Plan now for Christmas? You might be thinking that most of your holiday harp playing was planned long ago, possibly in the middle of the summer. I have always liked to prepare much of my holiday repertoire then too. But that’s just the first step.
What I want to share with you today are my three most powerful strategies for making sure that you don’t lose the ground you gained when you started practicing your music. Your holiday playing should be an enjoyable part of your holiday, not a source of extra stress.
For a long time, it seemed to me that no matter how prepared I felt at the beginning of November, things started to fall apart as the weeks went on. I didn’t have as much practice time as I expected, or choir directors added music to their programs, or something unexpected happened that created havoc in my jam-packed schedule. Despite my careful planning, I was harried and stressed.
But then I found the key to eliminating the crunch and the last-minute frenzy. With just three simple strategies, I took back control and sailed through the holiday season for the first time.
And I can almost guarantee that if you take a few moments to put these three strategies in place, you too can look forward to your holiday season instead of dreading it.
ADD UP YOUR HOURS
This is a little calculation that gives you a reality check. With nearly a couple of months before Christmas, it may feel like you still have a lot of time to practice and prepare. Take a moment to add up your practice time between now and Christmas. How many weeks do you have? How many hours of practice per week? It’s probably not as many as you would like.
Then do that same calculation but this time add up your practice hours before each performance. Your first big holiday performance is likely at the end of November, possibly even earlier. How many hours do you have available to practice the music you need for that performance and for each concert between now and when your rush of performances ends?
Start allocating your practice time to the specific pieces of music you have to prepare. Now you have a true picture of what needs to be accomplished in each practice session. Write down your objectives for each week of practice. This kind of advance planning will be your best strategy for staying on track.
CREATE A BACKUP PLAN
Having a plan is essential, but you must be prepared for the likelihood that your plan won’t come off quite as you intended. In the words of President Eisenhower, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
So with the idea that your plans may turn out to be useless, you need a backup plan. For instance, you may be planning to play that special solo in December, but it still needs quite a bit of work. Take the pressure off by having a “just in case” piece, an alternate selection you can substitute if you run out of time to prepare.
In fact, you may want to create a backup plan for anything that is making you anxious: transportation, stand lights, page turns, dress shoes. Many harpists keep a well-stocked bag in their car with a complete set of concert clothes and shoes, tuning key, tuner, cell phone charger, etc. A backup plan helps you breathe easier.
CALENDAR YOUR PRACTICE
Having made your plans, make it easy to stick to them.
There are so many events and opportunities that come up at this season that you will want to attend. You can count on those last-minute invitations to have coffee or go shopping with friends. You should be able to say “yes” to those things without guilt and without sacrificing your required practice time. This is much easier when you have put your practice time in your calendar.
You know how much practice time you need. Enter those practice sessions into your calendar as appointments with yourself. Scheduling them in writing will make it much easier to add a little flexibility to your holidays. When your friend asks if you can meet them at the coffee shop and you see that it conflicts with your practice time, you have a clear choice: find another time for the coffee or another time for the practice.That’s the beauty of having your practice time written into your calendar. Just be sure that you actually reschedule your practice rather than just put it off until an unspecified time.
One last hint: when all else fails, you can say” no.” Truly. A gracious refusal to play one more concert or go to one more rehearsal may save you heaps of stress and worry.