Merely Engaging in Activity versus Deliberate Practice

One common argument against the potential contributions of deliberate practice is: “I have been doing such and such (insert any activity) for many, many years and I am nowhere near close to anything I would consider expert level performance.”

The short rebuttal to this is that engaging in an activity (no matter how often or for how long) is not necessarily a form of deliberate practice that will contribute towards a mastery of that activity.

Here’s a short video that I hope will make that clearer.


Anthony, a question about deliberate practice (DB):

Speaking with some Ani Academy folks, they are in the studio 7-8 hours a day. But many of the links you’ve referenced recommend max 4 hours a day for DB.

I recently began the LoP program. Is there a particular number of hours recommended for LoP, particularly as one begins their deliberate art practice regime?

Many thanks for all the work you are putting in to this forum!


An excellent question Sha (and one that comes up quite often),

It is true that a window of 4-5 hours is the prescribed limit before one enters the realm of diminished returns in most DP activities—but it seems that guys and gals can push that a bit before they hit that will.

It should be mentioned that our artists do not do 7-8 hours (or more) without taking a number of breaks. Most of the literature on DP seems states that this limit is “at a time”. Here is a quote from Ericsson et al., Making an Expert, Havard Business Review, July-Aug., 2007, “It is interesting to note that across a wide range of experts, including athletes, novelists, and musicians, very few appear to be able to engage in more than four or five hours of high concentration and deliberate practice at a time. In fact, most expert teachers and scientists set aside only a couple of hours a day, typically in the morning, for their most demanding mental activities, such as writing about new ideas.”

I would say on average that our artists take breaks ever hour or so (we keep a kitchen full of snacks and such with magazines so that they may recharge/decompress before returning to the easel.) When the weather permits, some relax outside, walk the school grounds, or spend some time with our dogs (we have a rather large family–LOL!.) Add to that an hour or so for lunch and you may get closer to 5-6(+/-) hours. In addition, I would think it safe to state the some time is spent engaged in aspects of the activity that require much less intense concentration than others—for example, setting up drawing papers, preparing palettes, sanding panels, sharpening pencils, laying out exercise templates, receiving feedback/analyzing/discussing performance issues, receiving instruction, etc…Taking this into account we might get increasingly closer to the concentration limits laid out in most DP literature. Again, I think that some here definitely push beyond that limit—but can be quick to realize when they get “burnt” for the day.

Hope that helps Sha!


I would agree with Anthony on about 4 hours/day. I would say that is my direct amount of time painting, but I am in my studio a few more hours in addition to that or slightly less to set up, get everything set out, and just get mentally prepared. I can work at least four days a week like this, sometimes five if I’m just about finished something. I also go for months like this, then I need a break for a couple weeks. This helps me get my perspective again, re-evaluate what I’m doing, and get over any personal mental hijacking I can do to myself. This can really hold a person up and make it hard to get moving again.


Excellent; super useful info. So far I only have about three hours of DB a day in me; try to top it off with at least a half hour of sketching. To help remember why I’m doing three hours of Origin/Destination exercises a day. :wink:


I am in agreement with Anthony and Beverly. This, for me, is the same mental and physical demands of my former competitive gymnast/ dance training. Everything in the PEAK book falls into the same mental visual representation in which you practice whatever you want to excel in and then apply the physical part of doing afterwards. My coach trained us that way from my teen years. Practice one hour mentally, especially before a competition meet and see yourself doing your routine.
The way I apply this deliberate practice to painting is that I take something that I’m weak in and concentrate on that visually. Tony stated it perfectally… more than 4 hours and you burn out as it’s intense like running sprints or tumbling down a mat high energy.
I take breaks but do paint 10 hours broken up at least 1x a week and most days don’t put in less than 6. I repeat… breaks and meditation are key here for me so I don’t burn out as Beverly stated.
This is as hard as gymnastics minus the fear of dying lol:-)
Set goals for yourself and challenge yourself in things you feel you avoid because you are weak in that area. I do it by giving myself projects to enter into Juried shows for years… I know me, I like to feel challenged and the need to keep it alive and not get bored. Also, working in a group, like Anthony’s place is great for mind, body, spirit! Hoping I can attend his next workshop!!!:peace_symbol: