The things every high-achiever should know
Wow, this week flew by! I stayed diligent with tracking my progress in my various skills, but recently I’ve been experiencing tracking fatigue.
If you recall, I’ve been using a motivational time-tracking app called “Level Me Up!” (based on the 10,000 hours to mastery rule). Although the app’s “leveling up” feature is cool in its own right, in order to motivate myself to level up, I’ve created a system of short-term incentives (usually by allowing myself to buy items I’ve had my eye on: a coffee maker, subscription to Audible.com, etc.) to add an additional source of motivation. This system worked well for two weeks. Unfortunately, three challenges with this system are beginning to rear their heads:
a) Remembering to turn on the Level Me Up!’s skill timer while I’m working on a skill (and remembering to turn it off right when I’m done) have proven to be quite a nuisance because I keep forgetting. Especially at work where I’m constantly breaking for meetings, food, coffee, etc., it’s a pain to keep track of whether the timer is running or not.
b) Unfortunately (or fortunately), I’m running out of stuff to use as short term incentives. I’ve already reached enough levels to earn some of the things I’ve had my eye on. But now, I find myself running out of things to earn that aren’t excessively expensive. Given my budget, high-priced items for this experiment are a no-go. Curse my expensive tastes!
c) Based on the Bartle test discussed at the end of Part 2, I’ve learned that I’m an Achiever/Socializer hybrid. This means I find games fun because of the potential to reach a high level of performance and compete, cooperate, or discuss the game with friends. The fact that I don’t have a community with which to discuss, compare, and cooperate for the sake of a higher level diminishes my desire to level up.
As an exception to problem C, the leveling up in Fitocracy is still quite motivating because of the ties to a social community. I like being able to display how I perform in the gym, as well as interacting with others based on similar interests.
With that in mind, here are the solutions I’m going to be putting in place to fix these issues:
1) Remove “Marketer” from my list of skills. I’ve decided that since I have to go to work no matter what, the levels I earn for this skill are very arbitrary. Additionally, having to remember to set up the skill timer is very taxing. Removing this skill from my list will leave only more niche skills for me to develop and earn short term rewards on. This will require a smaller quantity of short-term incentives to use (which will save my money too), make it easier to track the time I invest in these skills, and prevent tracking fatigue.
The skills that currently remain in the Level Me Up! app are: Mind mastery, entrepreneurship, and VBA/iMacros.
2) Because most of the skills I’m working on don’t have an active, social community around the concept of leveling up (the only one that does is weightlifting/fitness on Fitocracy), I’m adding a new motivational element in place to make up for the lack of social motivation: streaks. Discussed in a famous article on Lifehacker regarding Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity secret, maintaining a streak is a great motivational tool to keep you going strong when you’re tempted to quit. I’ve set up certain “quests” with the success measure being the length of my longest streak. Tracking a streak is much easier to do than a time measurement, so I’m hoping this will also reduce my tracking fatigue.
3) For any skills that don’t have a level-up based on time investment, I’m using quests as my main driver of progress. For example, since I can’t record the amount of time I invest in eating healthy, I’ve turned it into a quest. If I can reach a streak of 21 days of eating whole, healthy foods (with Friday being an allowed cheat day), I’ve completed this quest and can reap the rewards of completion. For the case of healthy eating, I will buy myself a nice coffee maker, since I don’t own one and am quickly developing a love for freshly-ground coffee.
Aside from eating healthy, my other running quests are to go to the gym three times in one week and to finish three blog posts by the end of November. To keep track of long-term quests, I use tracking software called “Goalscape”—which I’ll discuss in more detail in Part 4—and a series of post-it notes along my desk for more “ad-hoc”, smaller quests. Here’s a screenshot of the post-it note set-up… nothing fancy.
1) It must be easy to track and measure your progress. Tracking time investment, although the most detailed, standardized, and arguably most valuable type of information you can record, can lead to tracking fatigue and/or invalid data if you consistently forget to track properly. Using streaks or any other quantification (number of blog posts, how much weight you can lift, how many meals you’ve cooked, etc.) can be just as effective, yet much easier to keep track of.
2) Make sure that short-term rewards are used sparingly. When I had too many skills and quests to attach short-term rewards to, it was difficult to find enough stuff within a reasonable price range that would motivate me. Therefore, find a key few items you’ve had your eye on and attach them only to the most difficult or challenging quests/skills you’re looking to make progress on in the short-term.
