Finding your own personal formula to good practice.
As the quizzical title suggests, can there be a single formula to good practice. You know something unifying, regardless of the time and day.
Energy + Focus x Structure / Time = Good Practice?
I like to think there is such a thing. It is as close to perfect as we can get in this imperfect World! The going rate is 10,000 hours. That is the average time it takes to become ‘top of the field’ so to speak. From Quarterbacks, Golfers, Archers, Musicians, Potters and Painters; If someone is to be considered a professional in their field they need to put the practice in and learn their craft. “So I have to talk to myself for 10,000 hours to be a professional speaker?” – you can do that, if you want. But you might be put in an asylum and classed insane.
You speak everyday and unless you have recently taken a vow of silence for religious reasons, I am betting you can hold a conversation. So you are already a professional speaker. You honed that skill as an infant and child. What you haven’t honed anywhere near as much is the confidence and ability to stand in front of various groups of people and illustrate your ideas, translate brain waves and impact people on an emotional level. That is what we want to practice. How? by taking something we have already and replicating it.
Read – Perfect Speakers Don’t Exist
The idea is straight forward, think of what you are good at and that you enjoy. For me it is between Skiing and Drums. However, one of these is much more applicable (the drums). Now think of the mindset you are in when you are practicing or just dabbling in the chosen activity. Are you consumed by it, forgetting whats going on around you? Perhaps deaf to the people around you as your attention and focus remain channelled? If so, PERFECT! If not, revise your choice and/or work on attaining a level of deep practice through Public Speaking itself.
I practice the drums for only an hour a day. Mostly to keep my neighbours from lynching me. 6pm-7pm, Monday to Friday. It doesn’t shift unless I am away or there is a zombie apocalypse. That is my first key and it is the big one; Consistency. It helps my mind to focus and gives me structure so I can instantly go into a deep practice almost every time. I can be exhausted from work some days but I still strangely have the energy and enthusiasm to practice for 60 minutes. I you want it enough, your mind will move mountains in order to achieve it.
So for my speaking practice I need to re-create that same mindset and attitude about being consistent. Through doing so, it will yield me the energy and focus to stick at it.
I am terrible with keeping to things, so my life is pleasantly structured (OCD?). Even my practice is on a fixed program. I do five minutes of stretches and warm up myself (not a single touch on the instrument). Then 15 minutes of drills and technique on a practice pad. Now I move to the actual kit and begin with more drills, rudiments and stick work for 10 minutes. which leaves me with the final 30 minutes, in this time slot I can be more flexible and spend time trying new ideas, listening to the kit and making changes and then mostly I put my headphones on and just play along to my music. Notice that I don’t take the fun out of my practice. I reward myself with it after.
This is an example of structured practice and it leaves nothing to chance. I am always guaranteeing myself some level of progress. Aimlessly hitting things for an hour a day will not yield results as fast as a structured plan and consistent execution of it. I am not suggesting you practice speaking for an hour a day. But when you do decide to practice, it should be pre-planned and on a schedule that you know you can keep yourself to.
As you plan your new speaking practice around your pre-existing activity of choice, remember that you are aiming for your version of ‘deep practice’, I for one define my practices as ‘good’ by how focused I was and whether or not I have refined a certain thing or maybe had a rare ‘eureka’ moment. That for me is as near to perfect as I will ever get. And remember – Consistency and Structure are what will force multiply your progress.