How Much Should You Practice?

As a juggler a topic that often arises when talking to other jugglers is the amount and frequency one should practice. Of course, most of the community here doesn’t juggle, but I think it’s an interesting topic nonetheless so today’s post will focus on general guidelines that can be applied to ANY field.

Think Assimilated Information

I know many jugglers that practice for 4-8 hours per day. According to the 10,000 hour rule this would mean they’re on the fast track to mastery right? Wrong. At least in most cases. Something people often forget when discussing the 10,000 hour rule is that time spent practicing only counts if it was spent deliberately.

The amount of information your brain is able to assimilate is much more important than the amount of input you take in. When done properly deliberate practice is exhausting and because of that most elite performers practice for only four hours per day. Going through the motions is a waste of time at best, and doing so potentially risks ingraining bad habits.

(Also, for jugglers or others pursuing excellence in a fine motor skill physical pursuit; in general, once your muscles are fatigued it’s time to be done. Occasionally you’ll want to ensure that you’re capable of performing even when you’re tired, but at the same time practicing with exhausted muscles will only lead to the practicing of poor technique.)

Though your ability to focus is a muscle and can be increased over time, as a general rule it’s in your best interest to stop practicing when you can no longer do so deliberately.

Come Back Tomorrow

Another frequent problem is people beginning practice routines too rapidly. They practice several hours per day for a week or two and then are never to be seen again. Or, the more disciplined among them continue practicing several hours per day, but resent the activity and as a result are not fully engaged (thus they’re not practicing as deliberately as they could be).

Either way I’ll make a simple recommendation. Practice just enough so that you’ll still want to come back tomorrow. Our lives are too short to be spent doing things we don’t love. If you’re trying to logically rationalize why you need to spend more time practicing there’s a good chance you’re settling for an activity that’s not the ideal fit for you (at least at that time).

Take Breaks

I recommend a standard routine of six days of practice per week. If you love the activity you’re practicing (and you should if you’re seriously pursuing mastery in it) then you’ll be happy to practice this often.

The reason I don’t recommend practicing seven days per week is because I’ve found that having a full 24 hours each week where you can step away from your craft is extremely beneficial.

Although practicing seven days per week may appear to be the ideal practice routine, many people progress faster when practicing six days per week because they’re able to be more enthusiastic about their training and thus be more engaged.

Having a regular break from practice each week can also provide you with additional scheduling flexibility and make adhering to your practice routine easier.

Finally, your day off will allow your brain to assimilate the things you’ve learned over the last week using the incubation effect. Overall it’s a matter of personal preference and the field you’re pursuing mastery in, but consider 6 days of practice per week as a baseline to experiment from.

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