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The Importance of Mastering One Thing At a Time

Most of us have a list in our heads of things we want to improve on.

I want to eat healthier, lift more at the gym, get better at marketing, and even just within the world of musical instruments, I’d like to get better at guitar, bass guitar, keyboard, and drums.

I often find myself committing to focusing on certain goals. I’ll be consistent for a short period of time, but then fall back on my old habits. It’s hard making permanent changes in habit.

If you’re trying to get good at too many things, it’s hard to get great at any of them.

To create long-term habits, you have figure out how to be consistent. I know that seems overly obvious and simplistic, but how can we do that?

Research shows that you are 2-3 times more likely to stick with your habits if you make a specific plan for when, where, and how you will perform the behavior.

When it comes to practicing guitar, our goal should be to come up with a consistent plan where we state the time and place to practice.  For example,“During the next month, I will practice guitar at 8:00 pm for at least 20 minutes in my bedroom”.

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Research also shows that writing this down and putting it on a calendar greatly increases the likelihood you’ll stick with the schedule. I prefer using actual paper and a physical calendar for this type of thing, compared to using an app on your phone. We typically have too many apps on our phone, and too many things fighting for our attention. It’s too easy to just ignore the app and never complete the task.

This simple technique has been shown to greatly increase the odds that people will stick with things such as exercising, stopping smoking, and studying.

The other key to this is to focus on one specific goal at a time.

Research also shows that people who try to use this technique for multiple goals at a time (such saying “I’m going to practice guitar an hour a day, exercise a half hour a day, drink 8 glasses of water every day, and write an hour a day”) ended up being less committed – and do not have the same likelihood of succeeding.

When you try to start a new habit, it takes conscious effort to remember to do it. We all have a lot of different things going in our lives. If you try to do too many new things consistently, you typically end up getting overwhelmed and don’t do any of them.

After a while though, you develop a pattern, and doing the task you set out to do becomes easier and easier. It eventually becomes mindless; you just do it.

When you begin practicing a new habit it requires a lot of conscious effort to remember to do it. After awhile, however, the pattern of behavior becomes easier. Eventually, your new habit becomes a normal routine and the process is more or less mindless and automatic.

This only occurs as the result of lots of repetition and practice.

When you start, you need to put in a conscious effort to do the task (in our case, practicing guitar). After around 30 days, the habit becomes pretty routine. After 60 days, the process becomes automatic. Multiple studies have shown that it takes an average of 66 days for a habit to become automatic, but it can often be much faster than that.

In summary, the best way to make positive changes in your life if not by changing many parts of your life at the same time. It is focusing on one specific habit, and working on it until you master it.

Keep focused in the practice room.