Skill Pushes and a Looming Problem: Strategies

I have a few ideas on how to juggle the problem of multiple skill pushes:

The Cast Method - making sure everything is exactly the same, or minimal, while ratcheting up a skill. For example, increasing rowing from 20 minutes to 30 minutes while keeping everything the same. This method is usually based in fear for me because I don’t want my whole routine to fall a part (like it has in the past). Another better method MIGHT be…

Sandbagging - I initially viewed this method to implement habits, but I think it could be used as a safe diagnostic tool to discover where the breaking point is. Take two or more skills, push them, and as soon as things start to get wobbly, drop back all skills to normal levels except one. I believe that this will also solidify that one skill’s advanced practice.

Fracturing - Cycling practice. When I had a daily practice of 1 hour of cardio at the gym, I usually did an hour of recumbent cycling. But it was pretty boring. It was actually easier to break it up and do half on the cycle and half on the treadmill, or into 3 with the last 1/3 on the elliptical. I feel this would really work well with practice that involves an extension of time.

Gamification - NanoWriMo, the Flash diet, I feel this is fantastic for 30 day challenges. I actually think it’s better for pushing skills than it is for making skills habits. 

Ritual - I keep meaning to write a massive post on rituals. The idea for me is that these small things ease the transition between the normal day and the place in the mind where difficult things happen. For example, when I was trying to establish a non-bracketed habit of recording my food, I made tea. I got to the point where I really enjoyed the process, and so I enjoyed the quiet time before bed where I recorded.

I did the same with writing for a while, and it’s something I still need to fiddle around with. Personally I think Ritual is like a proto- or ur-game or motivation - it just helps to lower that starting threshold, whether it’s starting or pushing a habit.

Changing multiple skill variables to maintain equilibrium- I mentioned one example of this already - my 8 week HIIT cycle, where it folded really well into my already established rowing habit. I think it worked because though it was more intense it wasn’t longer - equilibrium was maintained so there was no real load to the system. I think I have more problems increasing my base time. I like the idea of this best.

The Dragon Ball Z Kung Fu Method - Artificially intensifying practice in order to then lower it to higher base levels, but nowhere near the levels set during the initial push. 

In the cartoon DBZ and in many legendary “iron” kung fu trainings a practitioner would weigh himself down, or in the anime, train at weighted artificial gravity. After getting thoroughly used to the weight, they’d take the vest off and then would be able to fly, have preternaturally fast reflexes, or be incredibly light on their feet.

When I did NaNoWriMo, where some days required 13,000 words, going back to my normal writing quotas was incredibly easy. But I haven’t deliberately done this technique very much, so it would be interesting to practice this.

Where does this leave us?

So while my normal “Cast Methodology” relies on a natural growth in willpower to lift the extra load, gamification and ritual seem to lighten the new weight. Sandbagging and the DBZ Method both use comparisons in feeling and temporariness to advance practice. Changing variables and fracturing appear to cause as little load as possible. 

And fracturing also uses the feeling of doing multiple things to fool the mind into thinking things are going faster - it’s like hanging out with a friend. You go to one place for an hour, and it may be tedious, but go to three places in that hour and it feels like you’ve done a lot more and you know that person more. Depth of experience or relationship in this case acts as a stand in for depth of practice.

I still don’t know what skills I plan on moving forward, but this at least gives me a bit more clarity on my options.

photocred: chess by Ruocaled, ritual by rahul rekapalli, shaolin by Sven Laqua

Widgets and an Expanded Plan of Habit Formation Towards Mastery

Habits are a pain, Mastery of a skill is even more of a pain. But doing this for several habits? That’s a war on multiple fronts.

I’ve had a year’s worth of habit formation under my belt - it’s not even a problem to form one anymore. When I think about pushing this project for the future, I think about a smooth graph of habits working in harmony with one another. What’s this look like?

Imagine an entire plan for a year comprised of superhabit formation, growth cycles smoothly kicking in, ratcheting up, switching of to other skills, a year that’s a symphony of perfectly progressed advancement in all skills. Harmony is achieved by pressing just enough, but not too much to interfere with the continual upkeep of other skills.

What I feel hasn’t been discussed are small protocols that kick in at those breaking points - I’ll call them WIDGETS for now, after the small third party programs on websites or computers that kick in when you need them.

And that’s exactly what I want them to do - a small kick when the system needs it that then go away once their mission is complete.

What are some examples?

-Timothy Ferriss’ DiSSS protocol to push skill mastery
-Protocols for absorption and flow states for progression
-Flow and ritual protocols for regimentation, specifically to avoid worrying and thus leaching willpower when I’m not working
-Having absorptive habits or hobbies to help in not obsessing about pushing skills when not working
-A litany of past successes in order to push past HABIT MANIA - the feeling of needing to do everything at once because everything needed to be in place yesterday
-Other protocols for specifically getting past the emotional aspects of breaking points - like Vipassana to push past depression or that drowning feeling
-Taking weekends off in order to preserve sanity

I think this might be different from a previous idea I had - nested habits . Nested habits are protocols within an already established habit, while widgets would be auxiliary protocols to make sure the whole program (across all habits) is moving as smoothly as possible. So that may or may not include skill mastery pushes.