Deliberate Practice | Expert | Psychology & Cognitive Science

11 Steps Towards Deliberate Practice

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This post is by Lukas Kyska of The Aspiring Guitarist. Deliberate practice is your highway to becoming an expert. It is the fastest way to become really good at things. If you want to become great, you need to learn how to practice deliberately. But there is a problem… Deliberate practice is not easy. It is not something you were born with. Deliberate practice is effortful activity that can be sustained only for a limited time each day and exhaustion must be avoided.

The goal of deliberate practice is not to be enjoyed, the only goal is to improve your performance. Maximization of deliberate practice is also not simple – it takes time, energy and money. Maybe you think that your practice regimen is good, but it’s probably not. I had to find for myself that my practice sessions are far from perfect. I was missing many key concepts that make practice sessions really effective. I realized that I need to revise my notion of how to practice in order to become the best that I can be. You are only as good as is the quality of your practice. I have created a list of useful techniques, tips and tricks that helped me to improve my practice sessions. I’ve used them all and they all work. Important thing is to choose one strategy at a time and stick with it. Don’t take three or four, one is enough. The goal is to improve your practice sessions gradually. Every time I feel like I need to improve my sessions, I go through the list and find one tip that resonates with me. Then I try to apply it as much as I can. Instead of reading them, I started to live them. I realized that there is no benefit if I know them but won’t apply. So pick one and live one (if you are not sure which one you should start with – start with the first one ). 1. SLOW DOWN I know this is one of the most obvious tips, but for some reasons it is really hard for people to do it. From my experience I can say, that my guitar students are usually going the opposite direction. After every mistake they usually speed up the tempo. The reason

is probably that they want to learn it faster but in fact they are doing the exact opposite. Slowing down is really the key to get any skill under your belt. The goal is to get to the point where you can do something smoothly, not fast. By slowing down you get better control and higher precision. 2. START WITH A GOAL IN YOUR MIND You need to know what you are trying to accomplish. You need to have a destination. Before you start practicing anything, try to see, hear or feel what it’s gonna be like when it’s done. Watch somebody doing it perfectly and you are much closer to your goal than you might think. Create a vision and work towards it. 3. CHUNKING Don’t try to learn complex skill all at once. Chunk it up. Create shorter sequences, little movements and practice them in isolation. When you are ready, connect them. 4. PRACTICE AT THE EDGE OF YOUR ABILITIES Finding the sweet spot at the edge of your current competence is the key to learning skills fast. You don’t aim too high or too low. You need to find that place where you don’t feel comfortable but it is not so bad that you want to quit. Design every task to fit your current level. 5. GET FEEDBACK It is almost impossible to get valuable feedback from yourself while you are fully immersed in action. A good teacher can help you immensely. This is not the only option though. You can record your practice session to watch and evaluate it later. Or

you can let somebody read your next bestseller and ask for feedback. 6. REPEAT In order to master any move or action you need to make a lot of repetitions. First you have to learn it perfectly and then you need to repeat it until you feel absolutely comfortable with it. 7. VARY YOUR APPROACH Nothing is more destructive to learning than being bored with the task. Although I said that repetition is an important part of deliberate practice, it cannot be mindless repetition. You need to stay fresh and be really focused. By varying your approach it is possible to repeat the same move while still keeping it interesting to you. 8. COUNT GOOD REPETITIONS Quite often we get trapped by thinking that putting more hours will produce better results. By now you probably know that it is not about time, but about quality of that time. Instead of focusing your attention on minutes, try to count good repetitions. Count anything that will tell you if you are moving forward or not. 9. RECORD THE DATA AND REVIEW Keeping a daily journal can be very helpful when you are trying to become expert in any field. By tracking your progress you can see if you are moving ahead or not. You can also investigate how effective are your learning methods and strategies. 10. MAKE IT HARDER Practicing and training under pressure might help you to gain skill faster. In your practice room everything is quite safe, but when you are on stage it is very different situation. Try to find

