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Published on January 3, 2019

How to Use Deliberate Practice to Be Good at Almost Anything

How to Use Deliberate Practice to Be Good at Almost Anything

I first came across the principle of deliberate practice in the book, Peak by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool. According to Anders Ericsson in an interview with [Business Insider],

“deliberate practice involves stepping outside your comfort zone and trying activities beyond your current abilities.”

What that means is breaking down the skill you want to acquire into separate components and developing your skills, so you master each individual part of the skill. What deliberate practice is not is practising something over and over and not pushing yourself to improve your skill at doing it.

In this article, you will discover how you can make deliberate practice works in your everyday life and achieve your goals fast.

How Deliberate Practice Works in Everyday Life

Imagine you want to become a better presenter, using the principles of deliberate practice you would break down the presentation into different sections.

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For example, you could break down the presentation into the beginning, the middle and the end. Then you would work only on the beginning one day. You would practice the tone, the pauses and even your movement at the beginning of the presentation. On another day, you might practice the transition from beginning to the middle etc.

The opposite approach would be to mindlessly run through the presentation over and over again until you memorize the script. This type of practice might help you to memorize your script, but you would not necessarily deliver a great presentation. It would likely sound wooden and over-practised instead of dynamic and natural.

In my teenage years, I was an aspiring middle distance runner. During the winter months, we ran a lot of long distances on the road as well as cross country. The purpose was to develop our overall stamina and basic strength. As the summer approached, we transitioned onto the track and did a lot of 10 X 600 metres with 60 seconds rest between runs. Here we were working on our speed endurance, a key factor in performing well at middle distance running.

Six hundred metres was not my racing distance. I ran 800 and 1,500 metres, but those 10 x 600-metre training sessions were a form of deliberate practice to develop the necessary skills to be able to perform at our best in a crucial part of the race—the middle. They were tough, but the training paid off when we were racing.

How to Use Deliberate Practice

1. Break it Down

Whatever skill you want to acquire, you need to break it down into different parts.

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Imagine you want to become better at writing, you could break down the writing process into creating eye-catching beginnings, strong middles and inspiring endings. If you were to work on the beginning part of the writing process, you could practice different types of beginnings. For example, you could research how the most popular articles here on Lifehack begin. Then, you would practice creating beginnings in the same style.

2. Get a Coach

One key part of deliberate practice is to get feedback from a coach.

In our writing example, you could ask a friend or a person you know who reads a lot and ask them what they think of your beginning. Ask them how you could improve it. With the feedback in hand, you can then go back and rewrite the beginning to make it even more eye-catching.

If you were to develop your presentation skills, you could practice your opening with a colleague or friend you trust, and ask them for feedback. The key is to listen carefully to the feedback and then to go back and fine-tune your practice so you push your skills development further.

If you do not have access to anyone who can provide you with honest feedback, you can video yourself performing your presentation and self-critique yourself. It is hard to watch yourself at first, but after you get over the initial shock of watching yourself, you can watch dispassionately and see how you move, sound and perform. Do you find yourself interesting? Are you conveying your message clearly? Are you using too many filler words? All these questions will help you to improve your craft and skills.

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Earlier this year, one of my communication clients asked me to review and coach his senior leadership team on a presentation they were to give to the CEO of the company, who was visiting Korea. After going through their individual presentations with them, I felt there was no passion, no emotion, no pride in what they had achieved over the previous twelve months.

Because they had rehearsed their presentation alone with no coaching or feedback, they had focused too much on the script and missed the important energy and passion.

I advised my clients to look at their scripts and think about what they were proud of and what they were excited about in the coming year. That one, small shift in perspective quickly put the energy and passion into their presentations.

Getting feedback is an important part of getting the most out of deliberate practice.

3. Use the Internet to Get Anonymous Feedback

Another way you can get feedback is to put your writing skills online in the form of a blog post and ask people to give you feedback on your writing style. Or you could record yourself and upload the video to YouTube. I began a YouTube channel three years ago, and this allowed me to improve my presentation skills through self-analysis.

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I have also received a lot of feedback, both positive and negative, which I reviewed and corrected where I felt the criticisms were justified. An example of this was my introductions to my videos. When I first began, my introductions were long and rambling. I received a lot of ‘feedback’ about this and I soon shortened them and learned to get straight to the point. It has helped me to sharpen my message.

Final Thoughts

Using deliberate practice can help you to accelerate your learning skills. With learning languages, for example, traditionally we would buy ourselves a textbook and learn grammar principles and long lists of vocabulary. Once we had some basics learned, we would then practice speaking and writing sentences.

If you were to apply deliberate practice to your language learning process, you would find someone—preferably a native speaker of your target language—and talk to them. They would correct you and advise you where you can improve your pronunciation and intonation. Chris Lonsdale talked about this when he delivered his [TEDx Talk] on how to learn a language in six months. All the advice he gave in that talk was based on the principles of deliberate practice.

Whatever it is you want to master and improve your skills at, when you use the power of deliberate practice, you can quickly become better than the average.

Developing your skills in the area of communication can give you huge advantages in your workplace. Learning and mastering anything new can give you the skills to stay relevant in your industry.

As we go through the disruptive changes of the ‘fourth industrial revolution’, the onus is on your to develop yourself and deliberate practice is one way you can give yourself the advantage.

