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How Deliberate Practice Makes You Have Expert-Level Performance

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How Deliberate Practice Makes You Have Expert-Level Performance

It takes a lot of hard work to become an expert. in addition to reading up on the field that you might want to become an expert in, it takes deliberate practice to produce expert-level performance. Here are some tips for using deliberate practice to propel yourself to expertise.

The first thing you need to remember when it comes to developing expert performance at a given task or in a field of study is that it takes a long time to become an expert. Deliberate practice may be able to help get you there a little faster, but you’re still looking at years to go from being a beginner to becoming a true expert at anything.

What is Deliberate Practice?

Deliberate practice simply means that you are making a conscious effort to get better at a skill. So if you’re trying to become an expert at playing the guitar, for example, you learn the basics and then challenge yourself with progressively harder pieces, taking time to practice each day and listen to experts perform so you can learn from them.

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If you’re working on a business skill, you might read up on the technique, look for someone to mentor or coach you and then look for ways to incorporate those skills into your daily life.

The key is not just putting in the hours, but engaging in deliberate exercises in which you are fully attentive and aware of what you are doing and trying to learn. You can’t just go through the motions of singing or painting and expect to improve; you really need to study what you’re doing, practice with an eye toward mastery and keep doing that again and again day after day.

Keep Track of Your Progress

One thing that can help when you’re trying to build a skill and keep intentional practice in mind is to keep a journal. Write about what you’re practicing, what you’re learning and how you’re improving. Taking note of the changes and challenges you’re going through can help you to be more mindful while you are practicing, and to keep you aware of where you’re paying attention and where you might be slacking off or need to put more focus.

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Beginner’s Mind

One key to continuing to learn and improve even when you already feel like an expert is to practice beginner’s mind. It’s so much more freeing to be a beginner because, as Zen master Shunryu Suzuki explains, “in the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

Experts know how things are going to work and the way things are supposed to happen. Beginners are more open to whimsy, alternative ways of thinking and doing things. They ask more questions and have more interesting answers.

The more you can embrace the attitude of a beginner, no matter how much of an expert you may be in your field, the better your performance will be.

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That’s because a beginner doesn’t look too far ahead; he takes one step at a time. She’s persistent, questioning, creative, better able to be in the moment and less frozen by fear of failure.

You don’t forget the things you know when you are in beginner’s mind, but you do try to look at what you know in a different way, to continue asking questions and going further than your current knowledge can take you.

Always Learning

Yo-Yo Ma has famously noted that he’s probably played the cello for 50,000 hours, yet he also says, “I’m always learning.” (Michelangelo said it, too: “I am still learning.”)

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Or, as John Wooden put it, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

There is no end to learning, no pinnacle of expertise. Remember that, and you can continue building your expertise through deliberate practice for the rest of your life.

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Sarah White

Freelance Writer, Editor, Professional Crafter

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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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