Scott Young discusses the importance of benchmarking in skill development.
Instead of simply focusing on skill development, Young suggests that “benchmark projects” will tend to be more effective.
Benchmark projects are also about improving skills. However, instead of picking a skill and just trying to get better at it, you first pick a clear benchmark accomplishment that defines success.
Some examples of benchmarking might include getting favorable feedback from the discussion after a conference paper, having a journal article accepted and cited multiple times, or committing to write a certain number of words per day.
The aim is to have some metric by which you can judge your progress as you develop whatever skill you choose to work on.
For Young’s full discussion, see his original guest post on Cal Newport’s blog.