To Rest or Not to Rest—The 10,000 Hours of Work Rule

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell popularized the idea that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice were needed to become a world-class success in almost any field.

Published in 2008, he cited examples from The Beatles to Bill Gates. The original research was done by Anders Ericsson (Professor Psychology at Florida State Univ.) and published in 1993.

Gladwell is a good writer and has a knack for taking boring research and packaging it for mass consumption. I’m a fan.

But, it didn’t take long for other academics to start poking holes in the simple 10,000 Hour Rule.  Valid criticism or jealousy?  Probably both.

I found a new commentary on the 10,000 Hour Rule very enlightening.

Can You Make a Baby in 4 Months?

What if we’re in a bit of a rush and try to become world-class asap? Let’s squeeze those 10,000 hours into 2-3 years of intense practice!

Sounds good. We tend to worship an ethic of 80 hr weeks for start-ups and critical deadlines. Are there any self-discipline tips or hacks that could help? How would you stay motivated to keep that pace?

How do you get that kind of willpower? If you’re cramming that many hours into a week on a continual basis, what is your productivity? Maybe you’re just going through the motions like a zombie.

A new book, Rest, by Alex Soojng-Kim Pang, tells us why that’s a bad idea. He reviewed the original research behind the 10,000 hours idea and uncovered some new insights.

Intense deliberate practice needs to be followed by rest. Turns out, rest is more than just the absence of work. During sleep, the brain is busy organizing, storing and reconciling everything that occurred during the day.

If you try to rush the 10,000 hours of experience/practice, you aren’t letting the brain do its job.  (Not to mention what 10,000 hours in 2-3 years might do to your physical health and relationships.)

We need to develop a daily habit routine of getting adequate sleep. The best way to squeeze-in 10,000 hrs in a specific field is to make sure that specialty is your primary job and learn to focus. The ability to intensely focus could transform one hour effectively into two.

You Can’t Rush Excellence

So, just like many other endeavors that require a lot of time and effort, the shortcuts don’t work and the process can’t be rushed.

The best way is the long path. A habit routine is a great way to stay on the path. Here’s a post I wrote about the power of habits.