Today’s tip is a rather motivational, helpful tidbit, which I learned from Bruce Hoag, Ph.D. Dr. Hoag is a colleague in a mentoring program of which I’m part. As I read his letter, I immediately thought about its applications to your (and my) vocal practice.

Dr. Hoag helps people learn to think differently – more strategically, more fully, more creatively…better. We can all improve our thinking about our lives, work, goals…everything.

I want to challenge you to think about your vocal practice and consider it in the light of his suggestions.

He recently posed a question, which he read about in the book The One Thing, by Gary Keller & Jay Papasan:

“What’s the one thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

(Faith-based note: Dr. Randy Carlson, a Christian counselor with a Ph.D. in counseling psychology, wrote a similar book called The Power of One Thing, which is similar in scope but is expressly faith-based.)

Then, Dr. Hoag proposed a different, opposite, and even more powerful question, one overlooked by those authors:

“What’s the one thing that you can do such that by doing it everything else will be harder or necessary?”

Instead of asking what you should do, Dr. Hoag is asking you what you shouldn’t do:

“You see, in order to get better results, you have to stop doing some things before you can start doing others. In other words, you can’t do and “not do” simultaneously.”

Here’s the “kicker question”:

Are there things that you do that prevent you from accomplishing what you hope to achieve each day?

Think of this in terms of your vocal practice. You probably don’t deliberately sabotage your efforts to get and keep going vocally; at least, you don’t decide at the beginning of the day that you’re going to get derailed. Think about some activities that can (or do) prevent you on a daily basis from getting the voice you want or otherwise reaching your goals.

Below are Dr. Hoag’s suggestions about how doing each of those things first thing in the morning can derail your day by training your brain to prioritize them:

  • Do you check your email the first chance that you get?

“If you do, then you risk becoming distracted from your one thing before your day even begins.”

  • Do you read all your social media notifications and make comments in Facebook or respond in some other social media channel as soon as you can in the morning?

“If so, then you’re telling your brain that that is your one thing; that that is so important that you have to do it before you do anything else.”

  • Do you surf the news channels first thing, either on TV or your computer?

“If you do that, you’re programming your brain to believe that that is the most important thing you can do with your time.”

What to do? How to get and stay on track, so you can get the voice you want?

Here are his suggestions:

There are other things you could be doing in the morning… things that would tell your brain that a new day has begun and you have work to do.

  • Some people take a shower. 
  • Some people go for a brisk walk: 15, 20 or 30 minutes.
  • Some people meditate or pray.
  • Some get the kids ready for their day or make breakfast for the family.

Whatever it is that you decide to do, that sets the tone for the rest of the day.

Here’s the hack Dr. Hoag offers:

Figure out what it is that you do that makes your life harder than it needs to be and either move it to a part of your day when it won’t get in the way of your goals or eliminate it altogether.

Dr. Bruce Hoag

Here’s my hack, which I offer to you, for keeping vocal development going:

Each day after your chosen morning brain-prompt (walk, shower, prayer, etc.), make the next thing that you check be what time you scheduled your vocal practice. Then, immediately set up that area, making sure your exercise list is there, your device with pitch is there (pitch pipe, keyboard, guitar, laptop or device with etc.), and that it’s ready for you to step into it when your practice time arrives.

Your TAKE-ACTION Assignment:

Create a journal entry, answering these questions:

  1. What actions do I take first thing each day? What is that teaching my brain to prioritize?
  2. What can I do each morning to train my brain to prioritize what I want to accomplish?
  3. Take a few minutes to schedule your daily vocal practice for the upcoming week or weeks. (Schedule that “scheduling time” into your calendar as an activity on the same day at the same time every week or two.)

Starting tomorrow morning, immediately following your “first-thing” activity, check the time of your scheduled vocal practice that day and set up your area. Then, show up for practice at your scheduled time and get your best voice!

Keep singing, friend!

Hello and goodbye from Natalie!


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