Some methods of practicing and preparing are much more helpful than others.

Are you preparing for a major presentation at work, a big sales meeting perhaps, or some other significant event in your professional life that requires you to perform at your best?

Well you should know that some ways of practicing and preparing are much more helpful than others. It’s also worth knowing that simply devoting a large amount of time to practicing something does not necessarily help you to perform better when the pressure is on.

This is because your brain is made up of billions of neurons. When you practice any skill you change your brain. Right now, as you read this blog, your brain is changing. You are growing new neurons in your brain about better ways of practicing. These neurons can be changed through practice to build better skills and habits BUT if you want to learn new skills more effectively you need to practice in the way these skills will be used in reality and when the pressure is on.

For example, simply highlighting text in a book containing information about a professional exam you need to pass, will not help you to recall it under exam conditions. To become good at recalling that crucial detail, you have to practice by testing yourself, i.e. you need to replicate the exam scenario. Another good illustration of this is in the world of Golf. Simply hitting ball after ball on the driving range does not necessarily prepare you to produce your best swing on the golf course, when you are under pressure in a competition situation.

Rugby coach Sir Clive Woodward provides perhaps one of the best examples of the importance of practice that helps us to actually perform in the exact way we need to when the pressure is on. In psychology we refer to this as functionally equivalent practice.

Woodward transformed the England Rugby training programme to produce a World Cup winning team in 2003. He then transferred similar principles to Team GB, to achieve success in the London Olympics. He knew that by practicing and preparing in a functionally equivalent way, he could improve the performance of his people and his teams.

You can apply these same principles in your personal and professional life and they will help you.