It’s that time of year again. New year’s resolutions. A clean slate brings newfound hope—we imagine our ideal self: healthier, smarter, kinder, wealthier. Read more books. Lose more weight. Wake up earlier.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: the older I get, the more I enjoy the refreshed optimism of new year’s. Like a flock of geese calibrating to the earth’s magnetic field flying south, we switch over to a blissfully positive mindset to make the next 365 days better than the last.
By now you’ve probably thought through powerful ideas and committed to a few of them. Health and wellness are essential, but don’t forget life’s little pleasures. New year’s resolutions are your opportunity to enrich your gaming lifestyle. Seriously!
Finding a balanced life
Time feels so limited. We’re offered an overwhelming number of choices every day. Tending to our responsibilities as family members, employees, and citizens of our community often force us to delay personal recreation. There are games we never get around to playing and levels we never conquer.
Or perhaps we can play games better to make the experience more enjoyable: stepping away from a game feeling refreshed instead of exhausted.
The new year is the perfect time to resolve to build a well-rounded gaming lifestyle. Here are proven ways to achieve your gamer goals – particularly building a balance for maximum enjoyment.
Succeeding at resolutions = Changing behavior
“I resolve to do that one thing I always do anyways,” said no one ever. Resolutions are about doing something that’s out of our nature – something we’re not already doing.
Resolutions are about creating new habits. Creating a new habit requires changing a behavior.
(I dig into the science behind this in my blog post How to Change Any Bad Habit Using Game Mechanics. Worth a read if you haven’t yet!)
Behavioral scientist B.J. Fogg says the keys to changing any habit are through an epiphany, by changing your environment, or by taking baby steps (dubbed “Tiny Habits” by Dr. Fogg). Having an epiphany isn’t something you can control, and changing your environment to play more games might be a challenge.
My ideas on changing your gaming habits will focus on the small steps: the little things that you can do every day where you might not even need motivation to do them. Heck, you might even feel silly not doing them.
Resolve to play more games using time management
When I ask friends what they’ve been playing lately, I often hear: “I haven’t been. I miss playing games – I’m just too busy.”
Reasonable enough. We live with so many choices and expectations of how we spend our time that childhood pleasures like games fall through the cracks. Or perhaps we’re already playing games and can’t seem to find the time to play them all.
But, HEY, you’ve taken the first step by realizing you need more fun in your life! Surprise, surprise—playing more games comes down to prioritization and time management. Let’s break it down on how you can fit more games (or anything!) into your busy schedule.
List your priorities
We’re not only talking about your game priorities – these are your life priorities. Knowing what’s important to you will help you get what you want, even if that’s simply more ‘me’ time.
Set aside time where you can be by yourself, think, and list. Make it easy: if you have an hour, that’s quite excellent, but even a fifteen-minute brainstorm will do.
Write down all of the items competing for your attention in a week’s time: What are people counting on you for? What activities make you feel down or frustrated? What do you want to be doing more of? What’s important to you, whether you spend time doing it or not?
Now put each item into a category:
A) Things you must do
B) Things you want to do more of, and
C) Things you want to spend less time doing or eliminate completely.
(Playing games might fall into category ‘B’ for you.)
Assign a realistic length of time to each item – balance how long it takes to actually complete the task and how long you want to spend completing the task. (Stay flexible – this might change in the next step!)
Schedule your week
Find a trusted place to schedule your items, whether that’s on a piece of paper or an electronic calendar. (You can get a free calendar from Google!)
First schedule all the items that you must complete. These are your “rocks” – immoveable tasks that other events will be scheduled around. Examples would be taking your kids to school, doctor appointments, and important meetings.
Next, schedule the items that you want to spend time doing. Be realistic about the frequency and time spent doing it. Schedule around your energy levels. If you know you have some time after the kids go to bed and that’s a good time to unwind, schedule your 90 minutes of gaming!
Honor your time
This might be the most difficult step of all: promise yourself you commit to the task you scheduled during the time you scheduled it.
Sometimes we want to procrastinate on a difficult task, but that ends up pushing out the fulfilling tasks we want more of such as playing games. Stick to the task at hand and reward yourself at the end.
This also means stopping when you have a new item scheduled. The most mundane tasks can draw us in where we refuse to stop until we’re done. Completion is essential in some cases – you’re not going to drive away from the parking lot before your kid shows up after soccer practice. Other tasks don’t require 100% completion. (Do you really need to reorganize that entire closet from start to finish today?)
Be smart about how much effort you’re putting into the task and stop when you’ve made the promise to yourself.
On the other hand, adhere to the time you set aside for enjoyable tasks. Games can draw us in where we lose track of the time. Set an alarm clock so you can get lost in your game without forgetting to step away when you need to.
Bonus! Set goals for gameplay
Hey, overachievers! You have a list of games to get through but sorely lacking all the time in the world. Calculate how much time it might take to complete each game and set weekly goals for when you want to switch over to a new game.
Remember that gaming is meant to be fun, not work. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to play through every new game for the Playstation4 – pick the ones you absolutely want to play and enjoy quality unwind time.
Resolve to play fewer games using small steps
Games can bring action, adventure, excitement, camaraderie, and relaxation to our lives. Game binging can be a release, but too much of a good thing is a real thing.
If you feel your life is out of balance and you need to play a little less, you’ve already made the first step by recognizing it. And by playing less, we can enjoy gaming a little more at the end of a busy day. Let’s do it!
Start by being aware of your thoughts. We often get stuck in a loop doing what our impulses want us to do without realizing it. But, like the rest of your body, the mind (and willpower) is a muscle that needs to be exercised to get stronger.
Simply recognizing when you want to play a game can be empowering in itself—no matter what you do after you realize it.
Map your steps
Set a plan for how you want to achieve balance. A Chinese proverb says, “To the mountain top, inch by inch.” There’s no overnight solution to changing habits—you’ll get there one step at a time.
Think through the feelings you experience. Note the triggers that make you want to play games. How you feel after a long gaming session?
Now write a list of small steps that address each of these challenges. What are realistic ways you can manage them?
It’s about the little things – every day
Focus on the small steps, not the goal. Just saying it feels radical when everyone tells us that goals are the key to getting what you want. (And yes, I mentioned above that you could set goals for game play. This is different. Hear me out.)
For lasting behavioral change, I believe in focusing on the system that will get you there. What is the smallest, easiest thing you can do right now and every day? Perhaps it’s making a note when you feel the desire to play a game. Do it every day for a week. What would you do next? Maybe it’s making a note of the desire AND reducing play time by 15 minutes a week.
Balance may be the goal – and balance is what you will find in every small step you take along the way. Keep at it!
Don’t wait for the destination to celebrate
Get ready to pat yourself on the back. A lot.
If all you can do is recognize when you’re feeling that itch to grab a controller, that’s a win! Every win makes you more confident and increases the likelihood you’ll get back in balance.
Reward yourself! List out things that make you happy: Chocolate cake? Going on a walk with your dog? Going shopping at your favorite store? When you reach milestones, treat yourself to something that brings you fulfillment. But there’s a catch—the reward can’t be what you’re trying to step away from. That means games.
Celebrating gives you a boost of endorphins – reinforcing great behavior and giving you more confidence. You have control of the life you want to live; give yourself the best chance of achieving it.
Your ideal gamer lifestyle is just around the corner: know your priorities, understand what makes you happy, and be mindful about your decisions. You can do it!
What’s your gamer new year’s resolution?