I’ve been making the distinction between deliberate practice and just practice. Deep work and shallow work.
10,000 hours can be deceptive, if you think that all you need to do is practice or try something for 10,000 hours. When Eriksson did his study, his estimate of what made greatness was 10,000 hours of DELIBERATE practice. Deliberate practice is full engagement, the brain is struggling and completely focused on its task. The attention of the brain cannot be diverted elsewhere because it is so engaged in the task at hand.
Deliberate practice is synonymous with “deep work”. For example, shallow work is answering emails and texts, arranging documents, checking Facebook, etc.. Deep work is value producing work.
How I’ve come to make this distinction in my own life is in my studies. I now arrange my life around “deep work”…short periods of time when I am wholly engaged in my studies. I put a timer on for 20-30mins, turn off my phone, and concentrate on a task that I have chose. When the timer is up, I stop, take a break, relax, and do something else. When I feel refreshed, I go back and another “module” of” deep work”. I’m finding that spending time purposefully engaging in deep work allows me to learn more, more quickly. I’m also much more conscious of exactly how much deep work I’m doing in a day.
How this relates to hockey is that players should be conscious of spending time in deliberate or deep practice every day. The (overused) phrase of “going through the motions” has never been more applicable. Players should seek coaches that get them into deep/deliberate practice during practice and games.
So what sort of things should you do to get more deep practice?
- Ensure that what you are doing is challenging, at your limit of ability
- Get feedback, or find a way to get feedback
- Use your feedback purposefully
- Do not allow any distractions while you practice
- Focus completely on the task at hand
10,000 hours of going through the motions doesn’t count. 10,000 hours of deliberate practice counts.
One last word on this: Deliberate practice/Deep work is very fatiguing. It is absolutely impossible for someone to be in a state of deliberate practice for 12 hours a day. Many productivity bloggers, famous artists, authors, and inventors really only spent 3-6 hours/day working. The rest of the time they spend relaxing. But you can bet your bottom dollar that those 3-6 hours are deliberate, deep hours. So after your deliberate practice session, make sure to spend time and relax. If you don’t feel mentally fatigued after 20-90mins of deliberate practice….it probably wasn’t deliberate practice.