I have a new web cam being delivered today, so the companion video to this post will hopefully be in awesome HD video format! The video will go over the process of Deliberate Practice; a method of how to practice new skills to increase your abilities in any domain. This blog is my current focus of deliberate practice. I hope you’ll see my writing style improve, my topics become more relevant to your interests, the frequency increase, and the interaction between author and viewer expand so that I’m responding directly to your questions.
My website overall is a work in progress and something I’ve been struggling to put together for months. The main obstacle is the inner voice in my head that says “your writing isn’t good enough,” “you don’t make any sense,” “no one wants to read what you have to say.” Lots of people have these voices creeping in the back of their mind when they are trying something they’ve never done before. Doubt is a quick companion when you have no data to shut it down. Which is why, after my first steps of becoming aware I’m talking to myself in this negative way, and giving myself some room to believe these thoughts probably aren’t true, my next steps are to gather data and make a plan.
When I wasn’t sure what to write about, that voice said “no one want to read what you have to say.” That’s a rather easy fix, ask people what they want to read about! So I put out of a poll and got several awesome topics for future blog posts which are coming down the line. One doubt down because I didn’t just swallow that negative automatic thought, I questioned it and put it to the test. Now, your writing isn’t good enough and you don’t make sense might sometimes be true. I’m not a professional writer and I tend to have very high standards for myself when it comes to anything I produce. Combine perfectionism with an anxious mind and you get a perfectly paralyzing merry-go-round of futility. The fact that part of this self-assessment might be true meant they were good candidates for deliberate practice.
Deliberate Practice means improving the quality of your practice, not just the frequency. If you’ve ever watched someone who has been using computers for years but their typing has never improved, you can see that activities practiced every day mindlessly don’t improve. The magic is in the focus and breaking down the general skill into it’s smaller components. With this website, I’ve been frustrated by learning to use a new tool, trying to become a top-notch web designer over night, and struggling with the content. It’s easy to see how quickly I could become overwhelmed. The first step of deliberate practice is to break it down into smaller components. How small these are depend on the domain of your task and what’s doable for you. After I chose to focus on my blog, the initial component parts became:
- Maintain a blog with at least one post a week
- Improve writing style by passing through an editorial process
- Increase relevance of blog by polling readers about what’s important to them
- Increase value of blog by linking to other relevant material and experts
This looks much more manageable to accomplish. This list becomes a guide for redefining success. When success was defined as – “write a stellar blog post on a topic of interest to everyone and with writing that could win a pulitzer” – I crumbled. But if my metrics say that getting something out, anything, even if it’s just a call to reach out and reconnect with my readers, once a week? That’s doable. And with that skill acquired and turned into habit I can focus on the next component.
Next time you’re really struggling with developing a new skill, ask yourself whether you’re trying to tackle too much at once. Notice if you’re having any negative automatic thoughts that are paralyzing you from making any progress. Sit down and write out what skills are required for your particular goal and break it down into smaller components that seem like you could successfully manage them. Give yourself credit for accomplishing the component tasks and reflect periodically on how they all stack up and build into progress on the larger goal.