"Let Me Have My Minutes"
Today I started a course to enhance my future employment prospects. It will take approximately a year to finish, and there will be a final exam at the end. It's as important to me as this music project, so this will be yet another plate to balance in my day-to-day activities.
Piano and Song by Friedrich Wieck, under his alter-ego Dominie, gives advice that relates to my current predicament. It'll be the last passage I share from this book.
Don't be angry with me for my suggestion, ladies: you do not make enough use of the minutes. While our learned education absorbs so much time... we must be sparing of the remaining minutes. "Now I must rush to the piano! I must go to dinner in ten minutes: two scales, two finger exercises, two difficult passages out of the piece I have to learn, and one exercise to invent on the dominant and sub-dominant, are soon done; and then the dinner will taste all the better."
Well, my young ladies, how many hours do you think all those minutes would make in a year? But I hear you say, "What is the use of worrying to pick up all those stray minutes, like lost pins? We have a whole hour to practise every day, when nothing prevents."
Exactly, when nothing prevents. If in piano-playing, or in any art, you wish to attain success, you must resolve to work every day, at least a little, on the technique. Sickness and other unavoidable interruptions deprive you of days enough. Practise always with unexhausted energy: the result will be tenfold. Do you not frequently use the time for practising, when you have already been at work studying for five or six hours? Have you then strength and spirit enough to practise the necessary exercises for an hour or more, and to study your music-pieces carefully and attentively, as your teacher instructed you? Is not your mind exhausted, and are not your hands and fingers tired and stiff with writing, so that you are tempted to help out with your arms and elbows, which is worse than no practice at all?
But, my dear ladies, if you practise properly, several times every day, ten minutes at a time, your strength and your patience are usually sufficient for it; and, if you are obliged to omit your regular "hour's practice," you have, at any rate, accomplished something with your ten minutes before breakfast, or before dinner, or at any leisure moment. So, I beg of you, let me have my minutes.
I'm glad to see that 10-20 minutes of focused practice, several times a day, can really add up. You don't need to commit to several hours of "deep work" to make significant gains. Shorter sessions might even be optimal.