5 minutes to better music

I have been thinking a lot lately about how to prepare and learn music. Everyone I talk to seems to have their own process. What seems to be the hardest thing is figuring out how to start and how to manage your time when working and studying a larger piece of music. So I am sharing with you a little piece of advice that was given to me a few years ago. It is pretty simple, so here it goes.

Step 1:

You will need your score, a watch/clock, and maybe a piano. Get them all together.

Step 2:
Open the music to where ever you want to start to work, count out 5 measures.

Step 3:
Now look at your clock and set the alarm for 5 minutes.

Step 4:
You now take the next 5 mintes and study those 5 measures.

Play them through, sing them, when you get bored with that imagine what you want them to sound like, ask yourself: what is going on? what do these words mean? who are you talking to? how do I want this to sound? observe everything you can about the music: the dynamics, the harmonic progression, what does that sound like? why did the composer choose that particular sound to go with that melody? look at the rhythm of the other parts, do they accompany you? or do they do something else? how does that change the way you think about your part? why did he use so many dotted rhythms? why so many triplets? what about the words? do you mean them? does the harmony, rhythm, melody, range, key, tempo change your take on the words?  etc etc etc
as you can see these questions can go on and on, and they should, this is intended as a jumping off point. the key is to keep asking them, observing, and experimenting for the full 5 minutes.

Step 5:
When the 5 minutes are up count out the next 5 measures and repeat steps 2-4.