I had a conversation with Tifa today that made me realize an element of game design in my scheduling / time management. As I have discussed previously, I am pretty bad at time management. What I end doing a lot is writing up a list of tasks I need to complete, choosing an order for them that makes sense, and then powering through. Since I get distracted from my work easily when I’m not “in the zone” (sometimes with programming or writing or gaming I’ll be fully focused without external distraction), I often give myself little rewards for each task or sub-task completed. Sound familiar? It’s basically a level system, a la Super Mario Bros. – complete a segment, get a “reward” (advancement), and continue.
I will admit I am not super familiar with the psychology involved, but if I had to take a stab at it, I’d say this system works for me because I derive enjoyment from delaying gratification – as Brady once told me, intelligence is most strongly correlated with capacity for delayed gratification, so I feel smart when I do this task-reward system. It also helps that there’s a “light at the end of the tunnel” effect… one of the reasons my attention wanders is my brain is looking ahead, figuring the task will last too long, and then deciding to think about something else.
Unfortunately, I slacked off overmuch today (rewards first = not the smart thing!) and I’ll have some catching up to do early tomorrow morning. Still, I believe the model is sound, and I was amused at the apparent connection between game level design and my own time management plan.