Videogames have been present in my life since I can remember. I clearly remember getting my first videogame system, a Gameboy Pocket with Pokemon Blue.
That first experience sparked a huge passion and hours of videogame addiction that still lasts until today.
While I was a kid this addiction didn’t affect me that much (minus some awkwardness and lack of female friends) but once I felt the need to be productive with my time, I started feeling guilty after spending the whole day playing Skyrim.
The pressure of needing to be efficient with my time allied with the feeling of mindlessness let me to see videogames as an unnecessary and expendable activity.
So I stopped playing videogames…and then I restarted…and then I stopped…. This struggle happened enough times for me to come up with a conclusion.
Videogames are here to stay. I can spend the whole day playing and feel guilty afterwards or I can find a way to integrate gaming into a productive day. I picked the second one.
Here’s how I did it.
Embrace the Waste of Time
Unless you play in eSports or do gaming videos full-time on youtube, you will not produce anything while playing videogames.
You can still learn and find a meaning in them but face it, the goal here is to relax and be entertained. Do you agree?
Once we frame gaming as something non-productive, it’s easier to consciously decide if you should be playing games. I say consciously because majority of these daily decisions usually are automatic. The lack of motivation and potential work obstacles can trigger the videogame habit and before you know it a whole day passed without any real achievements.
But you may be thinking: “Shouldn’t I get rid of all activities that aren’t productive?”
I tried this before. Uninstalled Steam from my computer and banned all gaming from my life. It worked for a time actually.
But then… like a calm moment before a storm… I returned to gaming with a vengeance!
Activities like gaming need to be seen as necessary moments. We need a moment where we don’t think about our problems and escape the real world. For other people that means watching TV or doing drugs (that escalated quickly), but for us it’s videogames.
It’s just like cheat day during a weight loss diet. A day of eating whatever your heart desires will serve to lower any cravings for a period of time.
Gaming falls into a non-important, non-urgent activity (learn more about this concept here). All these activities should be kept to a minimum.
To a mininum. Not completely eliminated.
We must pull ourselves together and carefully monitor how long we spend with such activities.
You want to spend the whole day playing League of Legends? But maybe you also want to be successful at your job? Well… pick the most important and then reward yourself with some pentakills.
The main point is: Gaming should serve as a reward. Completely eliminating it creates a vacuum that will implode in the form of excessive gaming.
Planning the Unproductive
I talked about the Parkinson’s Law in the blog before. Basically says that the time it takes to complete a task will expand to fit the available time.
– “OK. I will play a few matches.”
Six matches later…
– “Well, now I’m not gonna do anything productive. Might as well play more. #noregrets
The regrets only come when I’m in bed and I feel that I wasted all day and didn’t accomplish anything in the real world. #wasted
Don’t fall into the trap of starting an unproductive activity without defining how long it will last.
Before you start, define how long you intend to play. Some games like DoTa or LoL, should be planned by the number of matches you intend to play.
I like to keep my gaming sessions between one to maximum two hours (maximum two matches if the game is match-based).
This amount of time makes me feel like I spent enough time in the game to enjoy it and that I didn’t spend the whole day playing.
You can experiment to find the best gaming window for you but it should be around the one I recommended.
Don’t send me emails complaining that you failed all your exams because your gaming windows was 8 hours… be responsible.
Turn Gaming Into an Event
Having a lot of something too often can make you not appreciate that something. Deep right?
Restriction and clever planning can turn an ordinary activity into a deep and meaningful experience. Now that was deep!
Imagine playing every day the same game. It becomes part of a routine. It’s not special anymore. Now imagine that you plan a 2 hour gaming session for every Sunday. Imagine how excited you will be for that Sunday to arrive!
This approach to gaming serves two purposes:
Gaming less over time
Short and controlled bursts of gaming will satisfy your need for relaxation without letting you fall into a downward spiral of unproductiveness.
It works just like the cheat day in a diet. A well enjoyed gaming session will serve to satisfy your gaming cravings and help you not to over game.
Properly experiencing the game
By allowing yourself to game for a limited amount of time, you will make sure every minute counts.
While gaming like this, I tend to enjoy the game much more. I know that I only have a limited amount of time with the game so I’m more invested in the experience.
Give it a try. I find that Saturday or Sunday after lunch is the best time to do it.
Having fun and digesting… At the same time! If this is not being productive I don’t know what is.
Stop Gaming at the Right Time
News flash, just because you made a schedule doesn’t automatically mean you will keep it.
Remember, you are dealing with dangerous stuff!
When starting a planned gaming session, you MUST have mechanisms in place to stop you from gaming too much.
If you have been playing games since you were a kid you know how much games can suck you in without your permission.
How to win? Here are some ways you can set yourself to success:
- Set a timer and put it away from your gaming area. When it rings, you will need to get up to turn it off.
- Get someone to hold you accountable. If you live with someone, explain them your plan and ask them to make you stop playing.
NOTE: Don’t rely on your gaming friends for the last one, they will probably want to game with you.
There is a third method which involves a box glove, a pneumatic cylinder and a timer but it gets too complicated.
Personally I prefer the “timer outside the room” method. Gives me full responsibility if I don’t go through with the plan, which is good to promote self restrain. On the other hand, if self restrain is still low, the second method might work best.
If none of both methods work, email me so that I can send you the plans to build method 3. Power tools and ice required.
OK, I stopped gaming… now what?
You successfully managed to piss of your pleasure-seeking brain.
Now it’s time to slowly stroke it and tell him that everything will be OK.
I’m assuming here that you used gaming as a reward and now you want to return to a somewhat productive mode.
There are two techniques I have been experimenting with that I find extremely useful in getting me in productive gear.
The Pomodoro Technique must be the most popular productivity tool. Simple and effective. After your gaming session, set a timer to 25 minutes and try to only focus on being productive.
I did a blog post and video about productivity tools including the Pomodoro technique, check it out after this one.
Another method is an app I recently started using. Actually I was super effective at writing this blog post exactly because of this app.
It’s called Forest. Plant and grow a tree every time you start a productive activity. The tree will grow as long as your phone stays in a productivity app. For me, Evernote is where I write my blog posts.
If you open another app like Instagram, the tree dies. Simple concept. VERY powerful results. Give it a try.
These tools should get the ball rolling and force you into work mode.
You might want to stop playing games because you want to focus on more important things. But at some point you will need to relax and videogames definitely can fill that gap. I truly believe that videogames can be part of a productive day and I hope you too believe this after reading this.
I bonded with friends over videogames and I love the gaming community so I wanted to make sure videogames keep being part of my life.
But I do have goals and things I want to accomplish so it is imperative to find a balance between relaxation and productivity.
If you have any comments or suggestions, hit me up on social media or in the comment section below.
For the Lazy Ones
If you are reading this means that you probably rad the post from start to finish.
Congratz! You don’t have an attention spam of a fish.
For those who have the typical internet attention spam, I created this infographic.
Want more information about productivity? Road Delta has more blog posts and video about this topic!