I am all about productivity hacks and tips that help me to stay on task and help me get more done in less time. As a homeschooling mom and small business owner, efficiency is compulsory. That’s why I love the productivity tool called “Don’t break the chain.” (You can also download my custom “Don’t break the chain” practice charts for FREE!)
What is “Don’t break the chain”?
The idea with Don’t break the chain is to keep the continuity going by setting up a visual reminder to stay on a streak of doing something. I have heard people do this for exercise activities like running or yoga, or for creative tasks like writing.
Jerry Seinfeld is said to have done this as a young comic, writing black X’s on the calendar to indicate days that he had written new material. By seeing a visual reminder on the calendar it
motivated him to not skip a day, or else he would break his streak.
Author and time management expert Laura Vanderkam did this with running. She ran every day for nearly 6 years, which is a monumental task. She blogged about it at great length, which had me totally intrigued. If it works for running (which I HATE), maybe it would provide a good motivation tool for practicing as well.
In my first blog post of this year, I wrote about how crucial it is to get into the habit of practicing. For so many of us, it can be challenging to find or make the time to practice. But, regular practice is the number one key to success as a musician. I am always looking for new ways to inspire my students to practice regularly, and the members of my Versatile Musician membership also find remarkable success even if they are only practicing 20 minutes a day.
Practicing every day no matter what is an incredible way to get yourself into the practice habit. Experts say that it takes an average of 66 days in order for something to become a habit, so making the commitment into a game can help to get those 66 days under your belt.
Why Don’t break the chain works
Something incredible happens when you practice every day for an extended period of time. The biggest thing that will happen is that you will start to see substantial improvement in your ability. Unless you are just playing chopsticks over and over, you will start to feel a real change in your technical ability, your ear training and your facility with reading music or improvising. It will shock you.
Another thing that will start to happen is that you will really start to feel like more of a real musician every day. When I got back into regular practice after my son was born, I started to feel that sense of my identity, which many months of taking care of a baby had made me lose: by practicing music every day, I remembered that I am a musician. It feels amazing.
When I started prioritizing practice and doing it every day, it made me take a hard look at how I was spending my time. Playing music every day made me look at my tv watching or social media scrolling and it reminded me that those wasted moments could be time I spent practicing. What a revelation!
There are several ways to go about this.
- Get a calendar or sheet, like my free custom-made “Don’t break the chain” practice charts and hang it in your practice space. You can also just use a wall calendar, your day planner or an app on your phone. There is a create site called dontbreakthechain.com that you could play around with.
- Make a mark every time you practice. Seinfeld used black X’s on the calendar, but I prefer cute stickers. Pick whichever one floats your boat!
Here are a few rules that will help you enjoy this process and not stress too much about it.