OCD loops vs Practice Schedules
I ran across the term OCD loops recently, and I knew it applied somehow to me even before I got the translation: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder loops – when you start some activity and it keeps triggering you to stay on the merry go round. Like checking emails, then the news, then social media, then emails, then the news….. Thats the bad side of OCD.
On the other hand, OCD loops have a lot to do with my own personal journey with music. But they tend to mess with schedules. I was reminded of this lately when my friend Larry Eisenberg sent me his practice process with students:
“Zen Gunslinger Practice Technique by The Iceman” (aka Larry Eisenberg)
First, ask student if 5 min/day is too much to ask in regards to practice.
Most will say, “of course not”…..thereby setting up the can do mind attitude.
Then say, “All you need is 5 min/day on your instrument – harmonica. However, there are 4 requirements…..”
1. Must be in a quiet and private environment…room with door closed…no cell phone, no interruptions by significant other, etc. No practicing while driving car, etc.
2. Only practice 1 aspect of harmonica for those 5 minutes.
3. MUST BE EVERY DAY (No skipping one day and doing 10 minutes the next, etc).
4. MUST BE THE SAME TIME EVERY DAY…..choose a 5 minute block that you can commit to. (example: 7:15 AM – 7:20 AM)
(This sets up a respectful routine in the mind of student)
Now, get a timer, go into your safe room to practice, set timer for 5 minutes and when it dings, you are done with your homework and can go outside and play with your friends.
However, if you wish to practice more than the 5 minutes, this is considered EXTRA CREDIT.
Commit to this regimen (EVERY DAY) for 2 weeks and see what happens.
5 minutes of mindful practice/day EVERY DAY AT THE SAME TIME leads to great habits, develops a serious respect for this sacred practice time and is more powerful than 1 hour of all over the map practice.
Those that commit will find a new level of understanding and commitment to their instrument and find themselves lengthening their practice times. (As the time lengthens, feel free to add one or two more aspects to practice on your instrument).
I love this idea, and it dovetails with a lot I have learned over the years. So I resolved to do the following:
Practice at 8:25 daily till 8:30. Be set up, just do it.
I did this 4 days in a row. I was flyin high. Ended up with bonus points every day – 8, 9, 11 minutes of practice. One thing.
Day 5 – 7 minutes late. Day 6, some upsetting stuff in the morning & I completely forgot. Day 7 back at it. Day 8 forgot. Day 9 – back to OCD loops.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I think OCD is a great thing when it is focused on something like learning a new technique, song, refining the feel of something you already know. But a schedule that becomes a habit combined with OCD loops has got to be even more powerful, every time.
I did this schedule experiment on my own without a support group. It did plant a seed. I am going to go back to it, only this time I have another trick up my sleeve. I am telling you that I am back in the game.
So, the next time I write to you I am going to report my progress. I have just enough pride and ego that this might work. I was working on a couple of scales that keep tripping me up when I am soloing. I almost have them on auto-pilot. But not quite. It has pissed me off a couple of times now in the middle of a solo.
I have tried this sort of practice regimen before in various ways. A lot of times.
I look at it this way: This is not the first time it has taken me what seemed like forever to start or stop a habit.
I calculated once that I had made roughly 1000 attempts to quit smoking. Roughly 999 of the attempts failed. Precisely 1 of them succeeded - (so far… for quite a few years now)
So, what the hell. I am going to give it another shot. I’ll let you know how it goes…..
I hope you are enjoying some aspect of the harmonica. It is one of the greatest musical sounds on the planet.