January 25, 2017

You set goals - so what? Five ways to capture your progress

All of January we have been talking about identifying, setting, keeping and meeting goals to improve playing, learning, and performance.  The final question – how do you know if you are making progress?  How can you be sure you are moving toward the outcome you wanted?

Well, like everything else, you need to record what you have done and see if you are on track to get there (or maybe that you are already there!).  How do you go about recording your progress?  Well, here are five ways:  

  1. Write it down!  And be sure to reread your notes. This can be in your lesson notebook or your journal.  You can make notes on little scraps of paper – doesn’t matter, just so long as you can make sense of it when you go to review it.
  2. Record yourself.  You can buy an inexpensive digital voice recorder at your favorite local office supply depot that are staples of most areas.  This will give you good enough sound quality for this purpose.  Then you can listen to your playing after you play as well as when you are playing – you’ll be amazed what you hear later!
  3. Check yourself against your plan – and review to see how well you are keeping up.  Did you actually learn three nocturnes last week?  No? You can always modify the plan but you won’t know if you aren’t watching!
  4. Ask someone to listen to you and provide you feedback (and then provide feedback on the implementation of their previous feedback).  This can be your teacher or a helpful friend or family member.  The point is to get some information on your progress (don’t lose sight of that).
  5. Videotape yourself. This is, of course, a variation of recording yourself but with the added benefit of having visuals as well – you might learn something you weren’t even expecting!

I’m sure there are more ways to be sure you are making progress – what do you do?

January 18, 2017

Just like you learn - you succeed!

So, you have written down your goal(s) for the year.  And that is an important step – you’re most of the way there if you have actually written them down.   But now you need to move from doodling in your harp journal to actually moving forward. Just like you learn music - a little at a time, and beginning with the end in mind! Here are seven ways to get going:

  1. Be honest – don’t make a harp goal just because I’m leaning on you! Make goals because you want to achieve something in particular, not just because it’s January.
  2. Make a plan – a real plan.  Make sure you know what you need to do, how long it will take, when you will expect to have things done. Use a schedule so you will know you are making progress.  If it helps you, make a road map.  Or a vision board, or Goals storyboard...it doesn’t matter, so long as you have something you can work with. This will help you keep your eye on the ball!
  3. Make small steps – in that plan, make sure the steps are small and achievable.  If they’re too big (play Carolan’s Concerto?) break it down into bite size chunks so you can actually get there.  You know the joke – how do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.
  4. Make “tests” so you will actually do the work - we all know that we work to a deadline.  No one says you can’t set your own test schedule!
  5. Schedule a lesson – which will make you practice – just so you don’t embarrass yourself! Think of it as a pop quiz. And the bonus is you’ll learn a lot while you have the lesson!
  6. Continue to document to keep track of what has happened and what is coming next.  Use your phone/laptop/ipad to help you! No, not to watch youtube videos of other people playing the harp! Rather, use the calendar, the recorder, the notepad – all ways to help you keep track and keep moving toward your goal. Or, keep it all in one place and include it in your lesson book/harp journal.
  7. Get support. No one gets anywhere alone.  Enlist the aid of your family, friends and other harpers to help you – to make sure you have time, that you learn what you need to so that you get to the next level, to cheer you on when you have challenges. 
By keeping track, you are much more likely to have success in getting to where you want to be – and you can be proud of you progress.

January 11, 2017

New Year’s Goals or Wishes?

It’s the beginning of a new year.  Time to build on last year’s successes and set goals for the coming year.  Call them goals or resolutions, they represent what you think is important for you to try to accomplish in the coming days, weeks or years.

Things you think are important to accomplish.

So, if these things are so important to you, how will you get there?  Are you going to set goals or are you going to wish for something?  Are you going to make it so or just hope something fortuitous occurs?  In 354 days will you, upon looking back at this year, be proud and feel accomplished?  Or will you be sad and dejected that what you thought was important has slipped by you, undone?

To help you be in that first group, take just one little step – Write -it- down!

Write down what you think is so important – the goals you want to set for this year.  Write them all down – the ridiculous, the sublime, the ones you’re embarrassed to admit to – write them all down!

Then, sort through them.  Pick out the few that really REALLY matter to you.  Not the “should do” ones (you know, “practice every single day” or “lose 10 pounds) but the ones you really want to see yourself complete (you know, “host a harp circle” “learn that piece you have always admired”).

Then – here’ the crucial step – write those select items in your journal.  Make sure they are with your daily work so you can remind yourself why you are working so hard.  For those days when you forget where you mean to be going.  For those days when you wonder why you ever started playing. For those days when you don’t particularly like your harp (you know we all have those days!).  You have already started your 2017 harp journal, haven’t you?

Write it down, make it real.  Because while wishes are nice – goals are real!

January 4, 2017

Auld Lang Syne - Seven Ways to Reflect on 2016

It’s that time of year when we wrap up our celebrations and prepare for the year ahead.  2017 is already started and we have the opportunity to make it a great harp year.  We know it’s the time for goals and resolutions -- we might even have already made some.  If you haven’t, you’re probably feeling the pressure to get a move on and make at least one resolution for the coming year!

There’s a small problem with this though.  As the saying goes, how can you know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been?  Where have you been? Reflection, even if brief, will allow you to glean from your past year how to best prepare (and conduct) the coming year.  Here are seven ways to reflect on the previous year and your harp playing.

          1. Interview yourself.  Ask specific questions about how 2016 went for achieving your goals and how you wanted the year to go.  Questions could include: 
               -- what did you do really well? of what are you most proud?
               -- what “do over” do you wish you were going to get?
               -- what’s the best thing you learned?
   -- what did you play that you wish you could have skipped?
   -- what did you just not get around to doing? 
2. Review your notes to see how your year went?
3. Review your calendar to see if your goals happened or if were they unrealistic, unmet, and driven by life or other events?
4. Review your lesson book or journal – there might be some real nuggets in there!  It’s blank? Really?!?  Consider actually writing to yourself this year. 
           5. Review your “what went well” answer, and refine it – what went well in a sustainable way that you'll be able to keep doing into the new year? 
           6. Map out what worked and what didn’t work for you.
           7. Note what you’re grateful for.  Gratitude is all the rage just now and it likely should be.  What lagniappe or serendipity happened in your harp playing this year? This will give you something to smile about.

This review does not need to be a long drawn out exercise.  Pour a cup of tea, pull up your journal (or a post it note!), think and reflect, and jot it down. It’s a great way to prepare for what’s coming!