One of the most useful strategies I have in life is using timers. Timers allow me to create a temporary container for focused attention. A time to put away all my other concerns and focus on my practice. You may have heard of the Pomodoro Technique. It’s worth checking out if you’re not already familiar with it.
But there’s nothing special about that technique–it’s one of many ways to use a timer. And in my experience, the timer itself makes the magic. For practicing math or music, I find 5 minute timers to be incredibly useful. It’s amazing what can happen with a week of daily focused practice.
At any given moment, I have a list of 5 or 6 specific things I’m working on, and I devote 5 minutes of timed attention to each. If I’m focused, I can get this done in about half an hour. If I have the time, I’ll often give myself a few minutes to play around in between these bursts of timed practice.
I try to get these tasks done as early in the day as possible. And once I’m done, I give myself total freedom to do whatever I want with my musical practice.