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Last Updated on September 10, 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 September 17, 2019

What’s the Easiest Language to Learn for English Speakers?

What’s the Easiest Language to Learn for English Speakers?

Who says learning a language needs to be hard?

The better question to ask is: what is the easiest language to learn in the shortest amount of time?

How to Know Which Languages Are Easier to Learn?

Playing to Your Strengths

One way to hack this process is to first understand that as English speakers, we have in our hands one of the most connected languages that exists. It’s linked to many European Germanic languages by descent or influence, and over 50 percent of English words stem from Latin or French.

    This probably doesn’t come as a big surprise to most, as the structure, alphabet, and makeup of the language is very similar to Spanish, Italian, French, and other languages from the latin root.

    Bestselling author and polyglot, Tim Ferriss, says that you should consider a new language like a new sport.

    There are certain physical prerequisites (height is an advantage in basketball), rules (a runner must touch the bases in baseball), and so on that determine if you can become proficient at all, and—if so—how long it will take.

    For example, it would a wiser choice and indicate a higher likelihood of success if a professional water polo player decided to transition into playing handball: similar structures, rules, and physical requirements.

    However, it wouldn’t be too wise if Kobe Bryant started to play professional ice hockey. It involves learning too many new rules, an entire new skill (skating), and the likelihood of success decreases significantly (or will take 10x longer).

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    Language learning is no different. As a “professional” language learner, we need to first breakdown our strengths and our understanding of existing rules and structures.

    If you already speak English, picking a compatible language with similar sounds and word structure like Spanish, instead of a completely different root like Mandarin, could mean the difference between reaching conversation fluency in 3 months versus 3 years.

    Follow the Golden Sentences

    If you want to determine which is the easiest language to learn, you should aim to answer the following questions first.

    • Are there new grammatical structures that will postpone fluency?
    • Are there new sounds that will double or quadruple the time it takes to acquire fluency? (particularly vowels)
    • How similar is it to languages I already understand? What will help and what will interfere?
    • All of which answer the question: How difficult will it be, and how long would it take to become fluent?

    An effective tool to use to answer all of these questions is called The Golden Sentences.

    It comprises eight sentences that expose much of the language, and quite a few deal breakers.

    1. The apple is red.
    2. It is John’s apple.
    3. I give John the apple.
    4. We give him the apple.
    5. He gives it to John.
    6. She gives it to him.
    7. I must give it to him.
    8. I want to give it to her.

    Here’s a directly translated version of these sentences in Spanish.

    1BObwE56jfMqAPOokV2IBsA

      There’s a couple of reasons why these sentences are helpful:

      • It shows you how verbs are conjugated based on the speaker (gender and number)
      • You can see a high-level view of the fundamental sentence structures, which helps you answer questions like: is it subject-verb-object (SVO) like English and Chinese (“I eat the apple”), is it subject-object-verb (SOV) like Japanese (“I the apple eat”), or something else?
      • The first three sentences shows you if the language has a noun case that may become a pain in the butt for you. For example in German, “the” might be der, das, die, dem, den and more depending on whether “the apple” is an object, indirect object, possessed by someone else, etc.

      If possible, I recommend you check with a language teacher to fully understand the translation of these sentences and how transferable your existing languages are.

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      As a rule of thumb: use The Golden Sentences as your guiding map, before you choose the vehicle (the method). It will help you achieve your goals in half the time.

      Difficulty Level for Learning the 7 Most Common Languages

      Now let’s dive into dissecting which of the hundreds of languages that exist, is the easiest language to learn.

      We profiled each of the languages we’ll mention into the following categories:

      • Speaking: This is based on the ease with which learners are able to pick up this language.
      • Grammar: Used as a criterion when ranking a given language as easy, moderately easy, or difficult to acquire.
      • Writing: In many languages, learning to speak first and write later makes the journey easier. Other languages are equally easy to speak and write. This item spells out the easiest languages to write alongside the most difficult. As with speaking, easy, moderately easy, and difficult were used to qualify each language.

      We’ve decided to rank the order of the languages from easiest to hardest to learn.

      1. Spanish

      • Speaking: Very Easy
      • Grammar: Very Easy
      • Writing: Easy
      • Overall: Very Easy

      As English speakers, we can be thankful that Spanish pronunciations are one of the easiest to learn.

      Overall, Spanish has a shallow orthographic depth – meaning that most words are written as pronounced. This means that reading and writing in Spanish is a straightforward task.

