About deliberate practice

3 minute read

As professionals, we are all day practicing our skills. We work with the intent of solving issues and design solutions, and we slowly become better at it. If we are diligent in our work, we will be taking notes, revising them, and learn even more and better. But with time, you realize that it is not enough, especially in those tasks that we want to be automatic. We need to train the brain to do them effortlessly to make the conscious part of the mind free to solve bigger and harder problems.

Think about how fast most software developers type on their computers. I have seen many typing with just two or three fingers. I am not talking about novice computer users, but about people that have been working with computers for twenty plus years. Why are they not getting better at typing every day? Why are they stuck with the same terrible performance? They look fast because they move a lot, but once you see a proficient typist, you realize how slow the rest are.

You can find another example by looking at taxi drivers. They are all-day driving in the city or anywhere. Do you think they are ready to participate in a Rally or at NASCAR? No, they are not. That is because they are not looking for perfection on fast driving; instead, driving following the circulation rules suffices.

Deliberate practice is practice with intention, with a goal. You practice one specific topic to get the most of it and become as proficient as possible in that area. At the same time, you are generating the reference materials that will allow you to recover the knowledge on the topic is you do not practice that for a bit. That reference materials can be notes, exercises, audio or video recordings, or even articles that you publish on the web.

I decided that 2019 will be the year in which I will become a fast typist. I have always typed with all fingers fluently but not fast. My typing precision was low because I did never work on it. To fix it, I set a plan in place and start practicing on it 20 minutes every day using TypingClub. I started from zero working on my precision and expecting that speed will come with it. And it did. I took the whole year to complete the 600 plus exercises of the program, but the persistence and the focus on precision paid off. My initial speed was of around 42 wpm of average for a new text. At the end of the year, I was typing at about 70 wpm, so, goal achieved!. Also, with good practice, other side benefits appear. Typing is less tiresome because I have better posture, and I can focus better on what I am writing instead of on the act of typing. As a result, I make fewer mistakes.

The year 2020 is the year of the piano. If you are following my blog, you have seen that I am reporting my progress every month.

I try to apply that to my professional career as a software developer. But that is a bit harder. Simply because after working 8 to 10 hours a day developing software, it is very hard to find the strength to keep doing it. Even if it is in a completely different environment or project, nonetheless, I have booked an hour every week to focus on one single topic, like doing a simple kata or practice creating a design pattern in my programming language of choice.

I am aware that deliberate practice is a potent tool that we have in our belts to become better at what we like. If we are better at what we do, we will enjoy it more, whether it is professional or as a hobby.