Here’s a very important habit to get into: tapping your foot while playing. On the beat. Or every other beat, but tap it. If you need to play less at first to get coordinated, then practice it that way.
Tapping your foot, (or variations of ) will do several things. It helps others know where the beat is. I have often looked for clues from another player as to where the beat is, in the rare case that I get lost. It serves as a synchronization tool that helps players stay together. Of course, while you are practicing this important skill, begin to take notice of other people tapping their feet.
The other thing it does is to help keep time FOR YOU. As I have said many times throughout the writing of this blog, you don’t need to play all the time. It’s alright to create a rhythm that has some spaces in it, and when you stop playing for a second, you still must retain the rhythm. Having your body do it for you keeps you in the loop without abandoning the rhythm every time you pause.
A variation of this is to move your body a bit back and forth – like a little dance of sorts. Having your body engaged makes it harder to speed up or slow down unexpectedly.
This is important. Begin working it into your habits now. Soon it will become very natural to do and it will help.