When it comes to exercise, many people drag themselves to the gym a few days a week to do a workout, wherein they break themselves down with excessive cardio routines or lengthy weight lifting sessions. The same goes for people's professional lives – they wake up every day only to take a long commute to work simply to make it through the day. This is working out.
- repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it.
- perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one's proficiency.
- carry out or perform (a particular activity, method, or custom) habitually or regularly.
Practice vs. Working Out
Instead of slogging through your day at work or that next “killer” workout at the gym consider this – what are your personal and professional goals, and are these activities helping you achieve them? Or instead, are you simply going through the motions?
This is the difference between working out and creating a practice.
One of my unofficial mentors, Pavel Tsatsouline, says:
Strength is a skill, it's a practice, it's not a workout, so the mindset of a workout is a very distractive mindset for strength.
I take this to mean that if my focus is to get through something as quickly as possible, and not focus on the skill I am building, then I'm doing a workout. If, on the other hand, I am purposeful in my action and focusing on improving my ability while performing a task, I am creating a practice.
Examples of Practice
While reading Deep Work by Cal Newport and developing my Deep Work philosophy, I created two (very) high level professional goals and three personal goals.
- To understand the pros, cons, and capabilities of various technologies and be able to implement them.
- To teach, in a clear manner, that which I have learned, ensuring as mush as possible that understanding is achieved.
- To be supportive of my wife at all times so she can achieve the goals she sets for herself.
- To be a mentor to my daughters.
- To be mentally and physically healthy.
Each of these goals has three sub-bullets describing actions I need to take in order to achieve the goal.
After that I created a daily schedule for myself, and purchased a wall calendar which sits by my computer.
Each morning I wake up, get my coffee, read my goals and do my workout. Sometimes I don't do my workout and that's okay. If I do it though, I mark it on the calendar.
At the end of each day I mark on the calendar how many hours I spent doing deep work, and develop a plan of action for the following day.
All of this is the development of a practice. It helps ensure that, along with mindful and purposeful action throughout the day, that I am not merely working out, but am working toward my goals, and a better me.
Pavel Tsatsouline on Practice