study smart with practice

Practicing Practice: Mastery, Mistakes, and Tiny Habits

Ask 100 people – they’ve all heard this phrase before:

“If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”

I think this phrase is just about the worst phrase you can tell someone, because the time and place for doing something right is after you’ve done it 100 times, and know exactly what to do.

But what do you do when you don’t know what do do – or even where to start? How do you do something right if you don’t even know how to get started?

When you are a young student, the phrase “do it right” might not make any sense, because you don’t know how to do it all all.

One of the core concepts of Study Smart is that of Practice. Doing something well, or right, or even just better requires practice.

You have a young student who is right now struggling in school in some way. Lots of times, these kids want to do better, but they do not know how to do better. They do not know the actions they need to take to do better. And even if they did know these actions, they would only do them very badly, because they have never practiced them.

What we are going to give your young student (and you too) is a series of actions they can take to do better in school, in less time, with less stress.

These actions aren’t rocket science, and you do not need to be a golden apple award winner to help teach these actions. However, your young student will need to do these actions. And since they have never done these actions before, they will almost certainly do them wrong, or badly, or forget, or completely mess them up in the beginning.

That’s fine. We designed the programs to be robust. We designed them knowing kids (and their adults) will make mistakes. We kept the end goal in mind – practicing these actions is enough to make profound changes in your kids academic experience.

Please keep in mind: They will almost undoubtedly do these actions incorrectly the first few times. This is to be expected, and it’s really the point of practice – to learn how to overcome the inevitable mistakes.

It’s even more challenging to do these actions repeatedly well. To do these actions correctly, over and over again, requires practice. And practice almost invariably means “getting lots of things wrong the first few times you do them.” If your kid needs to learn “persistence”, they are going to make mistakes practicing persistence too.

To get to the level of mastery, practice is required. Practice is about doing something even when you are not good at it, so you can get better at doing it.

That’s why we have such a problem here at Study Smart System with “If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”  If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly too. It’s worth doing it wrong many times. It’s worth doing. Doing it right will require practice, so let’s just get our hands dirty and do it a few times – no matter what the outcome!

This is one of the core concepts of study smarter: Practice involves sometimes making mistakes. Making mistakes is not a sign of stupidity. It’s a sign of not knowing how to do something, and the way to get better at something is to practice, even if and when you are making mistakes.

One of the more frequent mistakes we see is not doing the action every time it’s required in the program. That’s why we focus on creating Tiny Habits to make our program easy to remember to do.

Tiny Habits are small, positive actions which are triggered by another event which “must” happen in your daily life. When something happens, you commit to doing some small action which is nearly inconsequential in cost but is related to your larger goal.

Here’s an example of a Tiny Habit: Every time you get out of your office chair, do 2 jumping jacks. This will get your blood flowing just a bit, and give you a bit of exercise. What you’ll find is once you start doing a few jumping jacks, doing 10 of them is easy, and sometimes you’ll do many more because they make you feel better.  I do this tiny habit, and it’s made a huge difference to my overall energy level.

One of the keys of tiny habits is to make the cost of following the habit very small, but to give yourself the opportunity to really do much more.

Here is a good tiny habit for your student: Every time get out their homework for the night, they take out their written schedule of homework and open it to the current week/day.

They are only committing to getting out the book and opening it. The Tiny Habit does not include looking at the book – but they will almost certainly look over the schedule once the book is open!

The bigger goal is to have them look over the homework, tests and quizzes for the next 2 weeks so they can be prepared. We will show you good ways for your student to do these actions.

But – looking over the schedule over the next 2 weeks involves opening the schedule to the right page first. Getting focused on the smallest actions it takes to get started is typically enough to set much more complex actions and behaviors in place. Once you start a task, it’s much easier to put in the extra bit of effort to get good results.

There are other huge benefits of using Tiny Habits, which your student will find for themselves as they practice them. It’s all in the practice!

Our goal with these programs is to help your kids do better at school and have an overall excellent school experience. Practice is how kids and really anyone moves from fumbling badly in tasks to solid skills and performance.

So, when you go through a few of the exercises we have here for the first time, remember these are practice! Your kid might make some mistakes, but those mistakes are a natural part of getting better at important actions. One of the ways we’re going to help is by focusing on creating Tiny Habits which lead to much stronger long term study skills.