Are you a “creature of habit”… and if so… are those habits good habits, or ones you really wish you could break? Don’t you wish that your piano students could be “creatures of habit” when it came to piano practice… that some inexplicable force would result in them ending up on their piano benches every single day?
Aristotle also saw the benefits of good habits (that guy… he was always thinking) and once said “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Today’s practice printable is towards the end of the post but don’t skip over this next part… it’s real good!
Macro Goals and Micro Quotas… And How Piano Teachers Can Use Them
In reading about habits (I know… I really need to just read a good novel one day instead) I came across an article written by Gregori Ciotti. In his explanation of how to build good habits, he discusses what he calls Macro Goals (large achievements you hope to one day reach) and Micro Quotas (the minimum amount of effort or work you need to do each day to make your goal happen). He states “Quotas make each day approachable, and your goals become achievable because of this.”
I love this.
Because it’s exactly what we hope our piano students will learn to do; accomplish Micro Quotas every day in the quest to reach their Macro Goal of being a proficient pianist. And the best part about Micro Quotas? They are actually micro. They are one teensy tiny task (related to your end goal) that you absolutely must accomplish every single day. The idea behind Micro Quotas is that, once you accomplish your tiny task, you’ll actually end up doing more.
The rest of Ciotti’s article is a great read, but the best Piano Teacher Takeaway and what today’s practice aid printable centers around is what he calls “If-Then Planning”.
When using “If-Then Planning” you train yourself to react in a certain way when faced with a trigger. For example, if you’re trying to lose weight you would tell yourself, “If I see a box of donuts in the staff room, then I will eat lunch at my desk instead.” You then act on this “promise” to yourself and gradually the reaction becomes a habit. Basically every time you saw a donut you would run in the opposite direction 🙂
But We Work With Kids… So Use This Printable Instead…
All of this is fantastic (and I do recommend reading the article). But the reality is… we all work with children. And teaching children about Macro Goals and Micro Quotas and “If-Then Planning” is like teaching your cat to do Tai-Chi. Almost impossible (okay great…now I’m youtubing Cat Tai-Chi…is it actually impossible?!).
However, you CAN give your piano students the tools they need to understand this habit-forming process in kid terms. Enter the “Creatures of Habit”.
Print off the”Creatures of Habit” printable and give one to your students. We know the Macro Goal (increased practice time at the piano). But you’ll need to help your students come up with their very own Micro Quota (“I will play the left hand only of my newest piece” or “I will play 4 different scales.” etc).
Their next job is to come up with an “If-Then Plan” that incorporates their Creature of Habit (see further instructions on the handout). For example “When I notice my Creature stuck to the fridge, then I will (insert Micro Quota here) before I have a snack.”
All you need is parents (even just slightly) on board to put the creature where their children have decided it should go (fridge, bathroom mirror etc.)
So Much More Than Just Piano
And this is where you give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back. Not only are you teaching your students to play piano… no, you’re also teaching them to be productive, efficient and well-adjusted members of society who know how to set goals and do what’s required to reach them! We all deserve a raise. Or at least a Tai-Chi lovin’ kitty cat.
Looking for more wonderful ways to make piano practice happen? Check out our raved-about resource “Shhhh…Your Piano Teacher Thinks This is Practice” and amaze your piano students with 88 activities that are absolutely, positively, most definitely, NOT BORING!