There’s plenty of research out there (e.g., Aspen Brain Institute, 2022, Marzo et al., 2009, Eschenki & Sara, 2008, Kuo et al., 2007) that consistently shows how significant learning and neuroplasticity only occur with very high levels of focus and alertness during the practice and learning of a skill. So, next time you practice, first make sure that you are wide awake and alert. Second, make sure that all distractions are out of reach and out of sight so that you can laser-focus on your task.
My Alertness Routine
Here are 6 simple things I do to prime my alertness before practicing:
Splash cold water on my face¹.
Drink a cold glass of water².
Turn on the lights as brightly as possible³.
Go outside to look at the sky for a few minutes without my sunglasses -- do NOT look at light that is uncomfortably bright⁴.
Take several deep breaths in a row⁵.
Work out. Even doing a few jumping jacks or burpees immediately before sitting down to practice or during my breaks helps me quite a bit⁶.
My Focus Routine
Here are 6 things I do to maximize my focus for practice:
Write a to-do list of anything on my mind that is not related to my practice. And during practice, I keep that list accessible to write down any invading thoughts of things I need to do later that day.
Write a to-do list of specific practice goals for my practice session⁷.
Eliminate distractions (e.g., social media, web searching, phone noise, and notifications).
Do a quick warm-up and then engage in maximum focus on only one (1) goal at a time. Do not multitask⁸.
Limit my practice sessions to 60 minutes peppered with plenty micro and movement breaks.
Next time you practice, first remind yourself that effective learning starts with alertness and a high level of focus. Your level of focus should so high that it feels a bit challenging (like when you're trying to thread a needle or play the board games Operation, chess, or sudoku). Remember that without these two conditions, your effort in practice won’t be very effective. Then implement a few of the ideas I shared with you above and let me know in the comments (at the bottom of the page here) if you found them helpful.
Please leave a comment or question about this post at the bottom of this page to let me know how these strategies are helping you. And if you’re interested in lessons, please contact me below. Thanks and happy practicing!