By: Evelyn Gardett
When I was a classical cellist studying at the Cleveland Institute of Music, my teacher impressed upon me the importance of good practice. Doing something repeatedly creates a habit, but not necessarily a good one. The only reason to practice is to learn and reinforce good habits; anything else is purely detrimental.
This applies to academics as well as to music. Don’t take ten practice SATs to improve your score! Take one diagnostic to identify your problem areas, then work those areas independently – as slowly as you need to in order to get them right. Gradually you will pick up speed, just like a musician getting a difficult passage up to tempo.
In order to ensure the quality of your “practice,” try to study when you are well-rested and focused, even if this means studying less than you normally would. Fifteen minutes of directed study is more beneficial than an hour of distracted work.
The same is true with writing: if you always set out to write at 11 p.m. at night, stressing over an upcoming assignment and overloaded with caffeine, you are essentially programming yourself to view writing as an emotional and stressful activity. Instead, practice confident writing when confidence comes easily. Get used to the feeling of approaching a blank piece of paper and filling it with your insights. Make a habit out of generating ideas and putting sentences together. Then, like a musician at a big performance or an athlete in competition, you will have imbedded skills that no eleventh-hour assignment can undermine.