There is never enough time for practice. So to make the most of your practice sessions start by making two lists: things that you need to do and that you do well, and things that you need to do, but need to do better. Divide your time evenly between the two lists. Spend as much time strengthening your strengths as overcoming your weaknesses. But first, let’s improve the way you practice.
If you practice something imperfectly over and over again, what happens? You get really good at doing it imperfectly. But what entails perfect practice? Below is the 5-step process for achieving perfect practice.
- Perfect practice is both designed and focused. You begin by defining specific elements of performance that need to be improved and specific levels of improvement that need to be achieved. You focus on those elements and continually stretch yourself just beyond your current abilities until your desired level of improvement is achieved. Then it’s on to the next element.
- Once each specific element is identified and properly performed, that element is performed through a high number of repetitions. Develop technique first and speed will follow. The reverse is never true.
- Feedback on results is essential. Some objective comparison against a relevant standard for what you’re trying to achieve. This may be your own personal best, the performance of competitors you’re facing or expect to face, or the best known performance by anyone in the field. So unless you can objectively self-judge, working with a mentor or coach is vital.
- Perfect practice is an effort of focus and concentration. Identifying exactly those necessary performance elements that are unsatisfactory and then working to improve them places enormous strains on your mental abilities.
- Its hard work to focus on, and spend time practicing those things you’re not the best at. But that is exactly what is needed to improve.
When you’re trying to develop team skills in addition to individual performance, the only sustainable way for each member of the team to benefit individually is for each member to work first for the benefit of the team. If team members only concentrate on being the best they can be, without also concentrating on being part of the best team, they will end up being the best individual on a losing team. (See Game Theory and the Nash Equilibria) Practice must, therefore, address the needs of the team as well as that of each team member.
And finally, practice is only an event. Learning is a constant process of applying skill, knowledge and experience to real-life situations. “It takes several years to learn to handle a yacht reasonably well,” says noted yachtsman and author Maurice Griffiths, “and a lifetime to admit how much more there is to learn.” I hope you always yearn to learn.
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