There is a theory that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master any activity
– playing the violin, playing tennis, coding software, writing copy.
The more you work at a task, the better you will get. 10,000 hours is a
long time. If you worked a 60-hour week, non-stop without vacation or
days off, it’d take you over three years.
Mastery does not come quickly.
it’s not just the amount of time, the quality of that time that also
counts. Case in point, I’m as fit as I was this time last year, despite
exercising regularly in 2009. To improve we need to push our limits,
and then allow time to recover. I need to do interval training in my
running where you run at a faster rate periodically, rather than just
steadily pacing it out. The same is true in our professional lives.
Push the limits, then recover.
As you progress beyond early
career, energy management becomes important. To perform at our best, we
need to consciously manage our focus and where we dedicate our energy.
We also need to test our limits, and allow ourselves to rebuild
reserves. If you don’t bust it out occasionally, you’ll lose the
capacity to work those 12-14 hour days. But if all you do is 12-14 hour
days, you’ll burn out. It’s like over-training – you actually get
worse, not better.
So to get those 10,000 hours to mastery, make sure each hour counts. Pacing it out won’t improve your performance.
Get in. Get on. Go home – this is the easiest way to avoid burn out and to make sure you are ‘interval training’ at work.
Get in – Start early, your most productive hours are likely to be in the morning when you are well-rested.
Get on –
Choose three Must Dos and do them. Get the first one checked off before
opening your email or having your first meeting. Make some of them hard.
Go home – Hit the gym, take that class, see friends, focus on your kids. You need this re-creation to renew for tomorrow.
If you repeat this cycle, you will not only improve, but you’ll also be more productive along the way.