During the Christmas and summer breaks, I often reflect on the importance of having one's own space to work: a carpenter has a shop, a mechanic has a garage, etc. For pianists, our "space" can be defined both as a physical space (i.e., practice room or studio) and a mental space (keeping free from distractions). For this post I'll talk about how I structure my mental space in the course of a practice session.
When I have the time for what I consider to be a "normal" practice session (two to four hours), I determine beforehand that distractions will be carefully managed. My phone has to be on, since I use its very handy metronome app, so I do run the danger of a phone call now and then, but email and other Internet distractions are reserved for breaks. I make sure to take breaks every 45 minutes to an hour: I start the morning with a warm-up routine and either sight-reading or old repertoire I want to keep in my fingers, then take a 5-10 minute break and proceed through the rest of the session repeating the pattern of 45-60 minutes on, 5-10 minutes off. This gives my brain and body a chance to relax, and also "schedules" time for emails and other important communication, so I don't have to worry about that later. I'll often take a book to read during breaks as well, so I can truly take my mind off the task "at hand" and come back with fresh energy.
If you're in central New York State for the Christmas holiday, you can catch me performing for the Oneonta Concert Association on Thursday, December 27 at 7 pm in the First United Methodist Church in Oneonta, NY. Admission is free. The program includes Bach, MacDowell, Ives, Copland and Belshaw.