I decided to stop watching YouTube videos about how to improve my skills and try it for myself. Good practice involves focus, purpose, and reflection. Here are the skills I chose to practice, the steps I took to make the most of my practice, and my first impressions about the efficacy of deliberate practice.
I chose to practice skills related to violin and StarCraft II, two of my favorite hobbies.
I began playing the violin at age seven after my grandpa invited a neighbor to play for us. I’ve been in love with playing ever since, but that love did not come with discipline—I played only when I was in the mood and I played only what I enjoyed, avoiding practicing the technique required to become an excellent violinist.
A roommate introduced me to StarCraft II in 2015, and I never looked back. I enjoy the mix of physical coordination, “macro” economics, “micro” control, and strategy required to play the game. Over the course of 5 years, I’ve risen to the 17th percentile of players globally through casual gameplay, but I constantly wonder how I could play if I deliberately practiced in addition to playing for fun.
I chose a time on my calendar when I knew other responsibilities could be temporarily ignored. I silenced my phone and cleared my desk and the room of anything unrelated to the task at hand.
When I lived in Russia, the idiom “повторение - мать учения” became of my favorite sayings. “Repetition is the mother of learning.” Good practice does require repetition, but repetition alone makes you improve slowly at best and cements bad habits at worst. I needed a specific purpose for these short, focused sessions, so I made a practice plan using the following pattern.
- Set practice goals
- Make notes as I practice
- Reflect and decide what to practice next
After practice I spent a moment reviewing my notes and deciding what to practice next. This ensured I could begin the next session without spending time wondering what to practice. Repeated, this will create a positive feedback loop for focused and purposeful practice on a regular basis. Here are my actual practice journals from this experiment.
- Technique - slow tone G major scale
- Piece - Silent Night with metronome and tuner
- Performance - Silent Night with recording
- It is difficult to make the transition between up and down bow smooth
- When I try to think of my wrist as the lead in both directions it smoothed out a little bit
- My B flat scale needs careful intonation work. The intervals are different than what my fingers think, but when I match the tuner I can feel it lock in.
This is the first time I have deliberately practiced the violin maybe ever, even though I’ve been playing for most of my life. Even with one tiny practice session of 21 minutes, I can feel how this could make me a much better player if I do it consistently.
Next time I will work on leading with my wrist.
- Technique - Max out quickly
- Performance - play ranked games on the ladder
- First max - 9:20. I was a little slow on transferring probes. I did get my new bases in time. Maybe skip upgrades and forges to see if I can max faster.
- Second max - 8:54. I was out of minerals enough that I could have benefited from making archons.
- Third max - 9:00. I let myself get too much money. Didn’t build enough gateways.
The ladder is so tricky and full of people that are way better than me. I want to focus on having fun instead of trying to win. The antidote to being tricked is good scouting. If you see it coming, you have a much better chance of survival. I would like to practice scouting next.
My first impressions of deliberate practice
This works. This is fun. This feels good. I look forward to my next practice sessions.