc)
- Focus levels (How well did I notice when my mind wandered? How quickly was I able to re-focus? This is more subjective, but worth thinking about)
- Enjoyment levels (On a scale of 1-10, how much did I enjoy myself this week? What most?)
- Organization (Did I plan my guitar practice and stick to that plan? Did I note times, speeds, and observations in my practice notebook?)
Any personal goals, aspirations or desires we have can be regularly checked in on. And the bonus to doing this is that with every check-in, the likelihood of meeting those desires increases enormously.
In short, if we create the habit of holding ourselves answerable for our progress, we will progress more quickly.
The Mind Loves Questions
The simple act of asking a question sets off a whir of activity in our minds.
For instance, if I ask you the question, “How many different shades of blue can you notice today?”, your mind genuinely wants to come up with the answer. You may not get a final number, but you will notice more blue things in your world.
I have written elsewhere about asking great questions in our guitar practice in order to practice more creatively.
We can also ask some very specific and detailed questions about the way we work, how we focus, and what we get done in our guitar practice.
We can ask these questions each week, month, quarter, year, etc. I suggest weekly for a start.
Good Check-In Questions for Your Guitar Practice
To craft your weekly check-in questions, first decide on what you want. Ideally, you use your check-in as an opportunity to instill and/or reinforce good guitar practice habits. Be sure to include questions that pertain to the following:
- Enjoyment, pleasure, fun
- Different sections of guitar practice (specific techniques, pieces, playing through repertoire)
- Documentation (writing down metronome markings, progress on new pieces, etc)
- Any specific challenges you have that “get you juiced” (like memorizing a new piece for a special occasion)
- Ask for ideas on how to do better at something next week
- Ask for specific goals for the next week (write these someplace you can see them in your guitar practice.)
Remember, this is a conversation you are having with yourself, so be honest and gentle with yourself. Make realistic expectations and forgive yourself if you have a hard week. (It happens to the best of us!) You can always pick it back up next week.
The Right Tools for the Job
Of course there are many different ways of checking in, and there are no wrong ways, so long as it gets done. I have students that bring a completed personal evaluation form to lessons each week. It’s not so much for me to see, as it is a reminder for them on any questions they had, and to share breakthroughs and exciting revelations.
My Preferred Method
One way I personally use to remember to actually do the check-in process is by using a Google form that I email to myself, scheduled to be delivered every Sunday night. This is a 100% mandatory part of my Sunday night. It’s a nice way to bring the weekend to a close and get me excited about the upcoming week. I may have to admit to things I would rather ignore (like slacking off, or ignoring some aspect of my guitar practice), but it serves to refocus me and start anew on Monday morning. Here’s how to set it up:
How to Create a Check-In Email Form to Evaluate Your Guitar Practice
Get Gmail. If you don’t use Gmail for your email, you can forward your weekly check-in form to your primary email. However, you will have to use the Gmail interface to send the check-in back to your self next week (or whenever).
Alternately, you can research “send later” options for your existing email server instead of using Boomerang For Gmail.
Go to http://www.forms.google.com. From here you will be able to create a new form.
Enter your check-in questions into the form, and choose the type of answer you will offer yourself (yes/no, multiple choice, 1-10, etc). Click here for sample questions and other guitar practice evaluation resources.
Send the form to your Gmail address. (The “send” button is in the top right of the form page.)
Click the big red button that says “Add this to your Gmail”.
Follow any instructions that you’re offered.
Go to your Gmail inbox. You should see the form you just sent yourself.
Answer all the questions, and hit “submit”. You will be taken to another page. You can close this page out and return to the open Gmail window.
Click on the Boomerang icon in the Gmail top menu bar.
A window will drop down asking when you would like the email to return. Choose a time (I suggest making it the same day and time each week.)
Most Important: When your check-in form returns next week, fill it out without fail (even if you don’t feel like or don’t want to answer because you slacked off) and Boomerang it back to yourself.
If you fail to do this, you won’t get it next week, and it gets buried in your inbox.
Choose One and Get Started
Whether you use the Gmail/Boomerang/GoogleForms solution, or just print off a check-in page, the most important part for your guitar practice is that you actually do it.
So however you decide, start right away. Otherwise you might not remember to start at all! (You could also create a check-in to evaluate how you are doing with your check-ins…..)
How About You?
Have you ever had any part of your life (work, relationship, hobby, other) that you benefited from regularly checking in and evaluating how it was going? Leave your answer in the comments!