On Deliberate Practice

03 October, 2019 - 7 min read

Deep work is a cognitively demanding task as opposed to shallow work which is non-cognitively demanding task. Deep work is valuable, rare and meaningful. The ability to quickly master hard things and the ability to produce at an elite level, in terms of both speed and quality, are two core abilities for thriving in today’s economy. So how do you do deliberately practice?

I. Law of productivity

Time Spent = Deliberate Practice

High-Quality Work Produced = Time Spent x Intensity of Focus

II. Solving big problems

State the objective and work backwards. Break down the problem into smaller set of problems. Supply X number of inputs for one set of smaller problem. Aptitude is different than knowledge. Knowledge can be taught but learning how to think (aptitude) can be time consuming.

III. Deliberate practice

  • Step 1: always opt in for active (read physical books) form of learning as opposed to passive (listen to audible) form of learning
  • Step 2: combine focused mode such as pomodoro and chunking with diffused mode such as exercise, mental exercise and break in between

    • focused mode requires intense 45-50 minutes of learning with no distractions such as phone, internet or email. Break down your work into 45-50 minutes of chunks
    • diffused mode is taking a break after each chunking session. This helps with long-term memory (LTM)
  • Step 3: apply Feynman Technique which has four simple steps:

    • choose a concept and think very hard and review notes repetitively
    • teach it to a toddler. Teach to deepen your learning concepts which will help you catch blind spots and errors. Brainstorm and work with others who are smartly focused on the topic
    • identify gaps and go back to the source material
    • review and simplify
  • Step 4: spaced repetition to move from working memory to long term. Recall what you have just learned using index cards for retrieval purpose
  • Step 5: visual metaphors or analogy to map images to learning concepts. For example, you can map Syria with cereal
  • Step 6: memory palace technique to map physical locations like home to learning concepts
  • Step 7: mnemonics to remember list
  • Step 8: multi-disciplinary approach to transfer of knowledge from one discipline and applying it to another
  • Step 9: use analytical lens by not trusting assertions and arguments which constitutes your teacher's message. Know what author's incentives are. Be a demanding student and an inspectional reader to make up your mind on where you stand
  • Step 10: test yourself. Use scoring system to evaluate yourself. Understanding does not mean expertise. Test, Review and Revise

IV. Einstellung

Einstellung is an enemy of creativity. Don’t get hung up on your intuition and old ideas. Steps 3.2 and 3.3 above will help deepen your creativity.

V. Chemicals imbalances

We all experience chemical imbalances if we work too much or not exercise or not spend time with your loved ones. How to fix chemical imbalances or get back in the flow?

  • Cortisol: presence of stress; follow the tips below
  • Endorphins: exercise

    • It’ll help you power through a dreadful task after working out. This works for two reasons. First, the endorphin rush just feels great. You’re more tolerant of pain. Second, since you have recently completed a “challenging activity,” your mind is more readily willing to predict that you’ll complete another.
  • Dopamine: complete a task by using music and/or coffee

    • Use a particular playlist you use when you need energy. These are songs that you love but don’t listen to frequently
    • Using the right amount of coffee will put you in a great mood. Using too much will make you jittery. Experiment and find what works for you
  • Serotonin: help others without expecting anything in return
  • Oxytocin: spend time with your loved ones

VI. Notes from Learning How To Learn (Coursera)

  • Tools: chunking, pomodoro, space repetition with Ankii, visual memory system – index cards, memory palace techniques, visual metaphors or analogy (ex: Syria like Cereal), exercise is far effective than any drug, test checklist, sleeping, breathing, optimism—turning a negative situation into positive helps you relieve stress, will power and focused instrumental music.
  • Focused mode & Diffused mode (breaks/exercise, sleeping washes away metabolic toxins). Use pomodora technique and chunking for focused, non-distracted learning.
  • Chunking helps you with practice and repetition. Learning little by little, small chunks can become larger and gradually will help you become a master of the material. When wanting to learn something new break it down to atomic steps to learn by chunking each step. Chunks are best built with focused, undivided attention, understanding of the basic idea.
  • Space-repetition technique to move from working memory to long-term memory storage warehouse.
  • Teach others in layman's words. Learning with others is a form of active learning.
  • Law of Serendipity, Deliberate Practice: lady luck favors the one who deliberately practices. Focusing on more difficult tasks as opposed to easy tasks. Work deliberately hard!
  • Eistellung is an enemy of creativity. Einstellung is when your initial thought, an idea you've already had in mind, or a neural pattern you've already developed well and strengthened, prevents a better idea or solution from being found. Or keeps you from being flexible enough to accept new, better, or more appropriate solutions. You have to unlearn your erroneous older ideas or approaches even while you're learning new ones. Number 7 helps you build intuition but be wary of making you from being creative. Einstellung, the idea you are already holding in mind can block you from fresh thoughts.
  • Use multi-disciplinary approach. Interleaving is a process where one mix, or interleave, multiple subjects or topics while they study. Transfer of knowledge or learning refers to learning in one context and applying it to another. Procedural learning by doing many different types of problems you’ll find that you understand both why and how, it will help build your intuition. Fresh ideas will help you with independent thinking.
  • Recalling: simple recall, trying to remember the key points without looking at the page, is one of the best ways to help the chunking process along. Visual system memory system, image helps you enhance your memory and recall the concept. Memory Palace Technique is a powerful way of grouping things you want to remember like the layout of your house and using it as a notepad where you want to deposit the concepts images you want to remember; the more you memorize using these innovative techniques, the more creative you become because you are building these wild, unexpected possibilities.
  • Illusions of Competence: learn to recognize when you're fooling yourself about whether you're actually learning the material. Mini testing, Minimize highlighting, Mistakes are good, Use deliberate practice. Working memory has only 4 slots. Glancing, reading passively or highlighting too much is an illusional learning. One of the best ways to catch a blind spots and errors is to brainstorm and work with others who are smartly focused on the topic.
  • Habit building includes four steps: cue (notification), routine (chain habits daily log), reward (incentives and celebrate), belief (hope).
  • Product vs process: when learning something new it is okay to start with a few negative feelings about beginning a learning session. Use pomodoro to push yourself. Learn to focus on process not product. Process means, the flow of time and the habits and actions. Start with hard start and then jump into easy.
  • Quitting your day is as important as planning your day. Think of diffuse mode.
  • Will power is more important than time. It is limited and most abundant in the morning. To get started use focused instrumental music.