Deliberate Practice and System Administration (Part 3)

So far we have covered the following,

  • All the ideas, concepts and techniques needed for applying deliberate practice. (Part 1)
  • A framework for how to apply techniques of deliberate practice to system administration. (Part 2)

Now let’s wrap this all together and examine the last important piece in this series.  A real world example of deliberate practice in action and its association with expertise.  We can put some of these ideas and techniques into practice and build our own customized version for applying deliberate practice to system administration.

Practically everybody knows who Tiger Woods is and how incredibly skilled he is.  If you don’t I suggest you Google him.  However, few understand the level of dedication he has to his craft and how much he actually puts into the sport to compete at the level he does.  So let’s go ahead and take a look at what his daily routine consists and figure out what conclusions we can draw and how we can model a practice routine for system administration after this.

  • 6:30 a.m. – One hour of cardio. Choice between endurance runs, sprints or biking. 
  • 7:30 a.m. – One hour of lower weight training. 60-70 percent of normal lifting weight, high reps and multiple sets.
  • 8:30 a.m. – High protein/low-fat breakfast. Typically includes egg-white omelet with vegetables.
  • 9:00 a.m. – Two hours on the golf course. Hit on the range and work on swing.
  • 11:00 a.m. – Practice putting for 30 minutes to an hour.

Noon – Play nine holes.

  • 1:30 p.m. – High protein/low-fat lunch. Typically includes grilled chicken or fish, salad and vegetables.
  • 2:00 p.m. – Three-to-four hours on the golf course. Work on swing, short game and occasionally play another nine holes.
  • 6:30 p.m. – 30 minutes of upper weight training. High reps.
  • 7:00 p.m. – Dinner and rest.

That is pretty crazy.  So how do we model this to fit our purposes for system administration?

There are two obvious things that I think are crucial that we can borrow from this right away.  Exercise and healthy diet.  These are important facets because as I’ve talked about previously and has been proven many times, proper diet and exercise contribute to improved cognitive abilities.  I don’t suggest following Tiger’s workout or meal plan but I would suggest at least an hour of exercise as well as a healthy meal plan to help operate at optimal energy levels throughout the day.

Next, nearly all of the rest of his practice schedule revolves around improving very specific aspects of his game.  Thankfully we came up with some of these generalized aspects of improvement for system administration in Part 1 and Part 2 so we can put these to use in our own plan.  It is important that  we combine everything into one practice schedule that is challenging but is also realistic.  We also don’t want to go over 4-5 hours each day.  So here is the schedule I propose, feel free to adapt these any way you like:

  • 8:00 a.m – Breakfast.  Fresh made juice or several pieces of fruit + supplements (multivitamin, fish oil, vitamin D).
  • 9:00 a.m. – Check relevant news, new trends and tech, check mail, forums, etc.
  • 10:00 a.m. – Focused study on new or weak areas, 60 minutes on, 15 minutes off.  This can consist of reading, videos, audio.
  • 12:00 p.m. – Lunch.  Mixed salad.  The more vegetables the better!
  • 1:00 p.m. – Lab time.  Focus on strengthening and understanding of study topics.  This is where the most time and energy should be spent.
  • 4:00 – p.m. – Work on command line/programming skills and techniques.  This fulfills more of our hands on and practice time requirements.
  • 5:00 – p.m. – Gym.  Alternate days between cardio and strength training.
  • 7:00 – p.m. – Dinner and relaxation.
  • 9:00 – p.m. – Writing and reflections on the day.  Areas of improvement, etc.

Again, this is only a guideline.  I plan on updating this as I test these techniques and make refinements and adjustments to it.  As an example, I like to work out in the evening to help me relieve stress but many others (including Tiger like to take care of this in the morning), you just have to figure out what works best for your lifestyle, so I would definitely encourage you to experiment with what works and what doesn’t.  I’m very curious to know myself.  Since this is a first revision I think there will probably need to be a number of adjustments, but I look forward to trying it out and reporting back with some results!  If you have suggestions or have your own practice schedule let me know and I’ll definitely incorporate it into my routine.

Josh Reichardt

Josh is the creator of this blog, a system administrator and a contributor to other technology communities such as /r/sysadmin and Ops School. You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook.