Boredom, like the weather or taxes, just seems to be a general part of life. But there are some things we find boring only because we haven’t given them an earnest shot yet. In an article for Harvard Business Review, Barbara Oakley thinks you can unlearn boredom, and she has the steps you can take to remap your brain:
- Find a seed of motivation.
- Overcome the pain in the brain.
- Realize it’s perfectly normal to not understand something on your first try.
- Build a collection of neural “chunks.”
Overcoming boredom in a certain topic requires the first step to any great undertaking: motivation. Finding a reason to get pumped about an otherwise bland topic can give you the energy you need to complete your goal. Maybe it’s a career upgrade or maybe it’s just to get a nicer car; find what puts the pep in your step and use that as your motivation to move forward.
Just thinking about things you deem boring or unlikable actually triggers sensations in the brain similar to pain, which causes you to avoid the thing and procrastinate instead. Oakley says a great technique to employ to make these topics easier to learn, and by virtue less painful, is the Pomodoro technique. The technique involves shutting off all distractions for 25 minutes in order to focus intently during that time. Once the time is up, you can reward yourself for five minutes or so.
Oakley reminds us that this is a learning process and that no one will fully understand a new subject the first time. In fact, sometimes a new idea needs time to marinate and be processed by the unconscious parts of the brain in order to be fully understood. Do not give up if the subject is not immediately intuitive. Oakley then goes on to say that a good method of learning this information comes in forming neural “chunks”:
Try this exercise if you’re working in something related to math or science (you can easily devise a similar exercise in other subjects). See if you can solve a key problem entirely on paper, without looking at the solution. If you can’t, try it again. And again the next day, and over the next few days. Each day of focused learning, followed by an evening’s sleep, strengthens your new neural patterns, which are “chunks” of learning. Soon you’ll find yourself able to mentally “sing” the problem — when you just look at it, you’ll find that the solution steps will flow quickly through your mind. You’ve “chunked” the material.
You can view the original article here: https://hbr.org/2017/07/how-to-get-excited-about-topics-that-bore-you