Deliberate Practice and How to Use It to Gain Mastery

There has been a lot of attention focused on the idea of deliberate practice over the last few years. There are several books on the topic and a large body of associated research. There’s no doubt that deliberate practice is the best way to advance your expertise.

But what is deliberate practice?

Can anyone use this technique?

Follow this process to use deliberate practice to master what you want:

1. Identify your weaknesses. Which skills would you like to strengthen? Ask yourself how you can best use the time you have available to you. What specific skill can you practice that will bring you the greatest benefit?

2. Have a purpose for your practice session. It’s not enough to just go to the driving range and hit golf balls mindlessly. Randomly pulling out sheet music and playing the piano won’t help much. Before you begin practicing anything, it’s necessary to know exactly what you’re trying to accomplish.

    • Think about your practice session and write down your objectives. “Learn the C Major scale.”
    • Know your intention before getting to work.

3. Do it daily. Regular practice is key. If you only practice once a week, your progress will be much slower. Your highest level of development will also be much lower. There’s no substitute for consistent practice.

    • Practice more than once each day to maximize the effect.

4. Focus. Deliberate practice requires your full attention. You know that your practice session will be less effective if you’re staring out the window or daydreaming.

    • The quality of your practice is dependent on the amount of focus you can create and maintain.

5. Seek to improve. It’s all about improvement, not just repetition. Try to make each attempt better than the last.

    • Constant improvement is the goal of deliberate practice. Mastery requires a lot of incremental improvement. If your intention is to improve, your rate of improvement will be higher.

6. Have a mentor. A mentor can make all the difference. A mentor can have a variety of titles: expert, teacher, or coach. Regardless of the title of your mentor, what’s important is their expertise.

    • A great golf coach can immediately pinpoint the error in your swing. A piano teacher knows what’s wrong with your hand position.
    • Find a subject expert to help you. Feedback is critical to deliberate practice. Without it, you might be practicing the wrong things over and over. Are you sure you’re doing it correctly?

7. Allow time to rest. Physical and mental recovery are necessary. For example, focus can only be maintained for so long before you run out of gas. Experiment and find the optimal length of practice sessions for you. How much of a break do you need? Only you can determine that.

8. Deliberate practice cannot overcome all. If you’re short, slow, and middle-aged, you won’t play in the NBA, no matter how much you practice.

    • Deliberate practice is the best way to come close to realizing your full potential at a particular task. It cannot give you potential.

Deliberate practice consists of using your time in a very intentional and focused way. Identify your weaknesses and build your practice routine to address them. Consistent practice is the key. With deliberate practice, you will discover what you’re really capable of.

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