Organize your practice: Any plan is better than no plan.
Keep a journal, not of time practiced, but of this plan. It will capture the immediate goals, weekly goals and longer term planning. If you have an iPad, you may want to use a White Board App for this, as some -- such as Evernote -- allow you to record audio into the document.
Before you begin your work, be aware of what you are setting out to accomplish. Mindless
repetitions only do harm. Better to play anything at all once correctly than to repeat mistakes.
With my own students, I try to break their weekly practice plans into daily goals.
I’ll give you an example of a typical elementary level student’s journal:
1. Hanon #1, Hanon #6
2. a pedal exercise
3. one scale or arpeggio (and/or short etudes) in the “key of the week” - All students learn to play in all major/minor keys
4. one or two short and interesting pieces in the same key of the week
5. an assignment from the Adult Piano Method Book
6. a specific assignment for the songs or pieces they have chosen on their own. This could be popular, classical, jazz, new age, anything.
Beginners who have iPads also use our SightReadPlus app daily, to assist with note reading and -- more importantly -- timing (rhythm).
I make a daily listing, what to do Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, etc., so the student is aware of the intended RESULT of practice. I don’t care how long it takes, though I can guess how long it likely will take any given student to accomplish our daily goals. Typically I assign less than 45 minutes of practice work, knowing it shouldn’t take any longer than our lesson time. If a student wants to practice more, great. But it shouldn’t be in one sitting. And, frankly, we’re not in a race. No matter how much you practice, things will still come along in their own sweet time. Just allow this to happen, please. You have the rest of your life to play piano. There’s no rush.
Adults students should not overpractice. It leads to physical problems. I feel strongly about this based on the sheer number of transfer students I’ve had through the years who have experienced debilitating problems due to over practicing or even limited practicing with poor technique. By adult, I mean anyone over the age of 40, but maybe even younger, depending on physical condition. It's important to find a teacher who can help you develop proper technique, but if you can't work with a teacher, I suggest you read up on technique. There's a recently published book/DVD, Contemporary Piano Technique, by Stephany Tiernan, which I highly recommend.
As you complete daily goals, check them off the practice list and have a sense of satisfaction in knowing you are working wisely toward your intention of becoming -- and being -- a pianist.