The Beginner's Guide to Deliberate Practice | James Clear

The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

What is Deliberate Practice?

Let’s define deliberate practice.

During a 2012 talk, programmer and author Kathy Sierra explained deliberate practice with a very simple and elegant answer. 1

Deliberate practice is when you work on a skill that requires 1 to 3 practice sessions to master. If it takes longer than that, then you are working on something that is too complex.

Once you master this tiny behavior, you can move on to practicing the next small task that will take 1 to 3 sessions to master. Repeat the process. That is deliberate practice.

How to Move from Naive Practice to Deliberate Practice

Swedish psychologist K. Anders Ericsson, who has spent his career researching how people learn, says deliberate practice is the “gold standard” and “the most effective and powerful form of practice that we know of.” 2

According to Ericsson, getting to the stage in which you’re actually engaging in deliberate practice takes time, though. You must first progress through the stages known as “naive practice” and “purposeful practice.”

Naive practice is the type of practice you might do as a beginner. Through this type of practice, you can learn the easy stuff and reach the point of competence. However, without any added challenge, you repeat the already-mastered easy skills and begin to stall.

Purposeful practice comes next. Purposeful practice has four defining characteristics that differentiate it from naive practice.

  1. Purposeful practice has well-defined, specific goals that give you a way to judge if your practice sessions were a success.
  2. Purposeful practice requires your full attention.
  3. Purposeful practice provides immediate feedback so you know exactly what you need to improve.
  4. Purposeful practice pushes you out of your comfort zone and is constantly challenging.

But, once again, purposeful practice can only get you so far.

Deliberate practice contains all the hallmarks of purposeful practice, but also involves “a teacher or coach and often breaks down particular aspects of skills for development towards the overall performance goal.” 3

Ways to Use Deliberate Practice Right Now

Best Deliberate Practice Books

Want more great deliberate practice books? Browse my full list of the best self-help books.

All Deliberate Practice Articles

This is a complete list of articles I have written on deliberate practice. Enjoy!

Deliberate Practice Research Studies

If you are interested in geeking out on the latest deliberate practice research, then I recommend looking at studies from these top professors:

The History of Deliberate Practice

I’m currently in research mode. I’ll be sharing more about how and when deliberate practice evolved in this section.

Best Articles on Related Topics

Or, browse my best articles

  1. Building the Minimum Badass User” by Kathy Sierra. 2012.

  2. Not All Practice Makes Perfect by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool.

  3. From How to Become an Expert at Anything, a review of Ericsson’s book “Peak.”