3) Whenever possible, seek social reinforcement. Because of the social elements surrounding Fitocracy.com, I feel incredibly motivated without the need to attach rewards to my progress. Being able to interact with other fitness enthusiasts and have my skill level public for all to see is motivation enough for me. Depending on your characterization in the Bartle Test, you may not feel as motivated as I do by social factors, but I believe adding a social layer will benefit everybody. Social reinforcement is one of the core concepts behind the success of “Mastermind Groups.”
That’s all for this week. I’ll see you in week 3.
The start to this week has proven to be very uneventful. Now that I’m no longer tracking my job as a skill, which was 50+ hours a week of tracking, gamification has become somewhat of a background noise to my life, rather than the predominating force in my life. I suppose this is how it should be, since the rate at which I was going in the first two weeks would have been unsustainable because of how mentally intensive it was to record.
The quests system using streaks and goal quantification as a driver is proving to be very effective. Whether the quest is writing six blog posts a month or going to the gym 3 times a week, I’m finding that attaching rewards matched to the difficulty of the quest (high difficulty, high reward) is clearly improving my motivation. In fact, I’m writing this blog post on my lunch break in order to complete my quest to write five more blog posts by the end of January.
Some of you may be wondering what ever happened to that “splurge account” from Part 1. If you recall, I was using a “splurge account” as a savings account where I’d store monetary rewards “for a rainy day” if I couldn’t think of anything I was looking to purchase. However, I’ve found this concept to be horribly ineffective. It’s hard for my mind to get excited about completing a quest to add $20, $30, or $50 into a splurge account because it’s still one-step detached from the rewards I seek. It’s much more effective to visualize the reward I would get for completing the quest as I’m in the process of “questing.” Especially for the more challenging quests that are a matter of discipline and will-power (such as eating properly for 21 days straight), this slight tweak can make the difference in times of stress and temptation to procrastinate.
Regarding my Statement of Epic Meaning, I’ve found that this document needs to be a living, breathing document. If you recall from Part 1, this statement is a daily reminder of my purpose for living and it sets the tone for my day. For the first two weeks, reading this statement in the morning gave me a shot of motivation because it reminded me of some of my deepest realizations regarding my life’s purpose.
However, after a while, the statement began to lose its emotional impact. I began to read it in a “yeah, yeah I know what this says already” mentality. Therefore, I’ve learned that I need to keep switching it up to stay motivated. Right now, I’m using a statement that reminds me of all of the momentum I built for success in college (internships, starting a business, all of the friends I’ve made) and reminds me that I must keep leveraging what I’ve created and be just as active, entrepreneurial, social, and ambitious as I was in college, lest all of what I’ve accomplished go to waste. This communicates the same message as my original statement, but comes at it from a different angle.
As week 3 comes to an end, I’m feeling pretty confident about how this system has evolved. It’s much lower maintenance than when I first started, but has clearly improved my motivation. To refer to back to my original questions of:
a) Am I enjoying life more?
b) Am I procrastinating less on the weekends?
The answer to both is a resounding yes. The short-term rewards with quest-style goal tracking have proven to be noticeably more motivating than a simple to-do list. By being more motivated, I’m achieving my goals more effectively. And because a lot of these goals tie into my social and professional life, having more success in these areas makes me a happier person. To answer the second question, I’ve been using a quest that I’ve dubbed the “Weekend Warrior” (something I’ll discuss more intently in Week 4 after I give it some time to play out), I’m finding my motivation to pursue my goals on the weekend to be noticeably stronger.
That’s all for Part 3. Part 4 will conclude the experiment, and possibly give a list of my favorite iPhone, Android, and PC tools for gamifying your life. Adios!
I'm Jon Guerrera, a life hacker at heart, and the man behind the scenes here at Living For Improvement. This blog documents all of my successes, failures, and lessons learned as I hack my way to happiness and fulfillment.
I also wrote an ebook. If you like what I write on the blog, you should definitely check it out below. Oh, and it's free.
Unlimited Drive is the result of four years of diligent research on what drives people to achieve great things. I always wondered how the most successful people in the world could reach such high levels of success and accomplishment. Well, I found the answer and wrote an ebook so I could pass it on to you (for free).
Learn more or subscribe below to get your copy.