I’ve spoken recently about reaching a “flow state,” where work is so enjoyable that time seems to fly by. The book Flow, credits this to a perfect match of skill and challenge.
Too easy for your skills and the task is boring. Too much of a challenge, and it becomes stressful. Medium challenge, high skill? It’s a relaxing task.
But when we match high skill and high challenge, we can activate “flow.”
Four Types of Tasks
Based on this, I’ve asked workshop guests to write down at least one of each type of task:
- Something you enjoy because it’s relaxing
- Something you enjoy because it’s challenging
- Something you dislike because it’s boring
- Something you dislike because it’s stressful
It’s fascinating to hear how the same task can be relaxing, boring, stressful, or challenging depending on the person’s skill. A yoga class could fit each category, for example.
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What Would Students Say?
Would you do me a favor and ask your students to (anonymously) come up with one common school-related task for each type? I’d love to hear what kind of patterns or surprises you see in the results.
I think the “relaxing” task is especially interesting. What manages to hover above boring without being “challenging”?
I’ve also introduced this concept by asking what game people enjoy most: tic-tac-toe, checkers, or chess. There’s always a representative who defends each game as the most enjoyable.
It’s fascinating to dig into how tic-tac-toe can be mind-numbing to some, but pleasantly relaxing to others. Chess is both perfectly challenging and highly stressful, depending on the player.
Heck, Bobby Fischer even got bored with chess and invented a randomized variant!