Keys to Success
There is an old adage, "if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again." Another popular one is, “practice makes perfect” . Yet a meta analysis of research indicates that time spent practicing may only account for improvement of 12% on average on any given task. Trying again and again may not be as helpful as we have been led to believe. Practice does make more of an impact on tasks that have predictable and measurable outcomes. Therefore, good goal setting that is measurable is crucial in achieving success.
Other factors that may account for success on a goal, task or skill include innate talent, overall intelligence, working memory, personality style and persistence. Some of those are immutable and others can be changed with various amounts of effort. Persistence for example, is under your control . But for persistence to be most beneficial it must also be optimally efficient. You want a good return or result on your investment or effort.
Research has found that we are most efficient when we focus in some very specific ways. For instance, in order to truly focus we should eliminate distraction and stop multi-tasking. Mindful effort is efficient effort. Just as multi-tasking impairs focus, alternating your focus on different cognitive exercises improves focus and thereby maximizes outcomes. In this way, focus is a matter of good time management.
One reason time management must be part of focus is that optimal focus only lasts so long. Research has found that we can maintain our attention and focus for a maximum of 90-120 minutes. So 90 minutes of focused work followed by a 15 minute break is generally the best plan. However, for some people four cycles of 25 minutes of work followed by a 5 minute break works better.
One way to utilize time management skills to optimize focus is by making a task list, estimating the time needed for each task and self-monitoring through the use of a timer. (A timer is preferable to a clock because looking at a clock can be a distraction and can disrupt focus.) Planning breaks is important because quality practice is solidified by the break we take.
The most important break occurs when we sleep. During deep sleep, the neurons used in the earlier practice of a task continue to fire, thereby reinforcing and solidifying whatever pattern was practiced during wakefulness. Using our “down” time wisely is just as important as using our practice time wisely.
So, some of the building blocks of success are periods of focus, a time management plan that includes rest, persistence based on optimal efficiency, and quality practice. Doing a detailed Applied Behavioral Analysis of one's efforts is the first step in developing and implementing a plan for change. Working with a Coach that understands the keys to success can unlock great results.