Sunday, January 01, 2012

Fixing, Flow, and Self-Nudging

Back from some much needed downtime, I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year and I hope that your 2012 is safe, healthy, successful, and creative.

First of all, an interesting update on the recent discussion about practicing more effectively rather than longer. Study Hacks listed some strategies on practice from an anonymous pianist - here are all four:
1. Avoid flow. Do what does not come easy.
2. To master a skill, master something harder.
3. Systematically eliminate weakness.
4. Create beauty, don't avoid ugliness. 
I would agree with most of those four statements - the only one that I would disagree with is the avoidance of flow. My conception of Flow as it relates to the creative process (based on Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's book) is not just the experience of playing the work, but the experience of engaging with the entire process of taking the work apart, working the small parts, putting it back together, and repeating the process en route to the best performance possible. 

A better way to understand flow in this context would be to add a fifth statement which would read something along the lines of "Cultivate flow as you observe the previous four concepts".

For those who can work their way through some complex concepts, an article by Penny Tompkins and James Lawley in the Clean Collection entitled Self-Nudging: unconscious decision-making and how we can bias our future self provides some very useful clues on how we can build a first-person support system. Rather than focusing only on goals, Tompkins and Lawley's NLP-based feedback system relies on targeting very small, incremental changes and becoming aware of them over time:

1a. Decide on the behaviour you would like to do more of (in particular contexts) =X.
1b. Identify how specifically will you know more X-ing is happening?  
2a. Identify what needs to get your attention in-the-moment (trigger and signal =Y) so that you automatically tend to do more X-ing? (i.e what internal conditions will nudge you to do more of X?)
2b. Identify how will you know Y-ing is happening more?  
3a. Identify several ways of practising how to get good at generating Y =Z.
3b. Identify undeniable evidence that will let you know whether you are making ‘incremental progress’ – or not.  
4. Do Z regularly  
5. Put yourself in contexts where X will likely be required – and notice what happens: If you detect incremental progress do more of Z until you have demonstrated you are good enough at doing X and it has become a habit. If you detect no, or decremental progress, identify what other Y and/or Z are likely to have more influence, and repeat using those.
(Via Get Everything Done forums and @mgr88)

1 comment:

  1. I find 'flow' comes from gaining momemntum from working on a small passage of the music very slowly, then gradually increasing the speed as the competence comes.
    You can't get into any rhythm trying to tackle a large section of a piece as there's likely to be too many things that will trip you up along the way and cause you (if anything) to do the opposite and form bad habits.