No matter what your goals are in life, or on the guitar, you can succeed bigger and faster, the more focused you are. That’s kind of obvious, but
then the question becomes: how do you increase focus?
I was thinking about this today and a word phrase streamed
into my mind:
“Set and Setting”… Timothy Leary coined that phrase.
Now I don’t have the room here to go into the life and times of Mr. Leary,
although that certainly is a fascinating subject all its own…
Needless to say, “Set and Setting” as Tim Leary used it, referred to the parameters of a psychedelic drug experience.
In other words, if you drop acid, your experience depends on the set (mindset) and setting (environment) you’re in.
Surprisingly, that’s not much different from your experience sitting down to practice an hour of guitar. Take a look at your mindset. Is it free and clear? or are you thinking about what you have to do later today?
I find it helpful to take maybe 30 seconds and just do some deep breathing to try to clear my head. Another thing that helps me is just to have a pen and paper nearby.
Any nagging thought that comes into my head (example: don’t forget to go to the post office tomorrow), I just jot it down and then I can forget. I don’t need to take up any mental “RAM” with that thought. Now its out of my head, onto the paper, and I’m free to put all my attention on the guitar.
I also use this trick sometimes when I’m going to bed and I’ve got a lot on my mind. Maximizing the restfulness of sleep is another powerful way to manage energy.
What about setting?
I think that it helps to have a pristine environment. I always keep my office/practice room really neat. I wasn’t always this way — in fact my natural tendency is to be messy, always forgetting to put things away when I’m done with them. But I’ve changed that in the last year. And it helps — because its a big energy drain and focus drain to be in a messy environment.
My friend Jimmy Dillon practices guitar outside in his garden. You can’t beat that! I think the computer is a particular challenge for modern-day guitarists. There’s many things on the computer that can help, such as metronomes, videos, tabs, jam tracks, etc.
However, there’s also many things that can distract us, such as random You Tubes, checking the news, checking email, windows we left open, instant messaging, etc.
So a simple way to stay focused is to shut down all your windows, close the email, close the web page, etc… and only keep open what you need. If you have tabs or chord charts, it can help to print them also.
I also like to set a time goal, such as an hour, for practicing. It helps me to write out the finish time. If I start practicing at 5:23, then I write down “6:23” on a small piece of paper, that way its easier to stick to the task at hand and not get distracted.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it takes practice to be good at practicing.
Focus is a muscle and you have to build it up.
Anyway, i’m going to take a shower and get into some guitar playing myself here… Thought I’d share my thoughts with you before I charge on with my day.
P.S. DVDs are a great way to increase your natural motivation and get fresh material to work on. Check em out…
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