Mental model: Environment design

Mental model: Environment design

Whilst reading this morning, I came across a great term which I’m going to steal, so I can name a mental model for which I didn’t yet have an actual name. The term was “environment design”, and this is what I mean by it. Our lazy default There has been significant research to show that when we’re feeling lazy and uninspired, we don’t necessarily do the things that make us happiest. Instead, we automatically revert to the easiest option; the path from A to B that will take the least effort. If you think about the last time you spent hours watching cat videos on YouTube – was that a conscious decision based on your carefully-deliberated choice for what would make you happiest? Did you sit there and say “For the next three hours, I will trawl YouTube for videos of cats stealing cushions from dogs?” The answer is almost certainly no. Instead, you chose the easiest available option to keep yourself doing something (as opposed to nothing) and at the time, the easiest option would have been to click the next funny cat video in YouTube’s “related videos” menu. Three hours later, the cumulative effect is that you’ve clicked through sixty cat videos. Why did you do that? Because simply clicking the next video was easy. Not because it was your highest priority, or the option that made you happiest, but purely because it cost you the least amount of effort to avoid simply staring at the walls. (I use the term “you”, but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t wasted my fair share of time on YouTube / Facebook...
Accelerating Language Learning

Accelerating Language Learning

I just wanted to write a quick post about some of the language experiences I’ve encountered in the past month or so, in the hope that it might be useful to the one or two people that might perhaps read this. Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on your perspective! – this post has turned into a bit of a behemoth, and currently stands at over 3,500 words. If you’re learning a language – especially if you’re in the very early stages – I hope that my experiences might help you to accelerate your learning and get you on track at a faster pace. Even if you only learn one or two things from this post, I hope it can still be useful to you in some way. This is several years of reading, learning and my own personal experience condensed down into a single post. Please enjoy! The Initial Challenge   In the two months since I last wrote a post, I’ve been playing on a ship sailing back and forth between North Shields (near Newcastle) and IJmuiden (about 30-40 minutes from Amsterdam, in the Netherlands). As I was fortunate enough to have a decent amount of free time during day, I made sure to keep myself busy with several different projects and learning experimentation. Specifically, towards the end of the contract, I resolved to make a more concerted effort at properly attempting to learn Dutch, compared to the meagre few words I’d previously attempted to learn. It seemed like a shame not to start with Dutch, actually – being in the country every other day and only being able to grasp the absolute bare minimum of what’s...