Practice makes per . . . ?
Did you say 'practice makes perfect'?
But I would say that it doesn't.
I was reminded of this again recently when I met up with my cricket coaching friend Steve, to do a bit of batting coaching with my youngest son. Steve challenges a lot of the conventional wisdom about cricket as well as life in general.
One of these is a challenge to the old cliché that 'practice makes perfect'. As he says, practice doesn't make 'perfect', it simply makes 'permanent'. Whatever we practice, whether good or bad, becomes permanent. It becomes ingrained. It becomes a habit.
That's why it’s so important to coach kids when they are round about my sons age, before they make some 'less-than-ideal' cricket skills permanent. And the same principle applies to many of our habits in the workplace. Of course, the area of greatest interest to me is in regards to people's email practices.
For many, they have been practising what they do with email for so long now, that they have formed very strong habits; these practices have become' permanent. But I don't think many would say their practices have become 'perfect' - far from it.
So what can be done?
Email is now in its 44th year and it’s been around for long enough for there to now be plenty of research into what are the best practices for using and managing it. From my own research and experience as a specialist in this aspect of workplace productivity, I see that these can be defined under three main strategies, what I call the WWW of Mastering Email (click links below to hear me interviewed about each strategy);
- Controlling WHEN we interact with email (listen to my radio interview 2:17 mins)
- Identifying WHAT action is needed for each message - Interview Part 1 (2:23) & Part 2 (1:43)
- Deciding WHERE to quickly file each message for quick retrieval later - Interview here (3:34)
By practising the habit of only checking email at pre-defined times during the day, of looking at each email only once and making a 4D decision about it, and then using a simplified filing system to store those messages and attachments needed for future reference, we can quickly establish a habit that becomes permanent (and powerful).
What about you - are any of your 'practices' becoming permanent in a way that is unsatisfying or unrewarding for you?
P.S. It's a year since I wrote the blog above and all the cricket coaching and practice my son Andrew has done over the years paid off last weekend when he scorded a brilliant 45 not out to help his team secure a win in the Grand Final. It's his 5th Premiership and he's only 21!
All the best!
Steuart G. Snooks