Deliberate practice: a practical guide to practicing knowledge work

We learn enough to get by in our day-to-day lives, but once we reach that point, we seldom push to go beyond good enough. We do very little that challenges our brains… for the most part, that’s okay. “Good enough” is generally good enough. [But with deliberate practice] If you wish to become significantly better at something, you can.

– Anders Ericsson, Peak

Recently I discussed how we can think about applying deliberate practice to knowledge work, looking at Professor Anders Ericsson’s book Peak and thesis of deliberate practice, a theory of skill development which focuses on performance and how to improve it, rather than just knowledge for its own sake.

The first post discusses some of the challenges in applying deliberate practice to “knowledge work”. Ericsson’s focus is on areas with objectively defined expert performers and well-established training methods; think chess or tennis, not “knowledge work” like development or marketing.

As the post explores, there are ways of taking the key tenets of deliberate practice and applying these. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Identify the expert performers in the field
  2. Figure out what makes them so good
  3. Come up with training techniques to replicate the experts

This is what the first post discussed. Doing this would be a good start, but you’d miss out on the related skills you need to use deliberate practice in practice with your day-to-day.

How do you develop your “training techniques”? How do you make sure you stick with it and don’t quit? How do you self-monitor your progress?

Answering these questions is essential to actually doing deliberate practice. That’s what this post is about: how to actually do deliberate practice, in practice.

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