I found myself lacking motivation this morning. I got up, dressed the boys, ate breakfast, and then looked longingly at my gaming laptop. Why, I wondered, is it easy to find motivation in games? I considered games I've played recently:
* SimCity: feeling of power, requires moderation to play, social aspect, achievements
* World of Warcraft: better abilities in exchange for time spent, social aspect, achievements
* Civilization V: history, feeling of power, puzzles to solve, social aspect, achievements
Looking over the list, I realized why it was easy to think of gaming this morning. I felt powerless--with young boys, one's time is not one's own--and lonely for adult company. My work on several long-term projects wasn't accomplishing anything tangible. Editing is often soul-draining. Sometimes there's the feeling that you're putting a nice polish onto good writing; other times it feels like you spend all your time erasing art. That negativity can build up.
Something needed to be done. I wanted to take the motivational success I found in playing games and apply it to my work day. I stripped the games down to their components . The process of breaking things into smaller bits so that you can plan better is one way of fighting powerlessness. Then I looked at my to-do list. I realized that many of the things I had to do today wouldn't yield a tangible result. The only tangible result was in checking off my to-do list. Then I realized: my to-do list was a list of achievements waiting to happen.
There has been some success in using achievements in college and grade school classrooms to motivate students. They're tangible, they're rewards, and they have no stress/grade attached to them. They're just like the little trophies that pop up when you're busy with something like Assassin's Creed. Hey, look, I did something work mentioning, you think. More, achievements are something you can share with friends.
That was when I realized I not only had to create achievements for my day, but share them. By doing so, I included a version of the social component popular in modern games. So here's my list:
* Ommmmm: Practice yoga for an hour
* Wibbley Wobbley: Alter a contract to add more time
* Timey Wimey: Teach a kid about the calendar
* Checkmate: Teach a kid how to play chess
* Anarchy in the Sci-Fi: Read over 100 pages of LeGuin's The Dispossessed
* Live Long and Prosper: Edit at least six hours of space opera
* Friendship is Magic: Write a snail-mail letter to a friend
* Kiss the Girl: Fail in an attempt to kiss your spouse because of two fiendish creatures
* Levitical Cats: Read & research a chapter in Leviticus
* The Sun Whose Rays Are All Ablaze: Write project plan for [project with sun-related name]
The list took a bit longer than I'd have liked to spend on it, but if it helps me through a day in which I'd probably have turned to gaming, it was worth it. I don't see this as an everyday thing: just a thing to make today less everyday. That's the thing with games, isn't it? When you're bored, you switch it up. Well I'm switching it up today. I'll check back later and let you know how the experiment went.