My favourite time of day

Do you know what my favourite time of day is?

What do you mean, ‘yes’? 🙂

*ahem*

I was pondering this very question the other day. There are several contenders for the title.

First, there’s the early morning.

No, stay with me here. I’m not talking stupidly early, but  I like to get up half an hour before everyone else in the house (on weekdays at least) so I can get ready, have breakfast and a shower and so on before I need to go wake everyone else up.

But the best bit? The very best bit?

tea

That cup of tea. The first cup of the day, nice and strong and absolutely piping hot. I like to sip and savour it whilst standing in the kitchen looking out of my window and contemplating the day ahead. The peace and quiet before I wake the horde above… It’s a moment to be savoured, and absolutely worth getting up slightly earlier for.

Next is lunchtime. Not only does it involve lunch (yay, food), but it’s a chance to get up and away from my desk, stretch my legs and go for a wander, and, quite possibly, a nice cup of something hot. Yes, there’s a trend emerging…

Just sitting and watching the world go by, or reading a good book.

The rest of the day is inevitably pretty busy with other assorted Real LifeTM stuff. The school run, tea, helping the kids with homework (mainly reminding them that they do *have* homework and can they get on with it please, it’s due in tomorrow!), playing games (once homework is done). All of which are good in their own ways.

But my favourite bit? My *absolute* favourite bit?

After everyone has gone to bed. Sometimes late at night I go outside and just revel in the peace and quiet. Just for a few minutes. The silence that the end of day brings. Cars have got to where they’re going to. The street is peaceful, apart from the occasional fox or even more occasional hedgehog bumbling past. On a clear night I like to take a breather and just look at the stars. Put the world in perspective.

On a slightly-related-but-not-really-but-I-like-it-so-here-it-is note, there’s a wonderful video over at TED, where Rives talks about 4am. It’s brilliant. As they put it

Poet Rives does 8 minutes of lyrical origami, folding history into a series of coincidences surrounding that most surreal of hours, 4 o’clock in the morning.

It’s one of my favourite of the TED talks, and well worth eight minutes of your time.

What’s your favourite time of day?

The First 20 Hours

Fascinating talk by Josh Kaufman, author of The First 20 Hours, at TEDxCSU.

Josh looks at how long it takes to learn something to a reasonable level of skill. There’s a perceived wisdom that it takes 10,000 hours to get really good at something, and as Josh says, you see this all over the place – books, blogs, articles etc.

I don’t have ten thousand hours… I’m never going to be able to learn anything new, ever again

Ten thousand hours equates to a full-time job for FIVE YEARS.

Turns out that the 10,000 hour rule applies to expert level, world-class, high-performing people at the very top of their very specific fields. This turned into 10,000 hours to get good at something, to 10,000 hours to learn something.

Who’s got ten thousand hours? Not me.

So, how long does it take to get reasonably good at something?

According to Josh’s research,  it takes about twenty hours. But you’ve got to be canny about it. You can’t just throw 20 hours at something and expect it to stick.

Josh breaks down his approach into 4 basic steps:

1. Deconstruct the skill.
Decide *exactly* what it is you want to do when you’re done. What are the parts of the skills you need to do what you need to do. Find the most important thing to practice first – such as a few key chords on the guitar (or in Josh’s case, the ukulele) which will give you enough to play a lot of songs. Learn the most common 2,000 words in a language, and you’ll be able to get by.

2. Learn just enough to self-correct.
Make mistakes, identify where the error is and correct it yourself using books, DVDs, online sources etc. But don’t spend all your time reading the books first.

3. Remove barriers to learning.
Get rid of distractions which stop you from sitting down and doing the work. Turn off the TV, internet and so on. Make space and time to practice.

4. Practice for at least 20 hours.
Twenty hours is 45 minutes a day, for about a month. That’s do-able, right?

So, twenty hours. What are you going to learn? Me, I’m going to pick up the guitar that I got for christmas last year, the one which has sat in its bag right next to me for six months. The one which I’m scared of picking up in case I’m terrible. It’ll take years to get good, right?

Apparently not.

Let’s see where we can get to in twenty hours. Josh talks about a band called Axis of Awesome, who have a song in which they reckon that you can play pretty much any pop song from the last five decades with just four chords (G, D, Em, C). He plays it in the video above, but here’s the original.

Four chords? I’ll take that. I figure that once I can knock out a few songs on the guitar, I can go get the ukulele I’ve secretly always wanted…

I’ll report back on progress!