More Resources to Help You Learn Fast

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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Carl Pullein

Dedicated to helping people to achieve their maximum potential through better time management and productivity.

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Last Updated on July 23, 2019

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

In the journey of growth, there are times when we grow and excel. We are endlessly driven and hyped up, motivated to get our goals.

Then there are times when we stagnate. We feel uninspired and unmotivated. We keep procrastinating on our plans. More often than not, we get out of a rut, only to get back into another one.

How do you know if you are stagnating? Here are some tell-tale signs:

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  • If you have been experiencing chronic procrastination on your goals
  • If you don’t ever feel like doing anything
  • If you keep turning to sleep, eating, games, mindless activities and entertainment for comfort
  • If you know you should be doing something, but yet you keep avoiding it
  • If you have not achieved anything new or significant now relative to 1 month, 2 months or 3 months ago
  • If you have a deep sense of feeling that you are living under your potential

When we face stagnation in life, it’s a sign of deeper issues. Stagnation, just like procrastination, is a symptom of a problem. It’s easy to beat ourselves over it, but this approach is not going to help. Here, I will share 5 steps to help you move out of this stagnation. They won’t magically transform your life in 1 night (such changes are never permanent because the foundations are not built), but they will help you get the momentum going and help you get back on track.

1. Realize You’re Not Alone

Everyone stagnates at some point or another. You are not alone in this and more importantly, it’s normal. In fact, it’s amazing how many of my clients actually face the same predicament, even though all of them come from different walks of life, are of different ages, and have never crossed paths. Realizing you are not alone in this will make it much easier to deal with this period. By trying to “fight it”, you’re only fighting yourself. Accept this situation, acknowledge it, and tell yourself it’s okay. That way, you can then focus on the constructive steps that will really help you.

2. Find What Inspires You

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Stagnation comes because there isn’t anything that excites you enough to take action. If you don’t have a habit of setting goals, and instead just leave yourself to daily mundanes, it’s not surprising you are experiencing stagnation. What do you want to do if there are no limitations? If you can have whatever you want, what will it be? The answers to these questions will provide the fuel that will drive you forward.

On the other hand, even if you are an experienced goal setter, there are times when the goals you set in the past lose their appeal now. It’s normal and it happens to me too. Sometimes we lose touch with our goals, since we are in a different emotional state compared to when we first set them. Sometimes our priorities change and we no longer want to work on those goals anymore. However, we don’t consciously realize this, and what happens is we procrastinate on our goals until it compounds into a serious problem. If that’s the case for you, it’s time to relook into your goals. There’s no point in pursuing goals that no longer inspire you. Trash away your old goals (or just put them aside) and ask yourself what you really want now. Then go for them.

3. Give Yourself a Break

When’s the last time you took a real break for yourself? 3 months? 6 months? 1 year? Never? Perhaps it’s time to take a time-out. Prolonged working can cause someone to become disillusioned as they lose sight of who they are and what they want.

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Go take some extended leave from work. A few days at bare minimum; a few weeks or months will be great. Some of my ex-colleagues have quit their jobs and took months out to do some self-reflection. Of course, some of us might not have that luxury, so we can stick to a few weeks of leave. Go on a trip elsewhere and get away from your work and your life. Use this chance to get a renewed perspective of life. Think about your life purpose, what you want and what you want to create for your life in the future. These are big questions that require deep thinking over them. It’s not about finding the answers at one go, but about taking the first step to finding the answers.

4. Shake up Your Routines

Being in the same environment, doing the same things over and over again and meeting the same people can make us stagnant. This is especially if the people you spend the most time with are stagnant themselves.

Change things around. Start with simple things, like taking a different route to work and eating something different for breakfast. Have your lunch with different colleagues, colleagues you never talked much with. Work in a different cubicle if your work has free and easy seating. Do something different than your usual for weekday evenings and weekends. Cultivate different habits, like exercising every day, listening to a new series of podcasts every morning to work, reading a book, etc (here’s 6 Proven Ways To Make New Habits Stick). The different contexts will give you different stimulus, which will trigger off different thoughts and actions in you.

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When I’m in a state of stagnancy, I’ll get a sense of what’s making me stagnate. Sometimes it’s the environment I’m in, sometimes it’s the people I’ve been hanging out with, sometimes it’s my lifestyle. Most of the times it’s a combination of all these. Changing them up helps to stir myself out of the stagnant mode.

5. Start with a Small Step

Stagnation also comes from being frozen in fear. Maybe you do want this certain goal, but you aren’t taking action. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work needed? Are you afraid you will make mistakes? Is the perfectionist in you taking over and paralyzing you?

Let go of the belief that it has to be perfect. Such a belief is a bane, not a boon. It’s precisely from being open to mistakes and errors that you move forward. Break down what’s before you into very very small steps, then take those small steps, a little step at a time. I had a client who had been stagnating for a long period because he was afraid of failing. He didn’t want to make another move where he would make a mistake. However, not wanting to make a mistake has led him to do absolutely nothing for 2-3 years. On the other hand, by doing just something, you would already be making progress, whether it’s a mistake or not. Even if you make a supposed “mistake”,  you get feedback to do things differently in the next step. That’s something you would never have known if you never made a move.

More to Help You Stay Motivated

Here are some resources that will help you break out of your current phase:

Featured photo credit: Anubhav Saxena via unsplash.com

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