We’ve all heard the cliche “practice makes perfect”. And it can, if you’re doing it right. But it’s not necessarily going to make things perfect. In fact, it might not be helping you at all.
Consider a golf swing. You can work on it over and over, day after day, but if you’re simply replicating your own bad form then you’re not actually getting better – you’re just further entrenching bad form into your habits. This is the same reason that the army prefers soldiers who are not hunters and who are not familiar with guns; most hunters have a personal method of shooting that often doesn’t measure up to the methods that the army will teach you, and unlearning bad habits is harder than starting fresh.
So how can you improve your skills? There are a few simple steps that will improve each practice session for you if you keep them close to mind.
1) Identify your problem areas. If you find you’re struggling with something in particular, then make that the focus of your study. Simply repeating what you already do best may be satisfying, but it’s not that helpful.
2) Ask for help. If you think you’re doing things right but you’re having trouble getting the results you want, try asking somebody who has had success in the same field for their advice. Be specific! Asking for general help will get you general answers; the closer you can get to identifying areas you’re having problems with and the more precisely you define where you want to be, the better they’ll be able to pinpoint exactly what you need.
3) Get feedback. Whether it’s a mentor, a friend, or computer analytics, you need metrics with which you can measure your progress and get feedback about your status. When’s the last time you saw a major league sports team without a coach?