There is a famous saying, “What gets measured, gets mastered.” It is from a management consultant named Peter Drucker, but it is acutely relevant to anyone seeking to make progress acquiring a skill.
Why Track Your Progress?
In the beginning, progress is easy. We learn new patterns quickly. The early levels draw us in to the game. But, sooner or later, things get harder.
As progress starts to take more of a gradual pace, it becomes easy for us to lose track of just how far we have come. As we know, the most important ingredient for success is consistency. The more we can maintain our equilibrium and consistency towards our practice, the more likely we are to succeed in the long run.
A Pick Up From The Plateau
There is a phenomenon related to awareness that plagues anyone trying to make progress: the perception of being on a plateau. We don’t feel like we are going anywhere. Sometimes, we may even feel like we are going backwards.
Plateaus tend to be punctuated by sudden perception of progress. (Okay, enough with the alliteration!)
There will be times when you feel like you are progressing and you are excited about the progress you are making, and there will be times where you feel like you aren’t moving forward. It is a very natural cycle that we all experience.
Scientifically-speaking, it can be traced back to hedonic adaptation: human beings ability to adapt quickly to changes in circumstances. In this case, that natural skill works against us, because we get used to our new level of competence before we we can compare it to our old level of competence.
When the skill develops and it takes more than a week or two to master something, it is wise to start keeping track of small victories.
It’s Your Tracking, Mate
So what is the remedy to this rollercoaster?
Recording your victories and remembering the journey is a great tool to pick you up from the plateau. No longer are you relying on how you feel at a particular moment, a moment that is influenced by your most recent win or loss. Instead, you have an objective record of what you could do six months ago and what you can do now.
At those moments when you feel less-than-enthused, you have a diary of progress to refer to.
Perhaps a superhuman memory champion, with a black-belt in equilibrium from the Tibetan School of Falling Off a Log would be able to recall clearly how last weeks practice session went. But sometimes us mere mortals, with our propensity to hurl drum sticks into furniture-shaped oblivion, require a subtle reminder of how great we are.
Clock In, Clock Out
Luckily, as drummers, we have a fantastic tool to track our progress. At first a foe, but sooner-or-later a friend, the metronome gives us a clear indication of how fast we can comfortably play something. By recording our bpm’s for the patterns we are practicing, we know where to begin in our next session.
Practice needs to be regimented, it needs to be consistent. And sometimes, when it takes on this function, it isn’t always conscious. The easier you can make your next session for your future self, the more likely it is to happen.
Practice (In Practice)
Think of it as a diary. Every time you practice, just scribble down what you do in your session and how it went.
Remember, practice is working on things methodically and logically. It needs to be a balance between flowing, and throwing caution to the wind. And wind doesn’t need to be documented.
Be meticulous and earn the right to be mad. It’s a two-way street, and we’re taking up both lanes!