Plateau Busting


Plateaus seem to be THE thing that confounds everyone.

Let’s say someone wants to learn a musical instrument. There’s an “onboarding” period where people learn a ton and feedback is great. It’s new and exciting and you want to continue with vigor. Then you hit the slower steady progress. You are still getting feedback, and you are making progress so you continue - but it’s the daily grind.

Then you hit the plateau, where you work and work but don’t notice any visible improvement. That’s where most people give up, and the habit (and learning) stops.

There are a few methods for getting through plateaus. For one, just sheer willpower - either yours, or for many in school, their parent’s. The other is to vary practice so that you don’t get bored of the routine. Another is to KNOW that it’s there - the theory is that knowledge itself of the plateau will allow you to save up willpower, which you’ll use to bust through the plateau. And another method is to take a break and come back - “resetting” your habit processors so to speak.

The point of this endeavor is really about plateaus and willpower. Does gamification lower the amount of willpower needed to get through plateaus? Does this lowered willpower threshold allow for more skills to be habituated at once. It’s really two questions.

1) Sure Duolingo is fun, but will it continue to be fun after 3 or 4 months?

2) The willpower threshold in gamifcation is lowered through engagement - it’s fun. Will this allow me to learn multiple skills and practices - or will I fizzle out because I’m trying to do too many things?

A lot of people seem to roughly calculate the plateau phase of any task as kicking in at three months - and that’s the mark I’ll be looking at closely in the future. I might decide to stagger various strategies to see which ones work and which ones don’t. This will take some tracking, because I started each skill in a staggered way - duolingo first, 750 words a week after, etc.