How Focusing on One Skill Can Pay Off
When I was a professional cricketer, as a bowler, I had to have a wide range of skills. Fast balls, slower balls, cutters, bouncers, and yorkers.
Ultimately, they get the ball to go in all different directions, speeds, and effects off the surface.
All professional bowlers have a range; some more than others.
I remember looking at more seasoned, high-profile players and trying to incorporate their skills into my training.
When I got to training, I would try one out for a bit, then another. If that didn’t work, let’s try another.
Until a few weeks down the line, I didn’t feel like I’d made any progress in being able to execute any of them.
Yet I found myself trying all these different ones at training and not getting any of them right.
But that all changed when I decided to pick one, get it right, get it good, get it better, and get it great.
Once I did that, I was able to move onto the next one and do the same process again.
I even started doing it for my meditation or yoga practice.
Unfortunately for many of us, we want all the skills, yesterday.
The reality is that it takes time to develop a skill.
But developing a skill while working on five others at once takes even more time.
So today I’d like to share with you a framework that I’ve used and continue to use with clients to help them develop any skill (physical, mental, or emotional), or even a habit.
You’ll be so surprised at how quickly you can go from novice to great with single-minded practice.
The trouble is, we allow distractions to get in the way of our practice, which can then take us off in another direction and start working on something entirely different. Which is where we spend time on something irrelevant, slowing our progress toward getting great.
A few common setbacks I see when developing skill (or habits) that leads to slower progress:
- Shiny object syndrome – Seeing something new and it distracting you away from the task of what you’re trying to achieve right now.
- Not seeing progress you’d hoped for – Getting caught up in thinking that progress is going to be seen instantly. Sometimes the big jumps, come out of nowhere, hang in there.
- Seeing others progressing faster or getting results – You start to doubt your efforts and/or begin to ease off your effort.
Ultimately, we can end up trying to learn too many things at once, or stop all together.
Energy spent focusing on something you’d hope to have, is energy lost from the effort on what you can achieve.
So here’s a very simple skill develop framework that has worked for me and clients.
The challenge is to see this as building a wall. Brick by brick.
It’s important to lay that first brick well and build a foundation, before moving on to the next.
Developing One Skill at a Time
Identify the skill you want to achieve the most.
What is the most important skill you could and should learn first?
Will this skill underpin future skills? or make them subsequent skills easier?
Once you have that skill that you think is most important, it’s time to get good at it.
Set a plan or schedule for this goal.
Set targets and measures; make them achievable; break the skill down if need be.
Identify what resources and support you’ll need.
Set aside time each day, week, and month.
This skill now takes precedent over all others.
If your week is tight, don’t cut time on this fundamental practice.
Note: To avoid overwhelm here, aim for something achievable. Doing something every day may not be realistic.
Now that we’ve got the skills we’re working on, we want to apply progressive overload to them without compromising quality.
When you start to see progress, you can get carried away with wanting to go harder and harder.
Keep checking in. Every time you push a little harder, does quality drop?
Similar to the way we work in the gym, when something becomes too challenging or compromises quality, we “drop the weight” and pull back to get it right before increasing weight again.
Another example might be if meditating for 10 minutes becomes too difficult. Go back to 8, 5, 3 minutes. Before trying a longer meditation again.
Great athletes, founders, and high performers have a range of skills in their armory. But it’s taken time to get there. Where this process or cycle has happened again and again.
Ideally, you start to stack your skills.
Which is why the initial question of; what is the most important skill right now for me? Becomes so important. Get that right and others can be much easier.
This part requires a good system.
As you dedicate time to a new skill. You’ll want to move your ‘honed’ skills to a more maintenance phase during that time.
So that you do enough to keep their levels up, but don’t take time away that’s needed to get new skills good.
You’ll then get to this beautiful place of developing skills through a rotation.
Over time, you’re going to find that you’re adding more and more skills to your bag.
Sometimes even just adding a new skill creates more value than improving the one you currently have.
When you put in the quality work upfront, new skills develop one by one much more easily.
This process of focusing on one skill at a time may be tedious at first, but it will pay off in the long run, so:
Do the work now that your future self will thank you for.
New skills, went learn’t and practiced in a quality fashion, can bring huge amounts of confidence to what you do.
I’ve used sport as an example, but as I mentioned, you’ll be able to transfer these principles into whatever you want to develop this year.
If you’re able to follow this and not get distracted, it could be one of the most profound ways in which you see some real change this year.
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