You’ve heard how long it takes to be great, right? The figure commonly bandied around is 10,000 Hours.If you break that down you can hit that 10,000 hours mark if you practice 3 hours a day, every day, for 10 years.
Or if you want to shorten that time period and you can do 6 hours of practice a day, every day, then it will only take you 5 years.
But I’ve Got A Family And A Job And I Want To Lead A More Balanced Life – What Can I Do To Get Better?
I understand the dilemma completely – in fact I share it. I run two businesses and have a wife and two young children. Plus I have to swim a minimum of 3 times a week (or my knees start to creak).
So the kind of time commitment necessary to be really good is not an option. However I still have a pressing desire to improve my musicianship, to become a better bass player. Even if it’s just for me. I want to KNOW I’m getting better.
To do this, I use a concept called The Golden Hour.
So What’s The Golden Hour?
The Golden Hour is a concept I learnt from an American science fiction writer called Steven Barnes. And it works like this:
Six days a week, every week of the year, I have a Golden Hour. This hour is sacrosanct. It’s not negotiable unless something comes up that’s life or death. During my Golden Hour my family know not to disturb me (again, emergencies excepted). My landline and mobile phones go to Answerphone. My Email program gets turned off. I rid myself of all distractions.
And that Golden Hour is MY time to use with however I want. And I use it to practice my bass.
So How Can You Use The Golden Hour To Improve?
The Golden Hour gives you time and space to practice. How you use it will determine what kind of progress you make. If for the majority of your Golden Hour you practice exercises and skills that you are already comfortable with then you won’t make much progress. You’ll find you’re becalmed in the Comfort Zone.
If however you’ve designed a Deliberate Practice schedule for yourself, then you can make sure that the majority of your practice time is spent in the Learning Zone. This is really the key to effectively using any practice time – if you’re stretching yourself all the time then you WILL get better.
How Much Better Can I Get Using Deliberate Practice With The Golden Hour?
That question is one that has no clear answer as there are so many variables – such as what level are you already at, how effectively are you practicing, what feedback are you getting on your practice, etc etc.
But here’s something I aim for that I picked up from a Dummie’s Guide to NLP (neuro-linguistic programming).
I aim to improve 1 per cent per week.
And that means your practice has to be measured in some way – which is another fundamental principal of Deliberate Practice. If you improve 1 per cent per week, the compound interest effect of this improvement over time will take you to a much higher level than you are currently at relatively quickly.
And this kind of deliberate focus on deliberate practice is the only way I know to guarantee that you’ll get better. I’ve made more progress in the last year than the previous 10 combined.
Most of my contemporaries will NEVER get any better than they already are, because they don’t have the tools necessary to guide them. Without knowing it they’ve fallen for one of the myths about Talent that people believe: that there is a natural limit that we all reach, and once we reach it no amount of practice will take us past that limit.
So here’s the action I recommend: do what it takes to get your own Golden Hour (or 45 minutes, or 30 minutes). Negotiate with your spouse or significant other, explain how important this is to you, barter doing the cooking AND the dishes in return for the Golden Hour if that’s what it takes. Get used to turning all your phones off, shutting down your email programs and Tweetdeck.
And once you’ve carved that period of time out for yourself – hopefully 5 or 6 times a week – guard it with your life. And use the principles of Deliberate Practice to use that golden time effectively.
In a year’s time you’ll thank me. And you’ll notice a great improvement in your abilities.