Stop wallowing in the sea of things undone and start focusing on just one thing you can do right now.

Right after I had my first child, I received the best piece of new-mother advice from none other than my own mother. As I lamented to her about being completely overwhelmed with the demands of caring for another human life on top of everything else (there were days I am pretty sure I didn’t even brush my hair), my mother wisely told me, “Do one thing every day from your to-do list, just one. You will feel like you accomplished something.”

[pullquote]What would it look like to do one thing each day to help you live your best harp life?[/pullquote]

This nugget of wisdom ends up not only to be sage advice for new parents, but also pretty helpful for anyone trying to juggle the demands of their harp life with their personal life. “Do one thing” might not sound like an earth-shattering concept. Yet when you are faced with a mountain of tasks so tall you feel paralyzed, doing just one task sounds doable. Accomplishing one job replaces that feeling of helplessness with a sense of accomplishment and confidence to tackle the next item on your to-do list. It’s the same reason self-help gurus swear by making your bed every morning—it’s one tangible accomplishment to kick off your day in a positive way. The focus is not in the size or speed of the task, but the completion of it. The tortoise definitely got this one right—slow and steady wins the race.

What would it look like to do one thing each day to help you live your best harp life? Maybe you already have a list a mile long to chip away at, but if you are so far in the weeds you don’t even know where to begin, we’ve come up with a month’s worth of ideas to get you started. Have a great idea you don’t see here? Join the conversation and comment on harpcolumn.com.

Habits

Healthy harp habits can set you up for long-term playing success. Experts say it takes 21 days of repetition to form a new habit, but many times day one is the hardest day to complete. Here are some simple habits that will set you up for happy, healthy playing.

1) WARM UP: Come up with a five-minute warm up routine. Do it every single day. Even if you don’t do any practicing beyond your warm up. Here’s the dirty little secret of the five-minute warm up: it’s a gateway drug to more practicing. Once your motor is humming, it’s hard to walk away from the harp.

2) PRACTICE JOURNAL: Grab a spiral-bound notebook (Don’t have one? Any scrap of paper will do to start), and write down one goal for today’s practice session. Don’t get up until you meet your goal. Actually, don’t get up until you meet your goal and write down one goal for your next practice session. Bye-bye aimless practicing!

3) ETUDES: Every harpist can benefit from incorporating etudes into their practicing. Don’t know where to begin? We’ve got a great article on pg.  24 in this issue of Harp Column. Find a collection that is right for you and get started.

4) TUNING: Tune your harp. That’s all. Just tune.

5) SIT DOWN: Sometimes simply sitting down at your instrument is the hardest part of practicing. Once you’re there, start by playing an old friend—a piece you love that always makes you happy you chose this instrument.

6) PRACTICE: Choose one piece, one passage, or one measure, and focus on that in your practice session. Looking for more practice tips? Check out Jaymee Haefner’s article in our May/June 2010 issue and our podcast episode 9 with her about practice habits.

7) REPLACE A STRING: Maybe it’s just your highest string that you never use, so you haven’t gotten around to replacing it. Maybe it’s a C string smack dab in the middle of your harp and it’s been the reason you haven’t practiced in days. Either way, replace it.

8) SET UP FOR SUCCESS: Prep your harp space for a successful practice session. Having to search for music or a tuning key can easily derail even the best of practice intentions. When you lay out your workout clothes the night before, getting to the gym early the next morning is much more likely to happen. Having your harp mise en place will not only improve your chances of actually sitting down to practice, but will also help you maximize your time on the bench.

9) GET TECHNICAL: Whether you’ve played the harp your entire life or you just had your first lesson, we all can stand to work on our technique. Unfortunately, it often becomes the part of our harp life that gets squeezed out when we get busy. Pick one technical skill you need work on and focus on it today. Our 30 Day Practice Challenges from 2017, 2018, and 2019 are a terrific source of technique tips, and you can view them all on our website harpcolumn.com.

Organization

10) GIG BAG: Dump it out, throw away all the granola bar wrappers, recycle the program from 2016, take stock of what you have, make a list of what you need. Check out Grace Browning’s gig bag essentials on pg. 19 of this issue!

11) STRING BAG: Organize your extra strings and rubberband each octave separately. Make a list of missing strings you need to order. Short on string ends? Ask for some when you order your replacement strings.

12) CONTRACTS: Send out the contract that has been hanging over your head.

13) TAXES: If you don’t already have a method for keeping track of your harp income and expenses, open up a Google Sheet and start today…even if we are 11 months into 2019. Do it today. If you already have a system for keeping track of everything, make sure it’s up to date.

