Deliberate Practice

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Deliberate Practice

Key Takeaways

  • One key to deliberate practice is establishing methods of continual feedback on performance. It is essential to track progress and find small ways to improve.
  • Little, realistic goals make deliberate practice achievable and motivating.
  • Engaging in "sprints" rather than long practice sessions is more beneficial.


This research provides four guides to deliberate practice. Each section includes a short background on the author(s), a quick overview of the guide, and several beneficial aspects of practical application for deliberate practice found in the guide.

James Clear — Deliberate Practice Guide

  • James Clear is the author of the best-selling book Atomic Habits. Clear regularly speaks to Fortune 500 companies and has his writing published in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal among other publications. He writes and speaks on the topics of "habits, decision-making, and continuous improvement."
  • Clear published an article on his website entitled "The Beginner's Guide to Deliberate Practice." He defines deliberate practice as a special type of practice that is both purposeful and systematic that requires focused attention and improving performance as the prime goal.
  • The guide approaches deliberate practice from Clear's perspective of how humans form habits and the need to make a focused effort rather than sticking with mindless, automatic habits.
  • Clear provides several examples of deliberate practice in action in the fields of writing, cooking, martial arts, chess, music, and basketball. In each example, he describes how the pattern is always the same: "break the overall process down into parts, identify your weaknesses, test new strategies for each section, and then integrate your learning into the overall process."
  • One key to deliberate practice, according to James Clear, is establishing methods of continual feedback on performance. It is essential to track progress and find small ways to improve.
  • Clear highlights that just because a person utilizes deliberate practice they will not simply fashion themselves into anything they wish. Even so, deliberate practice can help a person to maximize their potential.
  • The following are a few additional articles out of the 18 current articles on James Clear's website focused on deliberate practice.

Farnam Street — Ultimate Guide to Deliberate Practice

  • Farnam Street is a group of individuals who put great effort into providing useful information concerning mental models and decision-making. Thus far, they have published three books on mental models.
  • Farnam Street provides the "The Ultimate Deliberate Practice Guide: How to Be the Best." This guide is aimed to help both beginners and experts to improve their performance at anything. They state that "deliberate practice is the best technique for achieving expert performance in every field." The guide includes links to several other books that discuss deliberate practice.
  • Deliberate practice is defined in this guide as "practicing with a clear awareness of the specific components of a skill we’re aiming to improve and exactly how to improve them." This form of practice includes preparing for and rehearsing in low-pressure situations with the intent of making improvements on something specific.
  • The activity must involve strenuous mental focus and unwavering attention to the skill being developed. Geoff Colvin in the book Talent is Overrated said that deliberate practice, no matter if an intellectual, business, or physical activity, "isn't much fun." It involves a process of repeated frustration as well as failure as it consists of spending time doing things a person is not good at.
  • Using metrics to keep track of progress allows practitioners to continually improve rather than stagnating and repeating a skill at the same level. It allows for the identification of errors and weaknesses and the option to keep trying new approaches until something works well. Apply the adage: "What gets measured gets managed."
  • In order to prevent plateaus, it is essential to know exactly what has to change and how to get there. This requires that deliberate practice be structured and methodical which will help to break ingrained habits.
  • Little, realistic goals make deliberate practice achievable and motivating. To implement this, take the skill to be improved and break it down into the smallest possible components. Make a plan to work through these in a logical order, starting with the fundamentals and building from there.
  • Deliberate practice may be frustrating, maddening, and even annoying but it is never boring. If the skill becomes comfortable then it is time to up the stakes and do something new.
  • Engaging in "sprints" rather than long practice sessions is more beneficial. At the highest level, four to five hours of deliberate practice a day is the maximum a person can do before returns greatly diminish. Sleep, rest, and recuperation are also vital.
  • Farnam Street stresses that deliberate practice "is a necessary but insufficient part of becoming a world-class performer." It is essential, but not the only thing required to become the best in a field.

The Player Development Project — Deliberate Practice

  • Ray Power is a UEFA licensed football (soccer) coach and is employed as a Technical Director in Tanzania. He works closely with both Sunderland AFC and the Tanzania Football Federation. He has authored the series "Deliberate Soccer Practice."
  • Power's article focuses on how to apply deliberate practice to the game of soccer. The article debunks the idea of only having talent and natural aptitude and highlights the practical application of deliberate practice to soccer skills.
  • Power feels that deliberate practice makes the "coach redundant on game days." This is because the player has learned and developed the necessary skills ahead of time and doesn't need the coach to continually provide instructions.
  • He designed practice sessions that reflect and prepare his players for the complexities that come from real-time games rather than drills that lack the complexities and finesse required in-game.

How-To Guide to Deliberate Practice

  • Samphy is a business and legal consultant and runs the website Ysamphy which encourages people to become "fearlessly productive."
  • His How-To Guide to Deliberate Practice is part four of a series of articles on engaging in expert performance by utilizing deliberate practice. The guide is written to help others learn how to apply deliberate practice in an easy-to-understand way.
  • Anders Ericsson and Cal Newport are referred to multiple times throughout the guide. Newport is well-known and respected for his research and writing on peak performance, especially in the book Deep Work.
  • Samphy outlines five principles of deliberate practice that Ericsson and his research team identified. These include the need for intrinsic motivation to improve, having a feedback system, and gradual refinement. He then provides examples of implementing deliberate practice and how it can be applied in general.

Research Strategy

For this research on guides to deliberate practice, we leveraged the most reputable sources of information that were available in the public domain, including industry professionals such as James Clear, Cal Newport, Farnam Street, and others.

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