The theme this time is concentration and tasks.
What are the tasks that help you focus?
I have written the following article on what you need to know as a prerequisite regarding concentration, so please refer to it.
How to Improve Your Concentration Fourfold
I would like to use the metaphor of the beast and the trainer again.
If we follow the explanation in the above article, the beast corresponds to the “impulse” or “limbic system” and the trainer corresponds to the “reason” and “prefrontal cortex”.
To begin with, there are two important things to consider when achieving any goal.
- Increase the number of “reward hunches” that are useful.
- Increase the number of useless “reward hunches”.
In other words, keep away as much as you can from rewards that don't help you achieve the goal you've set, and only include rewards that bring you closer to your goal.
It may sound obvious, but the path to success is to do these two things honestly.
In this article, we'll look at ways to increase the number of useful “reward hunches”.
In 2000, Timothy Pichell of Carleton University, famous for his research on the psychology of procrastination, conducted several studies with students and identified two major factors that are common in people who have trouble staying focused.
Allan K. Blunt and Timothy A. Pychyl (2000) Task Aversiveness and Procrastination: A Multi-Dimensional Approach to Task Aversiveness Across Stages of Personal Projects
- Unproductive tasks
- Difficulty Error
The first, “barren tasks,” are those tasks that make you wonder, “What is the purpose of this work?” or “What will I get out of this work?
If you don't feel the reward itself is meaningful, it's natural that you won't have the energy to do it.
It may sound self-evident, but in today's society where work is becoming more and more complex, only a minority of people are able to work with a sense of meaning.
In one large survey, only 31% of all workers found their work to be rewarding.
It is natural for anyone to lose motivation if they are constantly faced with tasks such as meetings with no clear purpose, decisions that do not involve specific projects, and documents with no clear meaning.
If this sounds familiar, you should definitely fix it.
The second, “Difficulty Error,” raises the question of whether the difficulty of the task is appropriate for your ability.
The more interesting a game is, the more difficult it becomes, little by little, as you complete each stage.
You can't compete with a boss-level enemy if it suddenly appears, and on the other hand, you don't want to play an RPG where the only thing that appears is slime.
Unless the task at hand is set at a moderate level of difficulty, the beast will still not move.
A helpful reference in this regard is a 2016 study by Columbia University.
The researchers instructed the participants to memorize Spanish words, and then divided the difficulty of the questions into three patterns.
Judy Xu and Janet Metcalfe (2016) Studying in the Region of Proximal Learning Reduces Mind Wandering
- hard to please
- I think I can figure it out.
We then further measured their level of concentration while studying, and the results showed that the group that learned words that they could “manage to solve” showed the highest level of concentration.
The group that learned the “hard” words came in second, and the group that learned the “easy” words had the lowest concentration.
Apparently, we lose our ability to concentrate when the difficulty of the task is too high or too low.
This is a phenomenon called the “Nearest Zone of Concentration,” and most people's ability to concentrate varies depending on the difficulty of the task.
The best concentration is achieved when the difficulty of the task is “slightly difficult”.
To maintain your best concentration, you must keep the difficulty level within this sweet spot.
When it comes across a task of the wrong difficulty level, the beast reacts as follows.
|If it is too difficult||I don't think I'm going to be rewarded for my efforts, so I'll just let it go.|
|If it's too easy||I'm sure we'll get our reward any day, so let it go.|
Either way, the beast is demotivated, and as a result, its ability to concentrate is reduced.
The research team said the following
Students' inability to concentrate is not due to a lack of ability. It's just a matter of setting the difficulty level wrong.
If we look at it the other way around, we can say that “loss of concentration” indicates that the difficulty of the task is not optimal.