Tony Schwartz is president and CEO of The Energy Project and has written a number of books. In this article he offers his view regarding how to develop skills to an excellent level. This extract from his HBR article includes the six keys he believes will lead to excellent performance. Here, then, are the six keys to achieving excellence he has found are most effective:
- 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 metabolise and embed learning. It’s also during rest that the right hemisphere becomes more dominant, which can lead to creative breakthroughs.
- Ritualise 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 ritualise 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.
Now developing excellent skills does not mean you will automatically be world no.1 in whatever you may choose to practice but it will be beneficial