As you can probably tell from my backdrop and my entire room, I am a fan of playing video games, but I have a pretty complicated relationship with video games and I can illustrate that on something I like to call the “Work/Play Compulsion Scale”. As you can see here, it looks like a teeter-totter and if I had my priorities in order and acted in the way that I wanted to act on a daily basis, then I would work for a certain amount of hours and then play video games for a certain amount of hours and I would be nicely placed in the middle. Unfortunately, I find myself slanted over onto the work side and my work tends to bleed into the time that I would want to be gaming. However, this video isn’t about my particular problem with video gaming, it’s about the problems for the people on the other side of that teeter totter. The people who find that video games start seeping into their work time.
The time that they should be studying or getting homework done. If you find yourself in that area and video games are a major distraction to getting your work done, then this video is for you and I’ve got five tips to help you start pulling yourself more into that middle area. Tip number one and I think this is probably the most important tip in the entire video which is why it’s going first.
It’s to simply set up an environment for studying that is only for studying. If you saw my video that summarized Marty Lobdell’s Study Less Study Smart lecture, you’ll know that I talked about how environmental cues and the context of the situation we’re in, actually largely defines our behavior. One detail from the lecture that I didn’t talk about in that video was a study done at the University of Hawaii – which actually looks like this – where researchers wanted to figure out if they could improve students’ grades by changing their environments. They did one simple thing. They told students to turn their desks around in their dorms toward one wall and put a sticky note labeled “Study Area” on the lap next to their desk.
The students were instructed to only use this desk for studying and everything else, other activities had to take place somewhere else. What do you think happened? In comparison to the control group of students who didn’t do this, the students who did do it, had an average of 1.0 GPA increase.
The action item here for you should be pretty clear, find an area that is different from your gaming area and do your studying there. For instance, the temptation to game out here? Not that big. Likewise, the temptation to play games in the library or a coffee shop is probably going to be a lot less than the temptation to play games in your living room or at your computer that has Steam installed. Tip number two is to increase the friction involved into getting into a video game. The idea here is to increase the difficulty and the number of steps involved into getting into a distracting activity and basically make doing your work the more attractive option in that case.
One way that you can do this is by actually creating a different account on your computer for work and only installing the programs you need for work on that computer. You can also set up extensions like Stay Focused or programs like Focal Filter to reduce the amount of distracting web browsing you do as well. My third tip is to simply game after you’re done working for the day. Use gaming as a reward and this kind of goes back to the concept of high-density fun that I talked about in last week’s video. Use the anticipation of a long gaming session later on in the day as a motivator to get your work done more efficiently now. Tip number four is to play games that work well with your schedule.
If you’re really busy and you have a lot of studying to do, then it might not be the best idea to get invested in a 120 hour JRPG or a super long WoW raid. On the other hand playing a few sessions of Smash Brothers with your friends is probably not going to suck up a whole ton of your time. Just be mindful of the real world commitments you have and select your game accordingly. Tip number five is my favorite tip because it’s actually fun and it’s to simply turn your life into a game.
You can actually reduce the compulsion to play lots of video games if your life feels like a game itself. The best way to do this is to simply set goals that are specific and that you’re actually stoked to achieve. I do this on a page on my website called “My Impossible List” which you can find linked down in the description actually. Basically I break my entire life down into different sections and set goals for each one. Every time I achieve a goal, I cross it off, but I also iterate on that goal and make something a little bit harder, so I’m essentially leveling up in every category.
You can also use tools like Fitocracy or HabitRPG to actually track your habits and gain real stats and actually kind of play a real game while improving your life at the same time. Hopefully you’ll find these five tips useful enough to take gaming from an unproductive distraction to a healthy habit.