I've learnt many things from video games; skills which are crucial to the work I do. The importance of perseverance, how to sit with a problem, and how to connect different concepts and ideas. Games are a safe space to exercise our decision-making skills without risking permanent damage to our lives or career. Today I want to talk about one of those lessons: viewing everything as a resource.
In real-time strategy (RTS) games, players command large armies in the hope of defeating the opposing player. They harvest materials and build infrastructure to train combat units which they can then control in battle. The player that destroys their opponents buildings wins the match.
After the initial gathering of resources, the strategies and actions each person picks quickly diverge. You could choose to reinvest your resources to gain more resources later own, or execute an early attack to cripple your enemy. Like in chess, there are billions of possible moves and hundreds of branching strategies.
How is this relevant to productivity and life in general? The essence of the game is as follows: players gather resources and make choices about how to convert them into some outcome. Time, money, attention, and infrastructure all become chips to be distributed towards a certain task.
We make those kinds of choices in our daily lives too. We spend time at work to make money. We can then reinvest it to gain more wealth in the future or buy things or experiences that make us happy.
Thinking of everything as a resource to be assigned leads to an important question: Am I getting a good return on my investments?
If buying a new application that costs the equivalent of 3 hours at work, shortens a repeated task by 30 seconds, then it's a potentially worthy investment. Cleaning up the attic is time-consuming, but it will save you minutes during the yearly search for the Christmas tree.
Armed with this thought technology, I can identify items or activities which use up my patience and energy but don't help me get what I want.
The next hurdle is how do we quantify these resources? As I mentioned in another article, we tend to focus on easily measurable quantities like money. To paraphrase Cal Newport's Focus, metrics which are harder to measure get lost into a black-hole.
There are a few psychological tools to track your happiness that involve answering a series of questions as you go about your day.
Another approach is to look at how each action helps you reach your goals. Should I spend an hour watching TV or learning Japanese? Note that the answer to that question might not be as obvious as you think. This is still a difficult exercise and to some extent cuts to the root of why we are still trying to figure out how to do life.
Have a good one. See you soon.
-- Jacobo Blanco