14) DECLUTTER: Give your practice space the Marie Kondo treatment. Clear out the clutter. File papers and find a place for all the accessories. Leave the piles of music for another day.

15) FILE YOUR MUSIC: You’ve been avoiding the piles of to-be-filed music long enough. Just sit down and file them. It won’t be as painful as you think. Ready for a music library makeover? Check out Marguerite Lynn Williams’ complete guide to organizing your music in our May/June 2010 issue (available for PDF download at harpcolumn.com).

16) PENCILS: Sharpen them. All of them. Want a pencil upgrade? We absolutely love the Magic Writer Pencils from Pacific Music Papers. You can grab a dozen at a time from their website. A good red pencil is also a must for any musician. We’re fans of the Ticonderoga erasable carmine red pencil. Speaking of erasers, you’ll have zero regrets if you have a bottle of Wite-Out and a Magic Rub on hand with those newly sharpened pencils.

17) CALENDAR: Fill in your calendar with all of the upcoming gigs, lessons, rehearsals, and personal commitments you’ve been storing in your head. You’ll be amazed at the weight this lifts off your mind.

18) MARK IT UP: Grab a good pencil, even better eraser, Wite Out, and the colored pencils you got a few days ago, and mark that part you’ve been meaning to get to.

19) CHRISTMAS MUSIC: December gigs are right around the corner. If you’ve been meaning to learn something new for the holidays, there’s no time like the present. Check out our article from the September/October 2018 issue of Harp Column for a fabulous list of 24 collections and carols to learn before you flip the calendar to December.

20) GIG BOOK: Remove anything you haven’t played in the last year.

21) BEAUTIFY YOUR SPACE: The aesthetics of your harp room might seem like a low priority when there are fires burning (like that part you need to learn for tomorrow’s rehearsal). But making your harp room a space you want to be in can have a long-term positive effect on your harp happiness. Maybe it’s something simple like dusting your harp or vacuuming the rug. Maybe it’s finally framing that photo with your teacher that’s been laying on your desk for years. Or maybe it’s a big project like turning your old wooden harp trunk into a cabinet. (Check out more ideas in “Making Space” from our September/October 2011 issue. Whatever brings more beauty to your practice space—do it!

Away from the harp

22) SHOP: Buy any harp-related things you have been meaning to get—missing strings, practice journal, backup tuning key, string ends, extra-long extension cord, new music.

23) NEW TUNE: Add one new tune to your gig book.

24) PODCASTS: Podcasts are a great way to multi-task while you are driving to a gig or just doing mindless tasks around the house. Subscribe to a few to get you started. Don’t know where to start? Try Harp Column’s podcast! With over 50 episodes, it will keep you entertained for hours.

25) MEMBERSHIPS: Whether it’s a professional organization, local group, union, or Harp Column, renew your memberships and subscriptions that are about to expire.

26) HARP FRIENDS ARE THE BEST KIND OF FRIENDS: Reconnect with an old harp friend. Maybe it’s someone you met at a harp festival or an old classmate from your college class. Nothing inspires your harp life like a good chat with a harp friend.

27) READ: The fact that you are reading this article means that you already value written sources of information. (Win!) Sit down and read a harp-related article. (Harp Column subscribers have access to our complete archive of issues dating back to 1993 at harpcolumn.com.)

28) CONTINUING EDUCATION: We all intend to go to harp conferences and festivals and gatherings, but they always seem to sneak up on us. Find out when upcoming harp events are happening in the next year—locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally—and put a couple on your calendar. (Harpcolumn.com is a great place to find out what events are coming up in your neck of the woods.)

29) GO DIGITAL: This is a scary one for many harpists. Digitizing your entire library can seem like one of those impossible mountain-climbing tasks so you keep pushing it off. Start small. Scan the music on your stand right now or begin by digitizing the playlist for your next wedding gig or the music for your upcoming recital. If you need a how-to guide for getting started going digital, check out our blog on the topic at harpcolumnmusic.com/category/technology-tips, as well as our article “Making the Switch” from the January/February 2018 issue of Harp Column.

30) NEW SNAPSHOT: If you’ve been meaning to get new publicity photos taken since the Clinton Administration, today is the day. Call a photographer and set up the photo shoot. If you’re not up for investing in formal photos, you can still update your headshot. Have a friend snap a head and shoulders photo of you—it doesn’t even have to include the harp. Some good lighting, a neutral background, and the highest quality setting on your smart phone are all you need to update your look.