Sunday, June 1, 2008

Potentially Practicing Practice

I was more than a little amused when Lifehacker offered up a link to an essay about becoming an expert on any subject using deliberate practice. You too can be great at anything! All it will take is two hours a day for the better part of a decade... When someone just comes out and says it like that it seems both obvious and ridiculous. Of course I could learn things if I managed to spend two hours a day, every day on it! But who can actually do that?

Scott Adams calculated that a working person who was trying to be healthy would have about three hours a day of free time. When I averaged my own free time a while back (yes, I'm a nerd) it came to four hours of free time per weeknight, if I manage to get to work early. I have many interests I want to pursue, from professional to stress relieving to simple hobbies. With the summer stretched out in front of me, it's high time to take a look at some of them and see what I want to focus on for the next few months.

What do Bruce Lee and Henry Thoreau have in common? They were both big on simplifying. Engineers and programmers believe in it too. So, why not start looking at everything and trim down until I get a decent summer goal list.

On the professional front, I have some personal programming projects kicking around in my head, several glaring holes in my basic CS knowledge that could use filling, and a continued need to practice my communication skills. Looking at that list, I can very quickly cross out the personal programming projects. As much as I would like to say I can program for ten hours a day, I can't. Unless something changes dramatically, that one will have to wait a while. The basic knowledge one is actually a good focus for this summer. I've got a couple of subjects in mind that could be easily fed by a book or two, and reading and practicing an hour or two here and there should be no problem. As for the communications bit, well, I keep this 'blog going as writing practice, and I've found over the past months that once a week is a sustainable post rate for me. The trick for turning it into deliberate practice will be to produce more original content. I've got plenty of topics lined up, so I just need to sit down and write. As far as my hobbies go, I've picked one that I want to be my true focus for the summer. That will be what I really try to block off time for every day. I should also mention that there is going to be at least one vacation of the get-out-and-hike-in-the-woods variety (for sanity purposes).

So that's it for me; what about you? How do you manage your free time? Any goals for the summer?

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