I love lists and rituals. Why? Because I love efficiency during my day. Executive function and self-regulation skills are the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully. If I can cut down on using executive function for repetitive and minor daily duties, I will gladly do it. Lists and rituals are what make that possible for me.
Endless fount of inspiration, Twyla Tharp, also believes in rituals. In fact, I already wrote about Twyla’s ritual in this post. Here’s one bit of wisdom I took away from her best-selling book The Creative Habit:
The famous choreographer and creator writes that she originally thought that her morning ritual was going to the gym and the workout that she completed there. Then, she gave it another thought. It wasn’t so much the gym and what she finished there but the simple act of her getting in the cab each morning. Once she did that, she was ready to take on the world. That simple ritual of getting in the cab to go to the gym signified that she was starting her day.
Have you noticed how much more smoothly your day goes when you follow your morning routine? If Twyla’s ritual is the cab, my ritual is making coffee. Lord help me if I start answering emails before I have completed my coffee ritual in the morning. I’ll end up looking up at 9 PM, still in pajamas, having only eaten a sleeve of crackers all day, wondering how I got sucked into my inbox for thirteen hours. Suffice to say, it’s important to follow our rituals and routines once we’ve set them. They help us be our best selves.
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29 Days to Diva Day 11 Assignment: Formulate a 2-Minute Checklist
My friend and Diva Mentor Jessica Aszodi also loves a good ritual. Jessica is a genre-bounding and label-defying vocalist who travels the world premiering new works and is also devoted to practice-based, artistic research. When she tells me that something is useful to her artistic practice, I sit up and take notice.
The 2-minute checklist for doing effective work
Jessica shared this amazing micro action with me and I had to share it as part of 29 Days to Diva.
The “2-minute checklist”
Make a checklist for how you want to begin your practice/performance. Do the same thing every day and actually do it. The checklist should have no more than 7 steps and be actionable in 2 minutes or less. Any more and you won’t keep doing it.
The basic steps should be things you already know how to do and which will put yourself in the right mind/body frame to do effective work. For example, my checklist is below:
- Are you in your body?
- Release head
- Release jaw
- Release larynx
- Organize the breath
- Integrate lower body
- Sing descending 5 note scales on a lip trill, then a vowel
As an example of ritualizing the beginning of a session, I always start voice lessons with technical exercises and I always start with the same technical exercise. I ritualize our descending, five pitch hum (kind of like Jessica’s descending 5 note scale mentioned above) so that students are able to jump into the frame of mind of voice lessons right away. We do the exact same thing at the beginning of every lesson so that it becomes our chance to take an inventory of what’s going on that day. Students get used to checking in with their breathing and resonance from the get-go. In fact, I liked doing that ritual so much for my voice students that I also do it for my own practice sessions. I don’t need a piano to do it, so I can engage the focusing power of that ritual no matter where I am or what’s going on around me.
A ritual for your vocal practice session
Now, it’s your turn. Think about the 5-7 extremely straightforward/actionable steps that put you in the best frame of mind for making sound. Write them down and keep them in your practice materials where you’ll see them every time you start a session.
What did you come up with? Did you get stuck when you were making your 2-minute checklist? I really love hearing about the takeaways and ah-ha moments you have while you’re completing these diva assignments. I hope you’ll share with me in the comments below. Or, get in touch with me on social media. Share your 2-minute checklist in an Instagram or Facebook story and tag me. I’m @mezzoihnen. Don’t forget the #29DaystoDiva | #29DTD!
Did you like this post?
I bet you’ll really like this one too. I want you to feel ultra confident in your ability to learn and practice new music so that you can experience the joy of communicating the music (because you’re not worried about being underprepared.)
A career or lifetime of feeling, “I should have practiced this more” is not my overarching goal. I needed (and still need) to make some changes about my personal practice. I want to make sure that I’m enjoying the exploratory process of practicing. This post is about how to get terrifically efficient at practicing but in an effort to experience practicing with more joy. I know how to learn music. This is about how the process of practicing heightens my overall life experience.