Contrary to the popular saying, practice does not make perfect. Practice also doesn’t necessarily make you better.
without good technique
practice does not make perfect
it makes permanent
It’s more accurate to say that practice makes permanent.
What we practice becomes our habit. Each time we practice something in the same way, we groove neural pathways.
If you want your practice to be effective — to help you improve a skill — you must practice with intention.
Here are three elements of intentional and effective practice:
Being consistent with practice is essential to improvement. And so is time away from practice. If you try to practice all the time you’ll tax your nervous system with hyper vigilance. This may cause you to resent practice.
Creating a structure for your practice is essential to keeping it contained and keeping yourself accountable.
Practice structure includes:
- when will you practice: what days and times
- how long you’ll practice for
- what skills or elements of skills you’ll practice
- where you’ll practice — the specific location
How will you know you’re using the right technique or that your form is correct?
We need someone to catch our errors so that we can make corrections before our errors become habit.
It also helps to have someone make the decision about what you need to practice. This reduces the emotional labor of practice, removes decision fatigue, and ensures that you don’t practice only the parts that you already do well.
An effective practice session follows a sequence. Consider practice for any sport. Practice starts with warm-ups, progresses to drills to hone skills, then you work on the strategic plays.
If you play an instrument, you may start your session by practicing your scales and some smaller pieces before moving on to the main piece.
You might spend a lot of time on one skill, or a few bars of a piece, to gain fluency in that part before moving on.
Building your foundation in sequence helps you build on established skills as you master each one.