There's an excellent post on Deliberate Practice/Serious Study, over at the Study Hacks blog. I've been interested for a while now in the idea that it takes humans about 10,000 hours to become an expert at something, but this post goes more into specific detail about the hows and whys.
The key idea is a thing called "Deliberate practice", which are activities specifically designed to improve your performance at something. I was aware of this idea in a sporting context, so it's cool to discover that it's a more general psychological principle. The idea is that to improve at something, you not only need to practice, that practice has to have certain characteristics. For example, it needs to push the boundaries of what you're capable of, and it needs to provide feedback so that you know whether or not you did well in a given instance. 10,000 hours of coasting in your comfort zone won't do much for you.
It seems to me a Very Good Thing to focus on improving how well you do your research, but I suspect that most scientific researchers don't really do this (not explicitly, anyway). Maybe they should...
The Study Hacks article looks well-researched and links to a range of other materials, so it's well worth a look!