A trick to getting better at stuff: sleep on it.

Whether you’re memorizing stuff for an exam or practicing techniques for a competition, hours of practice turn to waste without quality rest. I learned this the hard way. I used to think that grinding it out for hours and hours was the best, sexiest way to improve. It’s not. All that grinding without resting led to nothing but muscle cramps, headaches, and sour moods.

My biggest bursts of improvement come from my most productive periods of rest. How? Because if there’s something I want to improve, and I care about improving it, I’ll think about it constantly. I’ll think about it so much that I’ll even dream about it. In the shower, or when I’m out for a walk, I’ll imagine myself tweaking my execution, or I’ll imagine different scenarios that I need to look out for. Likewise, long plateaus – periods where I’m not getting worse but I’m also not improving – coincide with periods in which all I’m doing is practicing, practicing, practicing…without any processing.

Nothing is more counterproductive than overwork. Practice for a few hours, do whatever else you do throughout the day, sleep, give yourself time to process what you’ve practiced, then go back and practice some more. Repeat. Repeat.

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