Let’s face it, we all have times when we are short on practice time. Work, school, and social commitments cut into your time that could otherwise be spent improving your guitar abilities. We simply can’t abandon certain responsibilities, so it’s important that we make the most of the little time we do have. The most effective means to do this is to plan out exactly what is going to happen in your practice session.
How should a practice session be structured? There is an infinite amount of material you can practice. What is important is that we challenge ourselves continuously. In other words, we should be prioritizing that which we are not good at and to decrease the amount of time we spend reviewing what we are already good at. Many students can fall under the illusion that they are practicing by simply playing their favourite songs, which they are likely performing well already. Even worse, they’ll do it while watching TV and only be passively engaged with the material. This is not effective practicing, it’s simply maintenance of what you already know. Reviewing material has its place, but it should be less of a priority.
The first thing you should practice, perhaps after a short warm-up, is the most difficult challenge on the menu. Difficulty is subjective, so don’t pick a topic that is way beyond your reach. Simply do something that challenges you and keeps your mind engaged. Depending on the time constraint, you might not even get through the entirety of the topic at hand. That matters less if you consider that you will have opportunities in the future to revisit it. Repeat this process until you’ve mastered the topic, then move on to a new one. You may not be satisfied with the small progresses that are made in each session but over the long term you will be able to make far more progress than if you were to choose the easy stuff. The easy stuff is gratifying in the short term but will leave you feeling like you’ve wasted time when there is no progress over the long term.
I guarantee that if you can practice with this mindset, progress is certain and you’ll be surprised at how much you can accomplish even with limited time!