Practice makes comfort.
Expand your experiences regularly
so every stretch won’t feel like your first.
Have you ever progressed in a skill more slowly than you would have preferred? We all have.
You may feel, at times, that your are putting in so much more time and effort than the next person, but you cannot seem to get any further ahead. Science suggests that the road to becoming an expert in just about anything is found through deliberate practice. The belief is that this is “all” that is required to become an expert in almost any field, and well-versed in almost any skill.
The way in which you practice can have a much greater impact on your results than how much you practice. Natural talent isn’t considered important within this learning model.
How to use deliberate practice to master any skill:
1. Deliberate practice must, in fact, be deliberate.
- Deliberate practice starts with a plan and has an end goal in mind.
- You may choose to focus on driving to the basketball goal with your left hand or work on your minor chord changes on your guitar.
- Randomly shooting baskets or strumming the guitar while watching commercials is not deliberate.
- Split your goal into sub-skills, smaller sets of skills.
- Consider what it is you really want to achieve and then determine the skills necessary to reach that goal.
2. Track the practice.
- Avoid relying on your memory alone to track your practice and progress.
- Use a notebook, a spreadsheet, a calendar, or other means to record your results.
- Review your practice session and make your plan for what you wish to accomplish at your next session. Spend a few minutes on this.
- The better your plan, the faster you will progress.
- Avoid the trap of working aimlessly and mindlessly.
- Have a plan and continue to strengthen that plan.
3. Find ways measure your skill.
- If you are trying to master an instrument, for instance, record yourself and listen.
- If you are practicing your 3-point shot, determine your percentage of success.
- If you are practicing your public speaking, find new opportunities to speak up.
4. Be smarter, not busier.
- Deliberate practice, even in the smallest doses, can be much more effective than endless, mindless practice.
- Avoid believing that you must practice 8+ hours per day to see significant results.
- Focus on practicing as intelligently as possible, and then you can concentrate on how much time you are putting into it.
5. Remove distractions.
- Turn off your electronic gear during your deliberate practice sessions.
6. Practice near the limit of your capability.
- You will get the best return on your time investment if your practice at the point you make regular errors.
- Correcting these errors is vital.
- You will not learn much while doing things that are very easy for you.
- If you are constantly making mistakes, then you need to pull back a little.
- Practice a bit outside your comfort zone. See: Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone
7. Keep to a regular schedule.
- The maximum amount of deliberate practice that can be completed in a day is 4-5 hours.
- If you are working more than this, you are probably not practicing deliberately or mindfully.
- Limit your sessions to 90 minutes, or until your focus starts to wander.
- Use multiple sessions to reach a maximum of hours per day.
8. Get a good mentor.
- Until you have become an expert yourself, you cannot accurately determine all of your mistakes.
- You also will not always know the best way to correct them.
- Find a great mentor and use them effectively.
- While you may not be able to have a mentor present for every moment of your practice, spend as much time with them as possible.
I recently read a post about getting rid of “SMART” goals. If you are not sure what that term means, check out this post: Set your goals in motion today. Perhaps this was written to get enough readers riled up enough to comment.
However, I believe our issues lie not in how we lay out each of our goals, but our commitment to the rules of engagement we set for ourselves to pursue our goals. If we are not committed to getting results, we will not, and can not, stay the course, no matter what we call the plan. What do I suggest?
For each new skill-set you want to master, give deliberate practice a chance for at least a month.
Resolve to practice at least one hour each day for the next 30 days.
Practice deliberately and stretch yourself.
You will be amazed at the improvement you enjoy in one, short month.