If you regret not having learned how to do something and think it’s too late to be good at it, read on:
Are you beyond those 30-something years when you were convinced there was plenty of time to take up a sport, a new career, a college degree? Just because you didn’t do it before, doesn’t mean you can’t be great at something now! Here are some tips from an article by HBR Blogger Tony Schwartz entitled Six Ways to Being Great at Anything:
Pursue what you love. Passion is an incredible motivator. It fuels focus, resilience, and perseverance.
Do the hardest work first. We all move instinctively toward pleasure and away from pain. Most great performers, Ericsson and others have found, delay gratification and take on the difficult work of practice in the mornings, before they do anything else. That’s when most of us have the most energy and the fewest distractions.
Practice intensely, without interruption for short periods of no longer than 90 minutes and then take a break. Ninety minutes appears to be the maximum amount of time that we can bring the highest level of focus to any given activity. The evidence is equally strong that great performers practice no more than 4 ½ hours a day.
Seek expert feedback, in intermittent doses. The simpler and more precise the feedback, the more equipped you are to make adjustments. Too much feedback, too continuously, however, can create cognitive overload, increase anxiety, and interfere with learning.
Take regular renewal breaks. Relaxing after intense effort not only provides an opportunity to rejuvenate, but also to metabolize and embed learning. It’s also during rest that the right hemisphere becomes more dominant, which can lead to creative breakthroughs.
Ritualize practice. Will and discipline are wildly overrated. As the researcher Roy Baumeister has found, none of us have very much of it. The best way to insure you’ll take on difficult tasks is to ritualize them — build specific, inviolable times at which you do them, so that over time you do them without having to squander energy thinking about them.
What do you think? Great stuff? Have you achieved something amazing you’d like to share?
I think this is very helpful advice. Just today I was asking a project manager whether it was better to tackle the easy tasks first or the difficult ones…now I know, start with the hard work first. As far as something amazing…some days I think it’s amazing that I’m still here!
I would also add to this terrific list that you schedule in some focused reflection time each day. This is where you spend 15 to 30 minutes reviewing what you have learned and how you can improve the next time you practice.
It comes from the famous experiment where researchers divided up people into three groups. Group A was to physically practice throwing free throws for 30 minutes a day. Group B was to think about throwing free throws but not physically do the exercise. Group C was to do neither active practice or mental practice. At the end of thirty days, it was not surprising that Group A improved their free throw percentages. What was surprising is that Group B also improved their free throw percentages close to the level of Group A. Thus, active practice and mental rehearsal both are great ways to improve your skills.