by Joshua Roman
Sitting in my seat on the flight to my first performance of the 16-17 season, I find myself reflecting on new beginnings. I’m a sucker for New Year’s Day and the first trip of the season is no different. Thinking back even further, I’ve always enjoyed the start of the semester as well. Fresh scenery, new classes and ways to learn, a structured environment after the laissez-faire chaos of summer…
I used to have a hard time taking breaks – it’s still not the easiest thing for me to do – but I’ve recognized the value in allowing the mind, body, and spirit the chance to rest and relax. A real break gives one the chance to reassess ingrained habits and patterns and start anew with fresh energy. I’m a firm believer now that breaks are an essential part of life, especially when it comes to learning, growing, and developing new skills, but even if you don’t feel you have time to stop completely, a change of setting or routine is the perfect opportunity to alter your approach and renew your energy and focus.
When it comes to habits, I have found limitless value in experimentation. Having a sense of “home base” is helpful; a routine that you are comfortable with, that becomes second nature, and is a space around which you can play with details. An example from my cello practice is my scale routine. I have several that I’ve developed over the years, all of which I can rely on to keep me sharp with minimal fuss. Once I had the first routine solidified, I was able to start really experimenting with different warm ups and ways of interspersing the routine throughout my day’s practice – or even sometimes throughout the week – which led to the development of other routines I could add in. All the while I had the security of being able to fall back on the original when I felt the need to concentrate all of my creative energy in other areas of my practice and still be able to count on daily technical results.
Here are the videos from The Popper Project, a result of rethinking my practice habits back in 2009-2010.
Going back to school, beginning a new season of performances, or any kind of change in setting or schedule presents the opportunity to break whatever habits you have and rebuild them in a better way. It doesn’t always last forever–but if you stay aware of how you are affected by the changes you’re making, and the new routine, you can at the very least get a better sense of how you work.
This year, I’m not only rejiggering some of my practice habits, but looking at the tools I use in my everyday life to see what might work better. Using multiple Google calendars, moving more of my work to shareable platforms like Google docs and Google drive are just some of the possibilities that help organize and streamline the logistics of many of the tasks on my list. I’m also committing to spend 45 minutes at the beginning of each week contemplating key questions about my career, independent of the to-do lists that end up dominating my thought patterns.
Structuring time, looking at key elements of organization, and reprioritizing areas of learning and work are all ways to give your progress a jolt of energy. There are many resources available to help with this – some that have been helpful to me include:
This book gave me lots of valuable tools that I’ve used at various times to help organize and restructure many parts of my life and career. I especially like the four-part diagram regarding urgency and importance.
If you’re seeking to up your career game, this book is a fantastic resource. Great ideas for everything from setting up and promoting a concert to how to manage your time so that artistry doesn’t get lost as you seek to create your self-run business.
This blog has many great articles about reorganization, and has been an inspiration to me when it comes to simplifying and prioritizing the things that matter most in life.
This is a process that never ends, but taking the time to recognize a naturally occurring change of pace and attach extra significance to it can elevate your experience and sharpen necessary life skills. I’d love to know what resources and ideas you have found useful; this isn’t the first and won’t be the last time I lift up the hood and tinker with the engine of productivity. May your semester, season, and fall be fulfilling and challenging in ways that bring you joy and learning.