As a DMA student at Stony Brook I was often happily overwhelmed with music I had to learn, but do remember a day in my practice room where I flitted from piece to piece with the following dialogue floating around in my head:
“I need to work on the Boulez; my recital is in a few weeks…but, I have a concert tonight – I should work on the Mozart quartet…but, that Bach d minor Concerto is next month and I want to play it from memory… but maybe I should be spending more time on the orchestra parts for the rehearsal tomorrow…but..”. I alternated between scores on my music stand without getting anything accomplished.
Later that day I took charge of the stack of scores and made a chart on the wall sorting sections of pieces and movements into categories: ‘A’ for passages I wasn’t yet able to play, ‘B’ for sections I needed to review or speed up, and ‘C’ for passages that were ready to perform. From that day on in my practice I began each day with my ‘A’ list before moving on to the ‘B’ and then the ‘C’ lists.
Using that same approach I’ve recently put myself on a schedule diet. Very very few messages in my email inbox are an emergency; none are on my A list. I’ve decided to make my A list “awarenessing” (either in the concrete sense of making time for yoga, meditation, walking) or the subtle sense (cultivating whole body awareness and noticing the quality of my breathing). The B and C lists then get done with more ease, efficiency, and joy.
“Let us reflect on what is truly of value in life, what gives meaning to our lives, and set our priorities on the basis of that.” – H.H. the Dalai Lama