You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks. ― Winston S. Churchill Today while I was studying for my Psychology of Aging class, I realized that I had forgotten to take my calcium supplements a half hour ago with my lunch. On the way to the kitchen I heard the mail arrive and went outside to collect it. Amongst the letters I found a renewal notice for my business license. I walked back to my office intending to pay my renewal fee online but saw an email from a friend telling me about her upcoming gig. It had a link to her Facebook page where you can sign up to attend the event. When Facebook opened I saw that I had a message from an occasional student who wants to schedule a lesson. So I picked up my iPhone to look at my calendar when I saw that it was my turn to play Words With Friends (an addictive phone-app game!) I started to take my turn when I received a text from my daughter asking me to send a photo of my turkey meatball recipe. So I walked to the kitchen to find the recipe, where I found, my calcium tablets….
Does this sound familiar? I am extremely prone to distractions. There are so many fascinating activities to explore, in addition to the many household tasks we must accomplish. I am reading several books and magazines at once, trying to learn French, playing the accordion to prepare for upcoming gigs, learning how to cook paleo, practicing food photography, cleaning the house, exercising, and wanting to watch the new Masterpiece Theater series, Victoria (which I can combine with ironing!) amongst many other activities that tempt me away from my central focus: practicing the piano.
The good news is, that a Northwestern University study found that people who are more susceptible to distractions were more creative! Don’t you love studies that justify and even celebrate our faults?! But it’s still a bad habit, and I am trying to break my stream of consciousness distractibility by narrowing in on just a few priorities this month.
Life is too full of distractions nowadays. When I was a kid we had a little Emerson radio and that was it. — Stan Getz
There are so many demands on our time and attention. Especially for parents of school-age children, who can literally never give enough attention, or get enough done. The writer May Sarton wrote in her book, Journal Of A Solitude,
I hardly ever sit still without being haunted by the ‘undone’. I often feel exhausted, but it is not my work that tires (work is a rest); it is the effort of pushing away the…needs of others before I can come to the work….
But no matter what the demands on our day, we must carve out some measure of time to devote to our music. We can’t make the mistake of thinking that our music practice is dispensable, or less important than everything and everyone else calling our name. Can you handle leaving some household chore undone for a day? Setting up an appointed time to return phone calls and emails, and not checking messages until that time? Limiting social media to three times per week? Scheduling piano practice on your calendar and sticking to it? Turning off your phone while you practice? These are the difficult choices we make every day, in order to progress musically.
It is important to prioritize our to-do lists. Ask yourself if everything really needs to get done today. Or can some tasks wait until you have had your time to sit at the piano and play? If you feel yourself getting pulled in many directions (as I did today), just stop and take a minute to think about what needs to get done now. Find a way to put your music into that equation. And while you are playing, if you start to think about your grocery list, a bill you have to pay, a phone call you need to make, what you feel like eating, some topic you want to google, or last night’s argument, pull your focus back to the piano; the sound of your music, the feel of the keys beneath your fingertips, and the feeling the music evokes…
Next time I go to the kitchen to get my calcium and hear the mail come? I will take the supplements first, then bring the mail in, but look at it after I have finished the task at hand. This requires a lot of will power for me. But will hopefully cut down on me running from room to room looking like a cartoon character!
By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination. —Christopher Columbus
What distracts you, and how do you keep your focus? Please leave a comment below!
With love and music, Gaili