Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Practice Tips Series - Planning When to Practice

So, you intend to practice more. That's great. Next up, you gotta plan. Oh man! Not that! No, seriously, you do have to plan. Raise your hand if you've ever made that promise to practice more, say, 3 times a week, and then a whole week goes by and you haven't practiced once... OR... you've started your practice and didn't know what to do. That all takes planning. This entry will only cover planning your when to practice. The "what" will be covered in a separate entry.

Look at a Typical Week
Chances are, you have some typical weeks where you know that you generally have XX on Tuesday and YY and Thursday. Or whatever your typical activities are. Which days have an opportunity for you to practice? You don't have to pick all days that are available... you just know that they are a possibility. And if you don't have a typical week as things are often in flux, that makes it harder but not impossible to plan.

Be Realistic About Your Time
While you're assessing your typical week, you should also have an honest discussion with yourself over how many times in a (typical) week you can realistically practice. For example, if you are busy 3 nights a week, setting a goal of practicing 5-6 times a week may be too much. You'll need to allow yourself some time to just relax or else you'll, yes, fill all your time with dancing but then you'll get burned on it... and that's much worse than doing fewer practices but keep at it.

Set a Regular Schedule
This will help with consistency. If you can pinpoint some days when you DEFINITELY don't have anything routinely that day, then you may want to plant the idea that these are mandatory practice days. For example, I'm taking a break from teaching classes for now and have definitely nothing Mondays (or very rarely do) and 3 out of 4 Tuesdays are completely free. So Mondays and Tuesdays are days that I've scheduled as mandatory practice days.

The idea here is creating a habit. The more you can create this pattern of you just dance on these days, the easier it will be to just get up and dance. It's really habit that will fuel your willpower to just do it. And the more you can create consistency, the easier it is. If you think vaguely of practicing XX number of times per week but don't set a regular schedule, you'll forget or pretend to forget that you need to do it. It's real easy to let it slip if you don't have a regular schedule. So help yourself by creating a habit.

Respect Your Body
So while you love the idea of practicing like 3 days in a row, your body hates you for it. Well, you just may need a recovery day in-between practice sessions. There is no point in forcing your body to do more than it can do. Again, it goes with being realistic and, if you get too tired from practicing, you will stop doing it altogether and that's not good.

Some food for thought on that, though. You do want to gain stamina so pushing your body isn't necessarily a bad idea... within reason. The good thing about belly dancing is that there is quite a vast array of dance moves that you can practice/drill so you can mix it up. So your upper back is hurting because you drilled a whole bunch of chest circles, well maybe you can work more heavily on hips today. Or you could do one day more focused on drilling, the next day more focused on just dancing, improv, and/or choreographing, and the next day be drilling again. There IS flexibility. And, yes, that may require some different planning (again, will be tackled in a different entry).

Look at the Upcoming Week
The next week may be a typical week... or it may not. If it's not, and it's a busier than normal week, you'll need to work with it. There is no point in pretending it's anything but what it is. This goes also with being realistic about your time, right? So maybe this week, you won't be able to do your 3 times a week that you wanted because you are super busy and going out of town this weekend. Don't fret. How many can you do? Hopefully you can hit at least one of your normally scheduled days. And if you normally dance for like an hour at a time, can you swing a shorter time but more sessions? Try as much as possible to squeeze in at least one practice session, even if only a short one because we want to keep that idea, that habit of practicing regularly.

Now if it's a case of your week has more time in it than it normally would, see if you can't squeeze in an extra practice session. But be kind to yourself: when you have more time, you CAN use it to decompress and relax. You do need that too. But, yanno, if you can squeeze in a bit more, try to do it.

Be Careful about the All or Nothing Scenario
It's a very human tendency so don't beat yourself up for it but be mindful of it. You may go down the road of thinking that, if you can't practice 6 times a week, then there's no point. That is completely untrue. ANY practice time will be beneficial. And, yanno, actually too much isn't good either as you do need some rest and you need to not get burned on dancing to keep dancing.

Also, if you missed your first practice time of the week, that doesn't mean that the week is * beep *. It just means that you didn't practice that day. Don't beat yourself up. Just practice whenever you were scheduled next or if you can make it up another day, do it. In my weight loss journey, one thing that Weight Watchers did for me that was awesome was take care of the guilt of having messed up. Well, it's hard to mess up royally with Weight Watchers but not impossible. What they tell you is that, if you messed up, you get to get back on track at the next meal... you don't even have to wait a full day or a full week. Same here.

Make a Date With Yourself
This sounds silly but comes via The Artist's Way book (kind of a good read but it gets tedious after a while... good food for thought in the beginning): make a date with yourself to practice. Or if you've ever heard or done the Covey "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" workshop (I think that they're up to 8 habits now?): honor your commitments... (addition from me here:) even those with yourself. So you said that you'd practice on Monday and Tuesday nights. DO IT. You'll feel so much better after you've done it. It's a much better feeling than thinking that you should have practiced but didn't... but maybe you can make up for it now... but you don't want to. Know that song and dance? And it will be real easy to get tempted by other things. Those other things can wait. You owe it to yourself to take that time for yourself. Be selfish here. Protect that time even from yourself. ;)

This also may sound silly since you're all grown up and all. But, yanno, we're still kids at heart (again, you can read about that in The Artist's Way book). And visuals work GREAT for simple rewards that will make you feel good about the work you've done. How about you get a wall calendar (they must be on sale now) and put it up in your dance space (or somewhere else). You can go to the dollar store or some other store and get stickers. You can write on each day on that calendar that you practiced or put a star or some sticker on the day (great visual impact). When you have reached the minimum number of practice sessions in the week, you can put another sticker (maybe a bigger one?) for the whole week. That visual alone will make you feel good about the work you've done.

And you may want to have milestone rewards as well. So say a full month of doing your minimum, you may say that you'd buy yourself that big bindi you've been drooling about or the DVD from XX dancer that you've been wanting to get. For 3 months of mostly doing every week with the minimum practice sessions (don't go for an all or nothing scenario here; you could set a ratio of 80%? that'd be 10 out of 12 weeks), you get yourself something bigger. The point here is to give yourself an extra incentive to keep at it. The biggest incentive that you'll get and also the biggest reward, though, will be seeing the improvement in your dancing and there is no price for that.

These are merely suggestions and ideas. You can definitely come up with your own. The most important thing is to do what works best for you to keep you motivated.

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