      With only ten vowel and diphthong sounds (English has 20), and no unfamiliar phonemes except for the fun-to-pronounce letter ñ. This makes learning how to speak Spanish the easiest out of the bunch, and may give you the best return on your time and investment, as 37 per cent of employers rated Spanish as a critical language to know for employment.[1]

      2. Italian

      • Speaking: Easy
      • Grammar: Easy
      • Writing: Moderately Easy
      • Overall: Easy

      Italian is the most “romantic” of the romance languages. Luckily its latin-rooted vocabulary translates into many similar Italian/English cognates, such as foresta (forest), calendario (calendar), and ambizioso (ambitious).

      Like Spanish, many of the words in Italian are written as pronounced. Moreover, the Italian sentence structure is highly rhythmic, with most words ending in vowels. This adds a musicality to the spoken language which makes it fairly simple to understand, and a spunky language to use.

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      3. French

      • Speaking: Moderate
      • Grammar: Moderate
      • Writing: Moderately Easy
      • Overall: Moderate

      Despite how different French may appear at first, linguists estimate that French has influenced up to a third of the modern English language.

      This may also explain why French’s Latin derivations make much of the vocabulary familiar to English speakers (edifice, royal, village). There are also more verb forms (17, compared to the English 12) and gendered nouns (le crayon, la table).

      But it’s not all easy.

      Pronunciation in French is especially difficult, with vowel sounds and silent letters that you may not be used to in English.

      4. Portuguese

      • Speaking: Moderate
      • Grammar: Moderate
      • Writing: Moderate
      • Overall: Moderate

      With the Brazilian economy ranking 6th in the world, Portuguese has become a powerful language to learn. One great element of the language is that interrogatives are fairly easy, expressed by intonation alone (“You Like This?”) If you can say it in Portuguese, you can ask it. What’s more, in Brazilian Portuguese, there’s one catchall question tag form: não é.

      The main difficulty with the pronunciation is the nasal vowel sounds that require some practice.

      5. German

      • Speaking: Difficult
      • Grammar: Moderate
      • Writing: Moderate
      • Overall: Moderately Difficult

      For many English speakers, German is a difficult language to pick up. Its long words, four noun case endings, and rough pronunciation gives your tongue quite the work out each time you speak.

      German is recognized as a very descriptive language. A good example is how they use the noun by combining the object with the action at hand.

      Example: das Fernsehen – the television, combines the words fern, far, andsehen, watching, lit. far-watching.

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      On the other hand, German can be a fun language to learn and its use of grammar is considered to be quite logical, with many overlapping words in English. Just watch out for the exceptions to the rules!

      6. Hindi

      • Speaking: Moderate
      • Grammar: Moderately Difficult
      • Writing: Difficult
      • Overall: Moderately Difficult

      There are many familiar words in English which are either Hindi or of Hindi origin. For example guru, jungle, karma, yoga, bungalow, cheetah, looting, thug and avatar. Hindi also uses lots of English words. They are read and pronounced as they are in English, but are written in Hindi. For example, डॉक्टर is pronounced doctor and स्टेशन is pronounced station.

      This shows that while learning the vocabulary and pronunciation of Hindi may not to be too difficult due to its similarity to English, writing in Hindi is a different ball game.

      7. Mandarin

      • Speaking: Difficult
      • Grammar: Difficult
      • Writing: Very Difficult
      • Overall: Very Difficult

      Last, but not least: Mandarin. We mainly put this here to show you the contrasting difference between the easiest language to learn (Spanish) and the hardest language to learn, for English speakers.

      While language learners won’t struggle as much on the grammar, mastering the tones can be very difficult. Mandarin is a tonal language, which means the pitch or intonation used when a word is spoken impacts its meaning. For example, tang with a high tone means soup, but tang with a rising tone means sugar.

      Learning Mandarin has its rewards though, providing cultural insights and knowledge. But according to the BBC, you’ll need to memorize over 2,000 characters to read a Chinese newspaper![2]

      What’s the Easiest Language to Learn?

      Winner: Spanish

      The clear winner for the easiest language to learn is Spanish. Everything from writing, grammar, and speaking will come more naturally to the English speaker: similar rules, structure, and latin roots.

      It’ll be like going from playing football to ultimate Frisbee.

      More About Language Learning

      Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

      Reference

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