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Practice with Intention: Tips for Improving Your Skill Retention and Reaching Learning Goals

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Every creative industry is a constantly evolving machine that requires artists and designers to sharpen their skills, even industry veterans. There are several ways to go about sharpening those skills, but none of them will be effective unless you begin to practice with the sole purpose to improve, not just because it's a good idea. This article will discuss why intentional practice is the key to becoming a better artist or designer. What Is Practice? Practice is defined as that which is a repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it. The definition is very clear and right to the point. If you want to have a high level of skill in something (proficiency), you need to perform a task multiple times. Intentionality Is Key Just practicing will only get you so far because it's missing a crucial element: intentionality. Intentionality is an attitude when it comes to practice. When practice becomes intentional, you will no longer shotgun your projects, hoping you've improved something. Instead, you’ll have laser-like focus on what you want to accomplish with zero doubt as to whether or not you've improved your skills. Set Specific and Realistic Goals So how do you practice with an intentional attitude? First, you'll want to set specific and realistic goals. You'll want specific goals that reflect your laser-like focus. So instead of making a goal to be a better 3D modeler, make a goal to becoming more familiar with hard surface modeling techniques. Goals like this have a specific purpose and are easily obtainable, thus making them realistic goals. Now, if you’re having trouble making specific goals, a great place to start is by evaluating your skill level. You might be comfortable with your modeling skills, but your texturing skills leave something to be desired. Your textures flat and lack that wow factor. You could go ahead and set a goal to becoming a better texture artist, but remember, you want to make goals with a laser-like focus. Narrow it down to something like learning how to create metal textures. Image_01 Have the Right Mindset Once you've made a goal for yourself, it's time to set out and accomplish your goal with the mindset that it’s going to be the best metal texture anyone has ever seen. This isn’t meant to be an empty commitment. You’re trying to identify elements that make metal look like metal. Elements like pitting, chipping, specularity, color, grain, scratches, nicks and dings. Every detail, no matter how small, is built with intentionality and has purpose. Prevent Burnout Practicing with intention is going to push you, but the rewards are really incredible. However, there are a few things you should take note of when working in order to keep from getting burnt out and ultimately not finishing your goals. First, don't make your practice sessions a marathon. Practicing with this kind of intensity can only be done for about three to four hours a day. This doesn’t mean you have to work three to four hours a day. Then, set a time limit for yourself each day and stick to it, no matter how you feel, whether good or bad. Also, take a 15 - 20 minute break every hour to hour and a half. Your body can't sprint for long periods of time, why should your brain be any different? Image_02 Develop Good Learning Habits There are also some good habits you should develop when practicing. First, get feedback often. The best feedback is from a supportive online community that’ll give you honest feedback. Be willing to take this feedback and use it, even if it hurts. A fresh set of eyes is one of the most valuable tools an artist can get. Next, take lots of notes. Writing down what you've learned is a great way to make it stick in your mind. It also helps you remember how you got to a certain conclusion in your project. Finally, don't forget the fundamentals. Take the time to refresh what you've learned every once in a while. You may be surprised at what you might’ve missed. Practice is a great way to maintain your current level of skills, but in order to take your skills to the next level you have to practice with an intentional attitude. It‘ll push you to be better than yesterday, and that is crucial in our constantly changing industry.