One of the biggest differences between the most successful musicians and average players, one study has found, isn't the amount of time they practice, but how they delegate their time. Creating distinct periods between learning or working and leisure might help you achieve more.
Photo by Peter Kaminski.
Success-focused blog Study Hacks notes a study published in Psychological Review, which examined the differences between elite violinists and average players (as identified by the school's professors). Besides sporting more of a dedication to hard, deliberate practice (e.g. drills reinforcing fundamental skills), one distinction stands out: The two groups spent the same number of hours practicing, but scheduled them differently:
The average players, they discovered, spread their work throughout the day. A graph included in the paper, which shows the average time spent working versus the waking hours of the day, is essentially flat.
The elite players, by contrast, consolidated their work into two well-defined periods. When you plot the average time spent working versus the hours of the day for these players, there are two prominent peaks: one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
In fact, the more elite the player, the more pronounced the peaks. For the best of the best - the subset of the elites who the professors thought would go on to play in one of Germany's two best professional orchestras - there was essentially no deviation from a rigid two-sessions a day schedule.
This isolation of work from leisure had pronounced effects in other areas of the players' lives.
Moral of the study: As with working only your "good hours," you might be able to increase how productive, creative, or skilled you are by carefully blocking your time.