If you’ve never been hooked on a mobile phone game like Pokémon Go or Candy Crush, or a console/PC game like Call Of Duty, FIFA or Sim City then good for you. Keep your head down, crack on and go make something of yourself!
For the rest of us poor souls who have at one time or another been helplessly addicted on mobile or online gaming, I have some good news. Nope… those points you gained count for nothing and nope … nobody cares how many Pokémon you collected.
The good news is that your experience of addiction to these games can help you engineer your life to achieve something more useful than reaching Clan Level 6 or unlocking a Freeze Spell.
The very same principles used by game developers contribute to what Positive Psychologists refer to as ‘Flow’ and what most people know as being ‘In The Zone’. So I say don’t get mad at these design geniuses. Use their evil powers for good!
Here are four of the tricks that game developers use to ensure you remain hooked along with a quick suggestion for how you could apply this to your own life whether you’re managing people or organizing your own work.
Whether you’re building skill points in a side bar, or whether you’re growing your resources to advance to a new stage, the next level up is right within your sight. You know roughly how long it will take and you can imagine how you will feel when you get there … what a relief … what great reward!
Now remember how it feels to have to do a task at work where you cannot see the end in sight. It’s an ongoing project with no end! There are no rewards because it won’t be ‘complete’ until next year. Sucks to be you right now!
Chunk your tasks into more manageable components. For example: rather than setting a goal as “Write mildly interesting blog”, break it down. Perhaps have “Draft mildly interesting blog” and “Complete mildly interesting blog” as two separate tasks so that you can reward your progress on a task that is going to take you more than one sitting to complete.
You’ll feel easier about completing the draft and you’ll feel happier going back to complete the second step knowing you succeeded in your first goal. I know I sure did!
When you start out it’s easy. The game gives you prompts. You play against weak, computerized opposition or you start at a super basic level. Depending on how quickly you pick it up, you can advance through to harder and harder levels. Ultimately, the game balances your demonstration of skill against the challenge you are provided with. Amazingly simple… but devilishly important!
I’ve had to complete mind numbing tasks like data entry where my skill far exceeds the challenge. And I’ve also had terribly challenging tasks like creating an online business where at times, I’ve been truly overwhelmed by the vast skill gaps that I have! In both cases I’ve had to fight to remain focused.
If you can’t delegate an easy task then get through it quicker by setting yourself challenging accuracy and time targets (don’t forget to include smaller goals too).
If your task is too hard then find components that are more manageable and add learning steps and ‘in game training’ to help your progress on the tougher parts.
Just like in sport where you immediately know when you’ve hit the ball right or made a good tackle, games give you regular and instant feedback on your performance. Whether it’s “Great job – Bonus points” or “You died – Try again”, you’ll know how you’re doing and it keeps you on track and prevents you wasting time worrying about whether you’ve spent the whole day working in the wrong direction.
Consider the moment when no one is around to review your work and all of a sudden you lose motivation to progress because it might all be for nothing. That element of doubt that creeps in and all you might need is a quick, “Keep doing this”, or a “More like this please” to keep you flowing.
Set up small and regular reviews with your manager/subordinates/peers to get small directional input on challenging tasks.
If you’re working alone on something then check in regularly against the design brief or the task instructions to self-evaluate as a means of feedback.
When you’re about to win the FIFA world cup and your girlfriend walks in front of the TV to get your attention! Or you’re on the final level, further than you’ve ever reached and the doorbell rings… You can pause, but it breaks your concentration. It breaks your ‘flow’. And often with objectively daft but, what is at the time, highly inconvenient to your progress! Games demand your focus to the extent that your overdraft doesn’t matter, what your having for dinner doesn’t matter and where you’re going in life doesn’t matter. Imagine having this focus all day in your job!
E-mails! E-mails are the killer of flow at work. They pop up on your screen and break your flow, as well as placing additional stress on your life due to what is important to other people being forced upon your already wobbling shoulders.
Block your time. Depending on your job you’ll need to arrange this differently. But I like to check my e-mails at 10am, 3pm and 7pm. Tasks that deserve your full attention should have allocated blocks where nothing pops onto your screen, and wherever possible, nobody walks into your office. It can take some time to find ways to achieve this but I’m sure you’re smart enough to find a way that works for you!
I hope you found this blog as mildly interesting as I intended it to be. Before you go back to collecting gems, winning trophies and growing your crops check out this video I made on Visualisation.