Become Better At Anything, Using The 1% Rule
Skip to main content

Become Better At Anything, Using The 1% Rule

Did you know that following the 1% rule you could become twice as good at anything in just over two months (70 days, to be exact), six times better in half a year, and a whopping 37 times better in one year?

The idea is strikingly simple: if you get 1% better daily at any particular skill, in just over two months you'll be TWICE as good as you were when you started.

Yes, the math is right, and there's no magic trick here other than the power of compound interest.  The secret lies in consistent practice over a period of time, even if the daily practice time is not huge.

The secret lies in consistent practice

Notice also how becoming 1% worse daily leads to catastrophic results very quickly. You'll be half as good in that same period of 70 days, and the graph approximates zero even faster after that.

Of course, when talking about building skills, it is difficult to accurately determining how to become precisely 1% better or measure exact progress, and after a certain point your skills will probably plateau (no one will run 100m in 1 second no matter how much they train).

Nonetheless, the concept can be very useful, as we'll see below.

How can you apply this?

Easy. Just take any skill you want to get better at and start working on it for a few minutes every day, either by practicing or learning more about it. Even just 5 or 10 minutes a day can pay huge dividends.

  • 1. Think of something you'd like to get better at: mixing, compressing, using reverbs, delays, saturation, ear training...
  • 2. Commit to spending at least 5 minutes every day either doing anything related to it or learning about it.
  • 3. Try for one month and see the results.

Step 2 can also be just talking with other people about that subject, or even simply thinking about it. Anything pertaining to the skill you want to focus on.

Don't aim for the moon

Notice how we are suggesting here short periods of practice, at least at the beginning.

That's because aiming for the moon is not always a good idea: if you set goals that are too difficult, you risk not achieving them, being discouraged by that "defeat" and then abandoning the effort altogether.

Aiming for the moon is not always a good idea

For example, if you don't do any sports and suddenly decide to start working out, it is easy to go all-in and maybe determine you'll work out five days per week. Aim for the moon, right?

The problem is that if you end up training only 2 or 3 days per week, you might feel you didn't reach your goal (that's only 40-60% of what you wanted to achieve) and stop working out altogether, when in reality, you should celebrate BIG time because you've increased your working out rate substantially.

Don't be this guy... at least on your first day. Pic: Binyamin Mellish.

In this regard, Jon Acuff, author of the book Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done, suggests cutting your goals in half. This way it is easier that you'll get the reward of something done, and it is more probable that you'll build a solid habit from there.

This is similar to what Nike coach Chris Bennett suggests when doing any type of workout: you should train in such a way that when you've finished, you still feel strong and could continue for quite a bit, instead of bringing yourself to the point of complete exhaustion.

This way, that uplifting feeling is what your body will remember, and next time you are due for a new workout, you'll be looking forward to it because a) you know you can do it easily and b) it feels great.

Start with something manageable. Pic: Rick Barrett.

So, if you have problems even with a goal that's been already reduced by 50%, try a further 50%. Or even less! Try starting with a goal so ridiculously easy that you are positive you'll accomplish it, and then build from there.

The end goal is to create a habit. Once the habit is formed, it is easy to increase the difficulty or number of reps gradually.

In words of James Clear, author of Atomic Habits: "Master the habit of showing up. Habits needs to be established before they can be improved".

There's also a physiological reason why spacing out any practice is a good idea: it is not until the brain makes new neuronal connections that we assimilate what we learn, and these neural connections are created during rest, especially during the night.

Paving the road beforehand

Another strategy that helps solidify these types of 1% efforts is preparing any materials you will need beforehand.

For example, if you want to get better at EQing, make sure in advance that you have enough audio material to practice.

So, a few days before you start your effort, go ahead and download several multi-tracks, import them into your DAW, and prepare several sessions, so when it’s time to practice, everything will be ready.

Learning zone vs Performance zone

In his fascinating TED Talk "How to get better at the things you care about", Eduardo Briceño explains that it is important for us to be able to operate in two different zones:

The Learning zone is when you know you are practicing, and thus mistakes are to be expected. The Performance zone is when you are trying to perform at your best, so you don't step out of your comfort zone to avoid mistakes.

Eduardo Briceño. Image: TED.

We tend to spend most of the time in the Performance zone while at work, and that's of course ok; but it is also essential to introduce some Learning zones, a safe environment where you'll be able to practice freely without the fear of making mistakes.

That's precisely the headspace you should be in when approaching these types of efforts.

You'll be entering into your Learning zone, so don't be discouraged if you don't get good results at the beginning. That's the whole point! Just try to approach it in a positive way, and have fun. Even if you are not good at it yet, you will.

Monthly Challenges

Bringing all these concepts together, we have started a series of monthly challenges.

We will be setting a different goal every month, providing all the materials and tools needed for it, and encouraging everyone who takes part in it to do their best and have fun.

The best part? They'll be completely free! Take a look below:

Critical Listening Challenge

Critical Listening Challenge

Join this free challenge and learn how to analyze any mix out there. Understand what was done and why, learn new techniques, and get inspired to create and develop your own.

Take A Look

 

Check out all the free resources

Take a look