What Do I Need To Practice?

This is the second in a series of older articles that I’m reposting on this blog concerning practice. Enjoy!

Making a decision about what skills you need to practice is crucial to seeing your best performance improvements. Most of us go to the range and practice the things we like to do – after all, the whole point is to have fun, right? Usually, though, what we like to do is what we’re already good at, leaving the neglected skills we don’t enjoy (cause usually we’re not already good at them, or they’re not as “fun” as the other skills) languishing in the dust. Those skills show up on match day, too – and many times they can make a difference between winning or not.

What to do, what to do?

With so many different things to work on, it can be paralyzing to try to decide how to get started. In his book, Thinking Practical Shooting, Saul Kirsch lays out a method I’d not seen before, but that is totally logical and easy to use (jump to page 92 in the book). In fact, I liked it so much, I made an Excel spreadsheet out of it!

First things first – here’s the template. You may download this template for your own personal use, if you agree to follow the caveats below*…

Using it is easy, but you’ll have to follow a little bit of discipline to get the most out of it. That discipline is this: be honest with yourself about how skilled you feel you are in each area. Lying to yourself here only hurts your ability to accurately assess where you’re at.

Ok – all you really need to do is to look at each skill area, and rate yourself on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being über-GM level, and 1 being “never heard of that one before”. Obviously, this is a little bit subjective, and it could change as your understanding of your skill level (and your actual skill level) change over time. No worries there – you can always do another pass at it later on. In fact, I review mine every 3 months or so.

Then take those values, and fill them in along Column B in the spreadsheet for each skill. The spreadsheet will do some math for you based against how important the skill is in the game (feel free to alter those values if mine don’t suit you – see the caveats below, too!). The end result is a number on a scale of 1-100 – 100 being a skill you need dire work on, and 1 being something you totally own.

Sort each section of skills on Column E (the Training Index) – and what bubbles to the top of each section are the skills that you’ve determined need the most work in your current game. Bingo. Now you know what to work. Pick the top 3 or 4 skills from that list, and make them your focal point for the next couple of months, then do a new skill assessment, and pick 3 or 4 more.


  • The basic idea was presented by Saul Kirsch in Thinking Practical Shooting. Go buy it and read it!
  • Dave doesn’t do technical support on Excel
  • If you come up with new skills to add to the sheet, or have feedback on the default importance levels, send them to me!

About the author


USPSA Grand Master, NRA Instructor, http://re-gun.com/about/

Permanent link to this article: http://re-gun.com/2011/04/what-do-i-need-to-practice/


3 pings

  1. Tony D says:

    If you have Excel 2007 or better, you can use the Color Scales option under Conditional Formatting to color code the Training Index column for you. Your spreadsheet will then show you which of your skills need the most work using a gradient — so what to work on will turn bright red, while your rock-solid skills will be a calm green. It is a little easier to read with colors.

    1. DaveRe says:

      Tony, thanks for the great tip!

  1. DR Performance says:

    What *do* you need to practice? http://bit.ly/l6aJgf

  2. xre says:

    RT @drperformance: What *do* you need to practice? http://bit.ly/l6aJgf

  3. The Goat | Re-Gun says:

    [...] my suggestion on how to determine what to practice? The Goat is that skill that keeps coming back on that list, taunting you like a third grader with [...]

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