(Note: this post is based on material originally published at Bennett’s Tenets.)
1) Plan your work.
Plan when you are going to practice. Don’t expect practicing to “just happen!” Look at your planner for the week, and make “practice appointments” with yourself. (Btw, you should have a planner/calendar of some kind – paper or electronic.)
Plan what to practice. Prioritize your practice based on what needs the most attention, or what needs to be learned the soonest (for an upcoming rehearsal, performance, or lesson). Don’t just sit down and start making noise. Your time is extremely valuable; use it wisely! Don’t waste all your time playing the stuff you already do well.
2) Work your plan.
Once you’ve looked at your planner and made those practice appointments, KEEP them! Stick to your plan, unless there is a legitimate reason to change it. (An invitation to join some friends on a Starbucks run is not a legitimate reason.)
3) Make sure some things are more important than work.
Faith, family. The best musicians I know lead full and balanced lives. They do lots of interesting things besides practice. Of course, to be successful as a musician, you must make your practice time a very high priority. Nevertheless, sometimes life gets in the way. And sometimes, the best thing for your playing is to rest. (Practicing Too Much is Dangerous by Roger Bobo) Be flexible when you have to.