Deliberate Practice

  • research started by Anders Ericsson (Peak)

    (...) purposeful practice in a nutshell: Get outside your comfort zone but do it in a focused way, with clear goals, a plan for reaching those goals, and a way to monitor your progress. Oh, and figure out a way to maintain your motivation.

  • some examples of practicing with clear goals in mind:
    • Play this piece all the way through, at this speed, with no mistakes, three times in a row
    • Program an email signup form without checking Stack Overflow

    How to Use Deliberate Practice to Reach the Top 1% of Your Field

  • "getting outside your comfort zone" reminds me of ideas from Flow: flow is achieved by operating at the edge of competency, and Deliberate Practice is about moving that edge
    • there's effortless Happiness in one, and effortful process in the other

      Everyone from the very top students to the future music teachers agreed: improvement was hard, and they didn't enjoy the work they did to improve. In short, there were no students who just loved to practice and thus needed less motivation than the others. These students were motivated to practice intensely and with full concentration because they saw such practice as essential to improving their performance.

      • while you get motivation by just staying in the Flow, you have to motivate yourself to practice deliberately
    • the steps taken outside of that comfort zone should be small - you don't double the weight every time you train, you add 1kg/week

      (...) the importance of staying just outside your comfort zone: you need to continually push to keep the body's compensatory changes coming, but if you push too far outside your comfort zone, you risk injuring yourself and actually setting yourself back.

  • feedback is necessary, there's a difference between just lifting weights vs recording my lifts and then critiquing my form

    Purposeful practice involves feedback.

    Generally speaking, no matter what you're trying to do, you need feedback to identify exactly where and how you are falling short. Without feedback - either from yourself or from outside observers - you cannot figure out what you need to improve on or how close you are to achieving your goals. (...) This is a fundamental truth about any sort of practice: If you never push yourself beyond your comfort zone, you will never improve. The amateur pianist who took half a dozen years of lessons when he was a teenager but who for the past thirty years has been playing the same set of songs in exactly the same way over and over again may have accumulated ten thousand hours of "practice" during that time, but he is no better at playing the piano than he was thirty years ago. Indeed, he's probably gotten worse. We have especially strong evidence of this phenomenon as it applies to physicians. Research on many specialties shows that doctors who have been in practice for twenty or thirty years do worse on certain objective measures of performance than those who are just two or three years out of medical school. It turns out that most of what doctors do in their day-to-day practice does nothing to improve or even maintain their abilities; little of it challenges them or pushes them out of their comfort zones. (...) Generally the solution is not "try harder" but rather "try differently."

  • I should focus on things that don't go well, and practice them; this is related to weight training and specific exercises to address "weak points":

    the importance of grit - of students' focusing on material with which they struggle

  • importantly, if "measuring" the skill that you're after is impossible - for example if there's no agreed way what "good performance" even means, then it's impossible to create effective training methods - You Get What You Measure, and if there's nothing to measure, it's hard to get anything
  • related to:

We get interested in what we get good at. In general, it is difficult to sustain interest in an activity unless one achieves some degree of competence. Athletics is the activity par excellence where the young need no prodding to gain pleasure from an increase in skill, save where prematurely adult standards are imposed on little leagues formed too soon to ape the big ones. A custom introduced some years ago at the Gordonstoun School in Scotland has become legendary. In addition to conventionally competitive track and field events within the school, there was established a novel competition in which boys pitted themselves against their own best prior record in the events.

Toward a Theory of Instruction - Jerome Bruner

In deliberate practice, learners and teachers periodically stop and assess their experiences and circumstances in order to make a plan to improve. The first two components - stopping and assessing - constitute reflective practice. Reflective practice, in turn, falls into three equally important domains. The first domain is cognitive awareness: awareness of what you know and don't know. The second domain is procedural: what kind of technical skills do you have or do you need and what can you or can't you do. The final domain is affective: how do interactions with patients or colleagues, or your work life in general, influence emotions, and what impact does that have on patient care and your own quality of life as a physician.

  • the question has some clues in research on Deliberate Practice - doing things is not always easy, but still gives joy

There is a well-known phenomenon known to psychologists by the forbidding name of the Zeigarnik Effect. In brief, tasks that are interrupted are much more likely to be remembered (...) The effect holds only if the tasks that the subject has been set are ones that have a structure-a beginning, a plan, and a terminus. If the tasks are "silly" in the sense of being meaningless, arbitrary, and without visible means for checking progress, the drive to completion is not stimulated by interruption. It seems likely that the desire to achieve competence follows the same rule. Unless there is some meaningful unity in what we are doing and some way of telling how we are doing, we are not very likely to strive to excel ourselves.

Toward a Theory of Instruction - Jerome Bruner

  • Bruner argues that Zeigarnik Effect doesn't work just for any task - excellence comes from Deliberate Practice, and this form of work needs a specific goal, and clear feedback into how we are doing