2 Lessons I Have Taken From Games To 10x My Productivity, In Less Time, While Having More Fun

2 Lessons I Have Taken From Games To 10x My Productivity, In Less Time, While Having More Fun
Photo by Andreas Klassen / Unsplash

I have taken 2 lessons from games to 10x my productivity, in less time, while having more fun:

Reverse Goal Set

In the best games, you always know what to do next.

The game itself might be hard, but the clarity of the next action is crystal clear. Over the summer of my Junior year of high school, I played the Calamity modpack of Terraria with my friend Alejandro. It's notoriously hard and we died, many, many times. But we always knew what to do next. Make more potions, build better weapons and armor, and practice fighting the boss.

The problem is in real life our goals are often so foggy we don't know where to get started.

We can make our real life goals more clear by reverse goal setting.

For example, let's say I want to be making $5000 dollars in passive income from my content creation in a year

To do that, I need some passive income streams. So I need to make video courses or promote the two I already have Obsidian University and The Art of Linked Reading. If I create new video courses, I need free email courses promoting that video course, as well as free content on my blog, newsletter, YouTube channel, podcast, and Twitter. But first, I need a service business to crystallize into a product.

Many of these things are semi-new skills for me.

So my rough learning plan might look like learning how to create a service business in the next 6 months, then crystalize into a video course afterward. These are purposefully vague goals because I haven't yet researched into best practices others say for how to learn this thing.

By reversibly goals setting, I make my goals as crystal clear as in games and therefore much more likely I will do them.

Ask, How Can I Make This Fun?

The trick is making a learning endeavor so enjoyable you would want to do it without extrinsic reward.

This is what makes video games, TikTok, and YouTube so enjoyable. They are so fun you do it for the sake of the activity itself.

The question is, how can we make productive learning endeavors this fun?

I won't lie to you, it's not possible to make a productive learning endeavor as fun as video games. But there are a few principles we can use to make something more fun. Let's go through these principles and how I applied them to learn something as seemingly boring as notetaking.

Firstly, find a way to tie it to something you care about.

Humans don't learn through knowledge transfer but through our emotional connection to things.

So, a great way to learn more effectively is to tie new information to something you care about. I'm interested in psychology, content-creation, gamification, and meta-learning. For any learning endeavor, I try to tie it back to one of these interests. I did this for notetaking and came up with this: Notetaking helps you think more effectively, remember more, and create novel insights. This connects to meta-learning. Plus, I can share my notes with others to help them learn more effectively--like I'm doing in this video!

Tying notetaking to things I care about made me more motivated to learn it.

Secondly, define a breakthrough moment.

A breakthrough moment is a major leveling-up moment in pursuing your learning endeavor.

For example, attaining a new strength, skill, or achievement. To make your learning more fun, define an interesting breakthrough moment and visualize yourself achieving it before every learning bout. For notetaking my breakthrough moment was this: create a guide for gamers on how to use games to 10x their learning effectiveness in real life. I have been interested in the connection between these two things for years but never had the notetaking system to allow me to flesh out my ideas.

By learning to take better notes, I could finally write the article I dreamed of!

Thirdly, create a challenge.

Framing learning obstacles as challenges makes us more energized to tackle them.

In games, challenges like boss fights test our skills and increase them. Adopting the same mindset in real life can make us more resilient when the learning gets tough. To better my notetaking, I adopted a challenge mindset. I saw the obstacles along the path--what notetaking tool to use, how to connect my notes, how to create out of them, etc.--as boss fights to improve my skills.

Framing my notetaking as a challenge motivated me to keep going in the face of challenge.

Fourthly, listen to music while doing it.

Listening to music is inherently enjoyable.

By associating a difficult learning activity with music, you hack your brain into finding it fun. I like to listen to Terraria, Witcher 3, or Civilization 6 music. Preferably music without lyrics because lyrical music can make it harder to focus.

While taking notes, I listen to music to make it more fun.

Fifthly, do it with others.

Humans are social creatures; we like doing things with others.

Getting positive feedback from friends, especially early on, is a fantastic way to stay motivated. To learn note-taking, I found my best friend, John Maverick, online and learned to take more effective notes alongside him. This partnership worked so well that we eventually crystalized our learnings into Obsidian University and The Art Of Linked Reading.

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