Make things harder - Turn off Autopilot

When you are first picking up a skill, you need to spend a lot of time focusing on it. That extra attention helps you learn a lot.

However as you get better, things can go on autopilot. This can happen in a couple of ways

First, what you are doing isn't that hard or information is provided to you too easily. Think of doing a research paper using google. Before google, doing library research took effort, and that effort can translate into deeper understanding. Also taking notes on a computer is faster than writing by hand and people are able to capture more information verbatim, however it has been shown that they retain less information and are able to recall it less effectively than those who take notes by hand. 

Second, you get to a passable level at a skill, playing tennis, guitar or whatever that you can do recreationally. At this level, if you continue onwards without focusing you can play for a long time and never get better.  You are not pushing yourself to conciously get better.

You can get past this by introducing a degree of difficulty in how you approach things. When thinking about data acquisition and transforming it into learning. Make your recording method more interactive, write by hand or take the time afterwards to summarize in a document or to a friend so you have to actively engage with the information. This is a case where efficacy trumps efficiency.

For skill acquisition, just push the difficulty of the task up. This will force you to engage, what was easy should now be a little difficult and that extra effort will push you to learn and engage more.

However it is important not to up the difficulty too much or it becomes self defeating. If taking notes on paper is good, taking them on stone tablets isn't better. If you try to hard, your brain shuts off and it is hard to gain useful skills.

So add a little spice of difficulty but don't do this

"After a while he shifted his weight uneasily and said, “I’ve fought of a problem,”
“Wassat, Sarge?” said Carrot.
Sergeant Colon looked wretched. “Weeell, what if it's not a million-to-one chance?” he said.
Nobby stared at him.
“What d'you mean?” he said. “Well, all right, last desperate million-to-one chances always work, right, no problem, but. . . well, it's pretty wossname, specific. I mean, isn't it?” “You tell me,” said Nobby. “What if it's just a thousand-to-one chance?” said Colon agonisedly. “What?”
“Anyone ever heard of a thousand-to-one shot coming up?”
Carrot looked up. “Don't be daft, Sergeant,” he said. “No-one ever saw a thousand-to-one chance come up. The odds against it are-” his lips moved- “millions to one.” “Yeah. Millions,” agreed Nobby. “So it'd only work if it's your actual million-to-one chance,” said the sergeant. “I suppose that's right,” said Nobby. “So 999,943-to-one, for example-” Colon began. Carrot shook his head. “Wouldn't have a hope. No-one ever said, 'It's a 999,943-to-one chance but it might just work.' ”
They stared out across the city in the silence of ferocious mental calculation.
“We could have a real problem here,” said Colon eventually.
Carrot started to scribble furiously. When questioned, he explained at length about how you found the surface area of a dragon and then tried to estimate the chances of an arrow hitting any one spot. “Aimed, mind,” said Sergeant Colon. “I aim. ” Nobby coughed.
“In that case it's got to be a lot less than a million-to-one chance,” said Carrot. “It could be a hundred-to-one. If the dragon's flying slowly and it's a big spot, it could be practically a certainty.” Colon's lips shaped themselves around the phrase, It's a certainty but it might just work. He shook his head. “Nah,” he said.
“So what we've got to do, then,” said Nobby slowly, “is adjust the odds ...”
The rank surveyed their handiwork.
“Right,” said Nobby. “Now, what are the chances of a man standing on one leg with his hat on backwards and a handkerchief in his mouth hitting a dragon's voonerables? ”
“Mmph,” said Colon.
“It's pretty long odds,” said Carrot. “I reckon the hanky is a bit over the top, though.”
Colon spat it out. “Make up your minds,” he said. “Me leg's going to sleep.”


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