How To Make Practice a Habit

You don’t need to practice eight hours a day to become good at a video game; it just requires daily deliberate practice. One to two hours a day of focused practice is usually all that’s required to become competent at a skill. If you’re patient and consistent, you will see growth, and you can still have a life outside of video games.

It’s important to note, motivation isn’t a good thing to rely on because it comes and goes; willpower is a limited resource and can only get you so far. So, how do you consistently do something, even if you’re not in the mood for it? Turn it into a habit. Automate the process in your brain, so you don’t have to think about it or will yourself to do it. Eventually, you do it without thinking.

However, this is not an overnight “hack.” It will take time, and it will take effort, but eventually, the behavior you want will stick and become automatic.

To clarify, I wrote this guide with speedrunning/competing in video games in mind. However, you can apply these methods to anything in your life, not just your video game hobby.

Note: All Amazon/Audible links are referral links.

This guide introduces some concepts from the books Atomic Habits by James Clear (Amazon / Audible). Check it out for more in-depth explanations.

Turning Practice into a Habit

The Three Steps of a Habit

  1. Cue
    • A situation that creates the urge to complete an established behavior.
      • The most common cues
        • Time
        • Environment
      • Other cues
        • The presence of a person
        • Feeling an emotion
        • The end of a behavior
          • Stacking your habits is a powerful strategy.
            • After “X,” I will then do “Y.”
  2. Routine
    • The desired behavior.
  3. Reward
    • The dopamine spike
      • Faster speedrun times
      • Higher ranking in the ladder
      • Approval from others
      • Reward yourself
        • Examples: TV time, phone time, favorite food, drink, etc.
      • Check it off your to-do list

The Four Steps of Making Effective Habits

  1. Make it obvious.
    • Clarify what you’re trying to do, and why you’re doing it.
  2. Make it attractive.
    • Bundle the habit with something you want to do.
    • Belong to a community that will offer approval, respect, and praise for your accomplishments.
    • Find an extrinsic reward.
  3. Make it easy.
    • Plan out your practice.
      • Know what you’re going to practice.
      • Plan how long you’re going to practice.
    • Start small in the beginning.
      • Only add a few new habits at a time.
      • Start small and slowly expand the behavior.
        • Example: practice for 20 minutes at first then work your way up to an hour.
          • If you want to keep going after 20 minutes, then do it. If you don’t, then don’t.
  4. Make it satisfying.
    • Track your progress.
      • A higher rank on the community ladder.
      • Improved times in speedruns.
      • Create a streak.
        • See how many days/months in a row you can do your habit.

Experiment. Check-in with yourself to see if what you’re doing is working, or if you need to try out different cues and different rewards.

Goldilocks Rule

We experience the most enjoyment and hunger to get better when the task we’re working on is just outside our current skill level. The trick is to be challenged, but not take on something so hard that you get bored and stop enjoying the process.

Consequently, this is one reason I strongly urge players to start with the beginner strategies in speedruns. Building a firm base in your gameplay and working your way up to harder strategies is what will most likely keep your interest. Not grinding out a hard trick for weeks.

Performing Under Pressure

Occasionally create low-stakes situations in your practice to add a bit of pressure. This will help you perform better when there’s actual pressure. For example, perform a technique correctly five times in a row.

Planning Your Sessions

Have something to track your progress. That way you instantly know what you’re currently working on, and what you need to work on. Doing this allows you to completely focus on what you’re doing instead of juggling everything in your head.

Also, have a backup plan for when things go wrong. What are you going to do if you get called into work early? Come up with a solution to the things life throws at you to stay consistent.

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