If you follow me on Instagram, you've probably noticed me tagging various posts since the beginning of 2018 as #100daysof practice.
I'm honestly not quite sure where I first stumbled across the concept on of the internet, but I was really intrigued by it. The idea that I would, for 100 days, log my practice and hold myself accountable to a wider audience by making it public seemed like a great exercise.
Spoiler alert: while I did log 100 days of practice, I did not log 100 consecutive days of practice as I had initially hoped. Instead, I fully took the first half of the year to complete the challenge, and I have no shame about it. When it became clear early on that I wasn't going to meet the challenge as originally imagined, I decided to redesign it in a way that worked for me.
Even though it wasn't 100 days in a row, the 100 days that I intentionally logged were a great way for me to track my practice routine and yielded a fair bit of insight. Here are a few.
Community is a powerful motivator
When I was in college, I really enjoyed the early morning practice routine I set up for myself. I'd get to campus, practice an hour or so, and then have a bagel-and-tea break with one or two other musicians. We'd grouse about what went wrong, celebrate what went right, and generally encourage each other to keep fighting the good fight. That camaraderie was a driving force for me. Knowing that there was someone else doing the work alongside me and encouraging me when it was hard to keep going made all the difference some days.
Now, as an adult with colleagues scattered across the East Coast--and a few further afield--that physical practice community has all but disappeared. I knew that I missed it, but I was still surprised by how much having a virtual community cheering me on during the 100 days challenge helped keep me going forward. We may all be in different cities, states, and time zones now, but colleagues old and new are a huge part of what makes doing this often-solitary work a little easier and more meaningful.
Logging keeps you honest
As much as I hate to admit it, I definitely over-estimate the amount of time I've spent practicing unless I'm writing it down. While the challenge is over, and I'm no longer trying to make Telemann duets look photogenic, I've kept the habit of writing down what I'm working on for each instrument, tempo markings, trouble spots, and technique issues. Equally important, I make sure to write down the triumphs I have in each session, too: goals that were met, sections that are now up to speed, transitions that are smoother. I can't emphasize enough how much more productive my practice sessions are when I know what to focus my efforts on versus what "only" needs to be maintained.
Growth isn't just for students
Teachers and performers, this one is for you. It can be easy to let our own development slide in the face of money-making endeavors. Sometimes we stagnate because we’re putting all our energy into paying work. Sometimes we stagnate because it's difficult to squeeze any more time out of an already-packed schedule. Frankly, sometimes we are just burned out. But one of the best gifts we can give ourselves is a return to a learning mindset. Conscientious, dedicated, consistent practice helps us move from running in place to real progress. This kind of work helps us re-discover the wonder of music that brought us to the art in the first place. Not to mention that embodying readiness to keep learning sets a powerful example for our students; how can we demand something from them that we aren't demonstrating ourselves?
I would encourage any musician feeling stuck in their progress to give the 100 days of practice challenge a chance. It could be just the jump start your musicianship needs.