1. Make a routine.
Don’t just practice “whatever” or prepare for gigs. This can be part of your practice routine but also come up with some skills to learn or refine. Make a list of areas in which you would like to improve. Use this list to inform your practice routine. Break this routine into practice segments. These segments don’t need to be overly strict but can be if you wish.
2. Create a practice space.
Create a dedicated space to practice. This could be an entire room or even just the corner of a room. Set up a music stand, a computer, speakers, and anything else that you might need for your practice session. This space will help you avoid becoming distracted during practice and you might find that passing by your space will actively remind you to practice.
3. Warm up.
Just like any other physical activity, warming up is key to a productive practice routine. Can you imagine a professional athlete not stretching, running, and practicing a bit before a big game? They would not be at the top of their game and will therefore not perform optimally. Find some warm ups you like and do them regularly. Your warm ups will evolve over time. Here are some ideas for warm ups: finger combination exercises, scales, picking exercises, sight reading, stretching your hands, etc.
4. Use a timer.
Time your practice sessions to keep yourself honest. At the very least it is a way of measuring how much time you spend practicing. Be as detailed and strict as you wish. I like practicing for an hour divided into four 15-minute segments from my list in step one.
Along with timing my practice sessions journaling is the number one way I have grown as a musician. Keep a strict journal documenting the date, amount of time you practiced, material covered, and goals for future practice sessions.
I created an interactive practice journal for my students that you can download for free to document all of this information. Simply sign up for the Garner Guitar Newsletter and I will send your practice journal along with two free eBooks.