My father-in-law is a great classical trumpet player. He served as Principal Trumpet for the Cincinnati Symphony for 31 years. It would be impossible to count the hours he spent in practice warming up, running through the scales, and playing études in preparation for an upcoming performance. He was focused and remarkably consistent in his daily routine of training. You would often hear him say “Small Sessions” with regards to his practicing habits as well as to other tasks around the house (small sessions to move a wood pile, small sessions to clean the basement, etc.). I used to laugh when I heard this phrase as my personality and approach is more “all or nothing.” I’ve been known to work myself into a frenzy of cleaning for hours until exhaustion. The casualties this approach has taken on me, and my family is a thing of legend in the Biddle household.
While there is a time and a place to go “all in” and get something done, I think the more sustainable and proven method is to break tasks down into small (obtainable) sessions.
Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day. —Jim Rohn
I recently put this “small sessions” method to the test after two failed attempts at designing a product website that was not producing the right visuals and desired feel. My first two comps were the product of my traditional all-in-crank-it-out design approach. This time I was more thoughtful in my start. Ensuring I received the right feedback (we can learn a lot from our failures). I allowed the conversations and thoughts to run in my head for a few days; this can be a tedious task, but critical to flushing out the right approach. I then began with the simplest idea and built out the design from there. The final result was a success. Stakeholders approved and there was excitement at the future potential this design generated. It was nothing special. Clean, simple and to the point.
A few thoughts on Small Sessions:
- Taking a break between sessions allows the creative juices to simmer and better develop your idea
- It creates excitement to get started on the next small session vs. the drudgery of investing large blocks of time and feeling burnt out when the results are not favorable.
- Small Sessions allow for outside input to provide a perspective you will not have but need.
- The gains are marginal at first, but these little achievements build on themselves and create a positive outlook to continue which is critical for success.
- The marginal gains multiply over time. In the end you are more productive.