This is where it all happens. Time doesn't exist here.
If you're like me, your life is full of distractions. The idea of carving an hour out of my day to practice an instrument (check out a new record, go to the gym, do laundry, deal with the constantly-growing stack of paperwork, read a book, start a new TV series, cook a meal etc) seems impossible. But I'll easily burn an hour on the couch, reading articles that people have posted to Facebook, without realizing it.
Yet once I start something, I don't want to stop. I practiced DJing for 4 straight hours the other night. Nobody made me, I just wanted to keep getting better. I had no interest in starting Netflix series "This Is Us" (who has 10 hours to sit around watching a show they've never heard of?) but my wife insisted I might like it. 20 minutes in, I was hooked. Same applies to the drums. Stick Control in particular is one I never seem to get around to. I can play well enough (never mind my wrist problems), and it's probably not a make-or-break thing today. But every time I sit down with it, I'm left thinking "wow, I should do this every day!!" Over time, this stuff shapes not only our ability, but our attitudes - what's too much work, what's impossible, what's easily accomplished.
I watched the documentary "Chasing Trane" on Netflix last night. It follows the major events in John Coltrane's life to illustrate how it affected his music. I love Coltrane's music. I don't listen to it a lot. I was excited to pick up "A Love Supreme" on vinyl at a great price from Rough Trade records in NYC when I went there in 2015. I may have spun it 5 times since then. It's intense music, and I have this idea that listening to it will be like work I don't want to do. Plus, it's not today's music. It's not helping me stay current. But every time I put it on, I'm blown away by how great it is, how much I like it and how accessible it actually is. (Also: I actually believe that if something exists and is worth knowing, about, it's just worth knowing about. Doesn't matter when it was made).
Anyhow, in the documentary, his friend Benny Golson is talking about how in the early days, Coltrane practiced constantly. He would practice in the bathroom between sets at his shows. Neighbors in his apartment building would complain about the noise, so instead of stopping, he'd practice silently, just his fingers on the keys. Kamasi Washington opines in the film that when you do this, you're developing a deeper relationship with the instrument, like it's a part of you.
Other musicians of note who've had this tendency at some point during their lives, off the top of my head: Jimi Hendrix, Prince, Kurt Cobain, Bruce Springsteen. Seems to be a good habit. In each case, it's someone who had way more focus and persistence than those around them. That's why their achievement stands out. Hendrix would play constantly, was always carrying his guitar, would go looking for jam sessions after his gigs. Prince and Springsteen both burned out recording engineers with their determination and loooooooong sessions. Because they were chasing something. (Their exhausted engineers were just putting in a day's work). Cobain refused to get a job and would spend all day writing, recording, playing, drawing and studying successful bands. The results speak for themselves. (I realize that this list is all men. I hope that's more because of the industry's historical bias than my own, but in any case I assure you that people like Annie Clark or Beyoncé have a much more intense work ethic than you or I, and that it's motivated by higher aspirations).
OK, but what does this have to do with you? Here's my advice: If you feel like you don't have time to practice, just do it for 5 minutes. Get into that zone, just for a few minutes. When the time's up, you can be done if you like. But don't be surprised if eventually you want to keep going. Continue taking 5 minutes whenever you can. Make sure that during that time, you have no distractions and are 100% committed to what you're doing. Be diligent and consistent about this tiny goal. And watch it grow.
*thumbnail credits: By Jjb91 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons