Productivity Hack — The Game Theory
Productivity i.e. to make more product is most typically seen as a good thing. To do more would mean you would have more. More output consistently will inevitably lead to ‘success’. Success, in the traditional sense, meaning more money, bigger house, fancier car. And for most of us, a little more feels like the answer to our troubles. Being productive goes back to the age old battle we have with ourselves, living a purposeful life. If we can be more productive we can reach our goals, which we’ve determinded to give our life meaning. All sounds sensible so far. And it is, I want to talk about how we can be more productive by doing something really simple. But first, a cautionary tale.
Productivity can become little bit addictive. More, more, more. Rewind 10 years ago. I worked at a kennels. Back then I was earning roughly £3 an hour. I would work a lot during the summer, it started off a few shifts a week but then I got the bug to be there all the time. I would find myself offering to work any and every shift possible. I would become the person that got asked if someone else didn’t show up. I only lived five minutes up the road so it made sense. But then something weird happened. On the days I didn’t work I would sit at home and think: ‘an hour has just passed, that’s like giving away £3.’ It would get to the end of the day and I would feel pretty morbid about the fact that I’d just lost out on £21. Of course I hadn’t. There were no shifts to work. But even if I did, my way of thinking was obsessive. Two months prior, I wouldn’t have counted hours in pounds, but now I was stuck obsessing over how much money I was missing out on. Sometimes by doing too much, we get lost in more, more, more. 2 months ago I wasn’t earning a penny. Now I was spending my spare time wollowing.
Anything in too vast a quantity is a poison. Sugar, paracetamol, water. But also time spent being productive. Life is a balancing act.
With that being said. It is true that the path to whatever you determine as success is going to walked one step at a time. Sure you can go off-road or see if you can swindle yourself a bicycle from a passer by but ultimately you’ll have to go down the path step by step, or pedal by pedal. There is no substitute. You either moving or you’re not. By moving more you will get further (moving too far too often is our cautionary tale above). So how do we move more? How do we take an extra step when right now we can’t see the point. We can’t see the end of the path, we have no idea if this is actually going to get us to where we want to be. How do we take another step when the certainty and effort is so unknown?
Make it a game. The Game Theory.
Us humans love games. Games of life, games of fiction, games of love. We find them thrilling. The rush we win, the sadness when we lose, the determination we feel when we get so close and miss out by the skin of our teeth. Games of love are a rollercoaster of emotion that overwhelm our senses.
Are they interested or are they not?
Omg they texted back straight the way, I think this means they’re interested.
In a sense of love, uncertainty can be truly thrilling. In life, it can be overwhelming and paralysing. What’s the difference? In love, in the early stages we concentrate of short-term, little wins. We focus all our attention on getting the text back. Securing the first date. Making them laugh. Small, tangible wins. That makes us feel we are on the straight and narrow, keeping score along the way but conscious we could get it wrong and lose a point at any moment.
So what if we treated whatever we wanted to achieve like that? Lets take writing. Since we’re on this platform I can assume that we’re all pretty interested in writing. For some, the goal may be to write more. That’s because you want to become a bestselling author one day or someone that writes full-time. I am neither so I cannot comment on those, but I can tell you how to make it more fun. Treat it like a game. Give yourself a target. One article a day. Reward yourself when you do, a takeaway, a new pair of socks, some crisp new stationary. And punish yourself when you don’t. Be critical, make yourself do a task you aren’t fond off. Obviously apply some sense to this approach, I’m not saying beat yourself up constantly. It’s the opposite of that. It’s about holding yourself to account, losing and feeling the pain of losing when you do. If you’re a footballer and your team don’t win. That kind of punishment.
In Eric Barker’s book, Barking Up the Wrong Tree he talks about this concept in depth. He tells a story of a guy called Joe. Joe was a mountain climber, for the particular climb he’d choose the 6,344m ascent of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. For reference, the tallest building in the world is the Burj Khalifa which stands at 828m. So this was like climbing the world’s tallest building 7.6 times. It was 1985, it was freezing cold and Joe had just broken his leg part way down his descent. In others words, he had a very small likelihood of survival. How did he survive? How did he climb down with a broken leg, gale force winds with no idea if his climbing partner was alive? Well, he treated the process like a game. He would say to himself that in twenty minutes he would need to get to a certain marker. A rock, a snow covered tree whatever, it didn’t matter. What mattered was that when he got there he felt a small sense of achievement and victory and when he didn’t he would get mad at himself, grit his teeth and try harder. Marker by marker (pedal by pedal.)
The result? He made it back. Six surgeries on his leg later, he’s a published author and he returned back to climbing mountains.
To be more specific he survived by playing a game. Games have been around for a good while. Back in 3000 BC which was a good while ago, 1.8 million days to be precise, The Royal Game of Ur was played. Games have been part of our history for a long time, they do a good job of keeping us occupied. They give us entertainment, they thrill us. Most importantly? They stop us from getting bored. They make the mundane more than bearable, they make it fun.
Applying it to life
So how can we make our lives more productive by playing a game?
Create the rules, get some sort of scoring system going, pick the topic and most important of all? Make it winnable. There is no point playing a game we can’t win, it will no longer seem like fun. It’s got to be just hard enough warrant the effort but not unachievable. You probably wouldn’t be able to write 7 articles in a day. But one, you could do one. Reward yourself when you do it, punish yourself when you don’t.
Score your articles out of 10 for: Fact, format, content, flow, sentence structure. — what’s your overall score week 1? Now go about beating that score.
When we treat things as a game, create a bit of competition with ourselves we make the mundane more than bearable, we make it fun.
And if a guy can get down a mountain in treacherous conditions and a broken leg by using the game theory. We can definitely use it to be a little bit more productive.