“Easy is not an option. No days off. Never Quit. Be Fearless. Talent you have Naturally. Skill is only developed by hours and hours of work.” — Usain Bolt
A skill is developed by getting your reps in... thousands of them.
While putting in those reps, you must focus on form and technique. After all, training yourself to do something inefficiently kind of defeats the purpose.
Tracking progress is also important. You must correlate progress with what causes it, so you can do more of it. This is especially true when trying to eke out a bit more performance or improvement.
So many things go into building a skill over time. Those “things” are, in fact, habits.
Habits live in the unconscious mind where automatic behaviors are encoded. They become automatic through repetition. Automaticity frees the conscious mind to focus on new, challenging problems. It allows you to level up.
If you take a look at Usain Bolt's skill as a sprinter, habits...
Get him to training on time.
Make up each aspect of his training regimen, guiding him through one consistent step after another.
Reinforce healthy eating habits at the right times of day.
Ensure he rests and recovers after each training session.
Habits make skills possible. They provide the framework within which thousands of purposeful, effective reps can happen.
Each habit forms an integral part of the system necessary to develop a skill. Without these habits, training is chaotic. The chain of consecutive reps is easily interrupted. The compounding effect necessary for skill development is never realized.
An astonishing number of small habits form the system within which a skill takes root and develops. This is true of every skill in every area: athletic, academic, professional, etc.
Habits truly are the building blocks of skills... and the first habit is the best place to start in developing any skill.