The phrase practice makes perfect seems to be ingrained in our heads. In fact, some of us subscribe so faithfully to this philosophy that it actually may sabotage our learning. 

How, you ask?

Well, there are those who practice and practice with no real vision of what they wish to accomplish or how to get there.

(Me! I've been there, far too many times):

So many nights I would come home from work exhausted, pero cansaísima, and force myself to practice, or rather, trick myself into thinking I was practicing. I would go through my footwork exercises, my mind on a different planet thinking about lessons for the next day or what I had to do for this child or that child or about some conversation I'd had with this person or that person, all kinds of things that had nothing to do with the what I was actually doing. And often times I found myself almost falling asleep, literally almost falling asleep standing! In both situations my body was there, moving, "dancing..." But my brain certainly wasn't.

Ok, so there's that, a serious lack of focus. Still others don't even give themselves a chance at all thinking, “Why bother? How could I possibly find the time to practice as much as I would need to make any visible improvements,”  

(And, yes, I've been there too... many times):

There were times I would just give up completely and not work on stuff at all figuring that I could never EVER possibly get to be even one tenth as good as some dancer from España, soooooo, I might as well not do anything. I might as well not do this thing that I LOVE because I'll never be good enough. Hmm, obviously, that didn't serve me too well either.

And now a small confession: 

The above issues still exist for me ... but on a much lesser scale.  (Well, except for the falling asleep thing. Thankfully I have grown up enough to understand the pure insanity of that!) Good news though, I have discovered ways of dealing with these issues as they appear, pequeños trucos, which I'll talk about later. For now I can say that I have finally learned how to make my practices more productive.

And the reality is that if we want to get better, not just any old practice will do.

Tranquilo, don’t start worrying, please. Instead breathe a sigh of relief; essentially I am arguing that we may be able to practice less than we think we need to or already are and actually get more out of it. Now, let’s not misinterpret; time dedicated to practice is indeed important, but even more so is how that time is used. Five minutes well-used will serve me much more than one unfocused hour. And it will definitely serve me more than no minutes at all! As I mentioned before, I have learned this the hard way, and because this article could use but another cliché, let me just say, better late than never. 

Now, where was I? Oh yeah, focus.

So, bottom line: If we approach our study with a clear direction, we will likely reach our goals more quickly. Quite simple. Yes, once we have actually established some goals we’ve created the possibility of reaching them, a possibility that before could have only occurred by chance. Anyway, you get the gist.

Stay tuned for thoughts on deciding just what to focus on, how to better focus, and ways to structure an at-home practice.

In the meantime, I'd love to know what you think.  Leave a comment below.

NOTE: I wrote this back in February and published it as an article before I really understood this whole blogging thing. I've revised it a bit to post here today. I welcome your thoughts on the subject: