What do elite athletes, piano prodigies and successful ultralearners have in common? They all rely on drilling to perfect their techniques and maintain their competitive edge. So, how can you drill strategically to achieve the best results? Crucially, you should never begin your project by drilling. Instead, use the direct-then-drill approach. To do this, start with direct practice, whether you’re writing code or weaving tapestry. Use this direct practice to identify the areas where you wish to drill. After drilling, go back to direct practice until it becomes necessary to drill again. To make the most out of your drilling, apply it to a rate-determining step. In chemistry, the rate-determining step is the part of the process that precipitates a chain reaction; in ultralearning, it’s the step that unlocks the next level of knowledge or opens up the broadest range of applications. For example, you may have a great grasp of the principles of accounting theory, but lack the Excel expertise to put these principles into practice. In that case, learning Excel would be your rate-determining step, so you’d focus your drilling in this area. How should you design your drills? That depends on the area you want to drill. Can it be easily isolated from the rest of your project? If so, try time-slicing, where you isolate one step in a more involved process and repeat the step until you’ve perfected it. If you want to perfect your golf game, for example, you could time-slice by drilling your drive shot. Or, separate your desired skill into different cognitive components and drill each separately – for example, in language learning, you could drill vocabulary, pronunciation or spelling. If you’re working on a more creative or complex project, you might find it challenging to drill in isolation – it’s hard to drill creative writing, for example. In that case, try the copycat method instead. Choose a piece of work that you admire, whether it’s a painting by Cezanne or a passage by Dickens, and emulate it as closely as you can. Pop quiz! Which ultralearner developed Stardew Valley? Why is transfer so important? What’s the interleaving technique? If you had trouble answering these questions, you may need to work on retrieval. The next readim will tell you how.