The answer to this is a surprise!How much practice do I need?

Joan and Mary spent exactly the same amount of time practising their memory exercises.

20 minutes a day, broken up into 5 minute bits.


But Joan ended up with a higher rate of improvement than Mary.


Because what’s important
isn’t the total number of hours
It’s the amount of quality time invested.

No-one is born good at what they do: practice is the only way to improve, at anything, and skill is a direct result of time put in.

Mary went through the exercises, did everything she was asked to do then went on with the rest of her day.

Joan set about deliberate practice during her 5-minute sessions.

Deliberate practice is intense, focused and tough.

Joan-used-deliberate-practiceWhen Joan pushed the limits of what she could do (to the point where she said ‘My head hurts a little”).

Deliberate practice is hard, but it’s the only way to get good.

So you see

Are in the driving seat.

Cal Newport, in the Wall Street Journal, summarizes the key points from research about Deliberate Practice. He was writing about practising your job to gain promotion but they are just as important for improving your memory, too.

  1. Deliberate Practice is designed to improve performance. Your practice needs to be hard enough to get you out of your comfort zone, but not so hard that it’s totally out of your grasp. If you keep doing what you already know how to do, you don’t get significantly better.
  2. Deliberate Practice can be repeated. And repeated. And repeated. If you’re trying to remember names better, practice the technique over and over. A lot. Decide on the skill you want to master, and then focus your time there.
  3. Deliberate Practice constantly refers back to results-based feedback. Check to see if your skill in, say, remembering names is getting better. Think about what happened, even if your memory let you down. It doesn’t matter where your baseline is – what matters is that you try, review what happened, and keep reworking to become better.
  4. Deliberate Practice takes significant mental effort. If your work isn’t fully engaging your brain, it’s not Deliberate Practice. If you can remember names but often forget items on your shopping list, then you’re not going to get any better by continuing to practice remembering names. Time needs to be spent on strategies for remembering lists.That goes for activities like Sudoku and crosswords, too. Improvements don’t come from continuing to do things that are easy for you.
  5. Deliberate Practice is structured around smart goals. Make a list of what you want your memory to do for you and structure your practice time around those. Be firm with yourself – remember, you are in control of the time you spend.

So how much Deliberate Practice do I really need?

Joan spent the same time as Mary – but her time was focused and deliberate.
Are you ready for the challenge?

For more reading on improving your memory –  How to Remember Things

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