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Developing a Practice Routine Pt. 2: Make Good Practice Habits Easily

Bad habits. We all got them.

Whether you have a candy addiction that you know gives you cavities and makes you sick or you practice bass with the TV on and you know you should’t, habits are something we can’t escape.

Luckily, there are ways to eliminate bad practice habits. Though self discipline is a large component of making this happen, the rewards to be reaped are one of a kind and can not be achieved any other way.

Heck – I’ve rambled on and on about this kind of stuff already. I’ve covered in past posts about how to develop good, smart, sustainable practice habits, why the quality of your practice routine matters more than how much time you spend practicing, and even offered a free download compiling many of these themes together in one easy PDF.

In this post, I want to tackle some more concrete actionables on how you can eliminate bad practice habits AND create GOOD practice habits in their place.

Your Brain Is Like The Kid That Means Well When They Make a Mistake

So you’re doing something right now you know is wrong, but you continue to do anyway. Why do you do it? Why not just…stop?

Well, the long and short of it is this: habits are your brain acting on autopilot and through enough repetition over time, your brain thinks it’s doing you a favor by saying, “Hey – don’t worry about this. I got this. You don’t need to think about this anymore.”

Why does your brain do this, you might ask?

Well, the brain doesn’t know good or bad. It just knows efficient.

The brain’s automatic response to automate behaviors is a mechanism designed to conserve energy and to free up “mental bandwidth” so you can focus on more pressing concerns (like finding a mate, finding food – that sort of stuff).

As a result, bad habits are notoriously difficult to overcome because of their automatic nature.

But it’s not impossible (in fact, getting the gears in motion to change bad habits and make good ones is very easy when you know what to do).

Your conscious self doesn’t want to give up and change something that is almost effortless to do, and gets stuff done for you.

To better understand a bad habit in the first place consider using this very basic, framework:

  1. Identify the cue – or what trips the habit in the first place. Cues can be anything from a sight, a smell, being in a particular place, particular time of day – anything.
  2. Identify the routine – or the actions that go on once the cue is tripped. Think of your morning routine when thinking about this step.
  3. Identify the reward – or what brings that feeling of satisfaction when the habit loop is completed. Think of your morning routine – what makes you feel satisfied when you’re done making coffee, getting dressed and driving to work.

Check out this video by the master of habits himself, Charles Duhigg, breaking down a bad habit of his own:

Crafting Good Habits 102

So we broke down a bad habit – what now, you’re probably wondering.

Well, now that we’ve identified what needs to be changed, let’s focus on changing it.

Good habits, for the sake of this post and beyond, we’ll define like this:

A good habit is anything that helps you become a better player, faster and more productively than if you didn’t have this habit

Creating a good habit requires:

  1. Understanding exactly what you would first like to achieve and
  2. An action plan to make it happen and
  3. Self discipline to make it through a self-determined period of time to make the habit set into place.

Anyone who has ever tried to lose weight or go on a diet can testify for these requirements habit loop(especially the third one).

It doesn’t do you any good to try to learn something that won’t benefit you and help you achieve a level of playing performance and skill that you don’t want, right?

A word of caution: good habits fade easily when not tended to regularly while bad habits tend to persist without thinking.

The end goal of all of this is to make that good habit automatic – as automatic as the bad habit is (or rather, was).

Reaching that period of automatic behavior varies from person to person. Some have sworn by the 30-day rule, which claims that all habits take 30 days to develop regardless the person or the habit.

Though I personally don’t subscribe to this rule hard-and-fast – as I explain why in my habit buster bundle – 30-days is a good benchmark to consider because:

  1. It’s a nice, round period of time and
  2. You can easily assess progress week-by-week (4 weeks to a month).

Again – thought it may or may not take 30 days exactly to develop a good practice habit, it will take considerably more time to make it automatic.

But if you’re able to get over that 30-day hump, another 30 days and then another and so on becomes considerably easier.

So What? What Does This Mean for Me – the Bass Player

What this all boils down to is that habits are deceptively simple and difficult at the same time to break and rebuild AND this can be applied to any aspect of your playing.

Like I said earlier, developing good practice habits that are both lasting and help to relieve the chaos of distractions and mental chaos requires a very simple frame work to organize your thoughts for what needs to be acted on and how to do it.

The challenge is the self-discipline component. Or how well you and you alone can motivate yourself to stay on the horse of self-improvement.