Practice too little and you never become world-class. Practice too much, though, and you increase the odds of being struck down by injury, draining yourself mentally, or burning out. To succeed, students must “avoid exhaustion” and “limit practice to an amount from which they can completely recover on a daily or weekly basis.”
How do students marked for greatness make the most of limited practice time? The rhythm of their practice follows a distinctive pattern. They put in more hours per week in the practice room or playing field, but they don’t do it by making each practice longer. Instead, they have more frequent, shorter sessions, each lasting about 80 to 90 minutes, with half-hour breaks in between.
Add these several practices up, and what do you get? About four hours a day. About the same amount of time Darwin spent every day doing his hardest work, Hardy (G.H. Hardy was one of Britain’s leading mathematicians in the first half of the 20th century) and Littlewood (Hardy’s longtime collaborator John Littlewood) spent doing math, Charles Dickens and Stephen King spent writing. Even ambitious young students in one of the world’s best schools, preparing for an notoriously competitive ﬁeld, could handle only four hours of really focused, serious effort per day.
Alex Soojung-Kim Pang writing in Nautilus