opportunities that put some pressure on you and see how well you can adapt. 11. FIND SOMEONE WHO IS BETTER Feeling like you are good enough? Find someone who is better and see what happens. Constantly try to surround yourself with people that are better in what you are doing. Your learning will accelerate many times. *** Two Tips for Deliberate Practice Originally posted to my old blog on July 20, 2010. If you like the ideas here, I ended up building a free tool to help you put them into practice: Lift. Roughly, deliberate practice is a means to improve yourself by intelligently breaking your target into components that can be practiced and upping the level of difficulty of each practice session to be just outside your comfort zone. Deliberate practice is often associated with the idea that even genius-level talents (Mozart, Tiger Woods) got there through practice, not talent. However, you can ignore the talent debate and just concentrate on the idea that if your talent level is X, deliberate practice is how you get to 10X. There are two things that I think need more emphasis when people talk about deliberate practice. Deliberate practice is more than 10,000 hours Or maybe it's less than 10,000 hours. Almost everyone I've used the phrase "deliberate practice" with has come back saying, "oh, that's the 10,000 hour thing."

They're referring to research saying that after 10,000 hours of practice a person will have reached their improvement limit. This is the least useful thing to know about deliberate practice research. It's the fine print warning that says if you keep a deliberate practice regime up for ten years it's going to stop being effective. Big deal! Most of you won’t even get close to 10,000 hours. The ten thousand hour framing obscures two things, that deliberate practice can be applied to much smaller things (not just when your goal is to be world class) and when you want to make a smaller commitment. What happens after 1 hour of deliberate practice?TONS! Every hour spent practicing is time when you're improving. There's not 10,000 hours of work followed by a single leap. It's 10,000 individual hours paired with 10,000 individual gradations in improvement. The first research paper that I read on this topic is an study of competitive swimmers at all levels, The Mundanity of Excellence. Even at the youngest levels, they found that the fastest swimmers practiced better. So, you're an office worker who sends tons of email? Take one hour, read this article on writing effective emails, and then rewrite your last ten emails according to those guidelines. Forever after you'll be a better emailer. The key word is deliberate A lot of people practice. They put in hours of work hoping to get better. Generally a high volume of practice does lead to improvement. But that's not the key insight of deliberate practice. In the swimming example above they found that there were many similarities between the faster and slower swimmers, including how much time they spent swimming. The difference is that the

slower swimmer would spend practice thinking about the hot tub and the faster swimmers would spend practice working on some minutiae, like how slight variations in the cupping of their hand effected the efficiency of their swimming stroke. I generally find that it's easier to work more than it is to work smarter. Why is that? It would obviously be much more efficient if my preference were reversed. For example, my number one productivity boost comes from keeping an obsessively updated todo list throughout the day. My natural inclination toward the todo list is to compete with myself to see how many items I can check off. The biggest problem with my todo list is that I'll put everything on it and I don't spend much time prioritizing. So at the end of the day my todo list reflects more activity than accomplishment. In the language of deliberate practice, the "skill" I'm trying to improve is productivity. The naive approach is just to work harder. The deliberate approach is to break my productivity target down into smaller pieces and train up the areas where I am lacking. When it comes to productivity, I'm not afraid of hard work or long hours. Those are positives (I think). My weaknesses [1] are that I don't like making plans (I distrust them), I often don't follow my own plans, I procrastinate whenever the next step is not something I'm interested in (I almost lost an entire week to a screencast that still hasn't happened). One of my old weaknesses was losing track of what I was working on and getting sidetracked. I solved that weakness by adopting a todo list. I bet if I spent more time "practicing" productivity I'd come up with an even more nuanced view of my strengths and weaknesses. So, how would I train my own productivity? Each of those weaknesses needs a training plan. I've never seen anyone break down "productivity" in the way a coach would break down a

training schedule. Should I say next Thursday I'll re-prioritize three of my old todo lists, take a coffee break, then prioritize three more lists (written 2 x 3 x prioritize todo list; 2:00 rest)? That would be taking a small subset of my productivity goal and training it. I generally like to try to include my deliberate practice as an organic part of the rest of my work. That means I like to practice while I'm working instead of creating artificial exercises like the todo list one above. I'm not advocating this as the most hardcore way to approach work, but it's as hardcore as I've managed so far. The way I broke down training productivity was just to create a meta list that gives me points for things like: making a plan, working to a plan, and not surfing random websites. I'd be interested in a more disciplined approach though--does anyone have any training ideas? [1] The book The Cyclists Training Bible has cyclists identify limiters, factors that are holding them back from achieving their goals. Then the cyclist puts together a training program that specifically addresses these limiters. The difference between weaknesses and limiters may seem subtle, but I think limiters are a much more functional way of looking at your weaknesses. I'm a terrible singer, but that hasn't held me back from anything meaningful. I'm also terrible at visual design and that often slows down my work. Gee, which one should I work on? Thinking about limiters also lets you work on things that you're good at but which happen to be extra important to your goals. For example, as a programmer I'm a reasonably good communicator but I've still managed to collect a huge list of regrettable programming outcomes that could have been solved by earlier, more articulate communication. So communication is always one of the skills that I'm working on. Becoming a Superstar: It’s Not All About Practice

10,000 hours may not be enough Published on June 5, 2013 by Sian Beilock, Ph.D. in Choke They say that practice makes perfect. Or, more specifically, that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice is necessary to obtain elite performance levels in activities ranging from golf to chess to music. Coined by Florida State psychologist Anders Ericsson and made famous by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, the 10,000 hour rule reflects the idea that becoming a world-class athlete or performer rests on a long period of hard work rather than “innate ability” or talent. You don’t need to be born with the “right” genes to be a super star, says Ericsson, you just have to practice in the “right” way. Is it true? Is practice all it takes to achieve exceptional performance levels? Of course, the debate over whether stars are “born” or “made” has been going on since the time of the ancient Greek philosophers. In the beginning there was Plato, who argued that we come into this world with biologically endowed abilities and skills and that our highest levels of success are predetermined by the heavens. On the other side of the debate was Aristotle, who just happened to be Plato’s student, and who adamantly believed that success was gained through learning and training. Several modern-day researchers like Anders Ericsson take Aristotle’s side, but not everyone does. And, in a paper recently published in the journal Intelligence, psychologists Zach Hambrick, Fred Oswald and colleagues, provide some pretty compelling evidence that there is more to expert performance than practice. Related Articles
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Hambrick and colleagues set out to answer a simple question. Is deliberate practice – that is, practice specifically designed to improve one’s skill – all it takes to become an expert? To answer the question, the research team reanalyzed data from studies on musical and chess expertise. For example, in chess, the research team looked at how reports of deliberate practice throughout one’s lifetime (ranging from one-one-one instruction to studying the game alone) related to a player’s World Chess Federation Ratings and, in music, the researchers looked at how reported practice amounts related to ratings of piano performances. So, what did they find? Hard work does help explain who will reach the highest levels of performance in music and chess alike. But, it’s not the entire story. In fact, in both areas, deliberate

practice wasn’t even half the story – it was about 1/3 of it. Some people require much less practice than others to reach elite performance levels. In other words, it seems that factors other than practice are important for determining who is going to obtain the highest level of skill. I have to admit, the 10,000 hour rule is an appealing one. It implies that almost anyone can become an expert if they work hard enough. As Hambrick says, deliberate practice is so popular because it has “meritocratic appeal.” The data, however, tell a somewhat different story. Yes, hard work is extremely important, but it’s not everything. Whether it’s genes, motivation, one’s ability to handle failure, all of the above or something else altogether, we have to owe up to the fact that factors other than practice contribute to achieving greatness. Only then will we be best able to identify areas we are most likely to excel in and have the best chance of rising to the top.

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