Practice More Efficiently

Do you want to learn a new skills? Faster? Then make small changes to your practices and drills.

A study by Johns Hopkins researchers finds, “if you practice a slightly modified version of a task you want to master, you actually learn more and faster than if you just keep practicing the exact same thing multiple times in a row.” The basic theory is that small changes to a repeated activity causes the brain to work harder because it has to make slight adjustments to perform the activity correctly. This extra effort by the brain does a better job of reconsolidation (i.e. reinforcing a basic skill) than simply doing the exact same thing over and over again, which requires less brain power.

It is also much more effective to do a variety of drills in a session, than to focus on one drill. Studies show that “Instead of blocking (focusing on one subject, one task, or one skill during a learning session) learn or practice several subjects or skills in succession.” This mixing of skills in a practice session, which is called “interleaving,” forces the brain to work harder because it cannot automatically repeat the same activity over and over again. This extra effort, much like making small changes to a repeated activity, helps the brain reinforce the action better than automatic repetition.

So, for example, if you are doing hitting drills, use bats with slightly different weights, make small adjustments to the height of the tee, and bat against ball speeds. If you are doing pitching drills, make small changes to the throwing distance, use balls that have slightly different weights, and pitch at a variety of velocities.

To learn a new skill, a key to improvement is to make small changes, discard what does not work, and further refine what does work. Do not forget to mix up your drills. this will lay the groundwork for improvement.