One day we were trading stories and shop talk, and we struck up a deal to take lessons from each other. I'd teach him percussion, and he'd teach me guitar. Knowing my own schedule and priorities, I decided to test the "how much time to commit" waters. The following conversation took place.
"How much would I have to practice every day to make progress?"
"Yep. If you focus on just one thing, and really work for those five minutes, you can make a little bit of progress if you do it every day."
Over the years of teaching, practicing, rehearsing and just generally trying to improve myself as a musician and a person, I've found the wisdom of this philosophy. Often we try to do it all at once. We want to work on stick control, four-mallet chops, independence, speed, creativity and twelve new styles all at once. That can result in lack of focus and ineffective practice sessions - and little to no results.
Now, I'm not saying you should always limit yourself to only one thing. You should definitely have a well developed and comprehensive plan to become the musician/person you want to become. What I'm saying is that what it takes to make forward progress usually comes down to focus and consistency.
So, here are today's two cliche rules for becoming a better musician.
First, whatever your top priority is, you must work on it every day. Every day. Especially if you can really only give it five minutes.
Second, whether you practice five minutes or five hours at a time, you must focus. Particularly if your time frame is short, you have to make every rep count.
Happy forward progressing!