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Gamification: A Strategy For Getting Stuff Done


Hello, my name is Kat and I’m a somewhat reformed, life-long procrastinator.

Being a procrastinator has gotten me into hot water a few times, created friction in my relationships, and has been the source of a heady mix of shame, guilt and general bad feeling for as long as I can remember.

I’ve tried many times in the past to change my ways, with little success, so I’d pretty much accepted I’d always be useless at Getting Stuff Done.

Clean Coaching

However, that all changed after I started Clean Coaching with Marian Way at my workplace.

After a few sessions and getting to understand how the process worked, I promised myself I’d model my procrastination with Marian. This was a big step for me, as even though I’d accepted I probably couldn’t change, I still felt immense shame that I had trouble Getting Stuff Done.

The session was, in a word, intense. A kind of avalanche; somewhat seismic.

Through modelling my procrastination, Marian helped me discover so much: how much fear I felt when faced with the kind of situation where I procrastinate (which I didn’t even realise existed); about the ‘bad’ feelings accompanying the behaviour; about the types of situations where I procrastinate; about how it felt like I was stuck on a level of a video game and just completing side quests.

After the session, I consciously devoted time to reflecting on that fear, the bad feelings and what types of situations were sure to trigger procrastination. I recorded them in my bullet journal (http://bulletjournal.com ), which helps me process the information and record my progress in untangling all the balls of wool that represented my feelings after that pivotal session.

Gamifying Procrastination

One evening, whilst pondering and writing, it occurred to me that perhaps I could use my bullet journal to help me change my procrastinating ways. I kept going back in my head to the idea that when I was procrastinating, it felt like I was playing a video game but couldn’t progress with the main story arc – I was stuck doing pointless side quests. And, more often than not, I wasn’t even attempting to play the game – I wasn’t even switching the game console on in the first place.

Then it hit me – for me, Getting Stuff Done wasn’t a game. The stakes felt too high – all that chance of failure, of crashing and burning, or letting people down. So what if I gamified the situations where I procrastinated? Could I come up with a strategy – the gamification of procrastination?

After a little more thought, the parallels between gamifying procrastination became clearer and suddenly, that little throw-away comment about video quests from the seismic session became a living, psychoactive metaphor and a strategy began to emerge.

Side Quests

I then set myself a couple of side quests to get me going. Only this time, they weren’t pointless distractions from the main story arc – they were the building blocks of my strategy to becoming a person who Gets Stuff Done.

In my bullet journal, I added a section for my side quests (aka Developmental Tasks). My first quest was to notice when I was procrastinating and mark it in some way. It just so happened that the first time I procrastinated, I had a Sharpie next to me, so more out of laziness than any great idea, I put a black line on the back of my lefthand. Later on that day, I found myself procrastinating again – another black line.

By the end of the day, as I was journaling, I put a nice little 5 in the side quest box, denoting the 5 times during that day I’d noticed myself procrastinating – and boy did that feel good! For the next week, I did the same – noting the number of times each dayI’d procrastinated.

After that, I’d decided I’d learned all I needed to (for now) from that side quest, so it was time to move on to the next. Something that Marian had mentioned during the session came back to me, and I decided that my next quest was to do something productive (anything, even something little) after I noticed myself procrastinating 3 times. The number was wholly arbitrary, but it felt just a little bit fun – and more importantly, low-stake.

And it worked. Over the next few weeks, I tackled the Big Thing I Was Procrastinating About in little bursts. I ‘gamified’ each step – could I beat my own personal high score (the number of side quests/tasks done in a day)? Could I complete a side quest before the album I was listening to finished? Could I get through an entire weekend without any black lines on the back of my hand?

Completing the Game

Finally, the Big Thing was FINISHED! I had completed the game, the main story arc! But more importantly, I had developed and tested a strategy – I had gamified a huge change in my life.By setting smaller side quests – which I can leave at any time, and go back to later – I can complete the main story arc bit-by-bit. I’m de-risking the task, lowering the stakes, decreasing my chances of failing, and increasing my chances of seeing the whole task through – just like a video game.

After the elation of finishing the Big Thing, I thought I might treat myself to a weekend off. But, as the next weekend rolled around, I realised there were more Things To Do – and thatI wanted to do them. I was a changed person – finally, I was someone who Got Stuff Done. That has stayed with me for over a year now – and I still have a side quests section in my bullet journal that helps me when I need it.

Now, I still have days where I procrastinate – typically if I’m waiting for inspiration, or I’m too tired –but the bad feelings (guilt, shame, frustration, powerlessness)… they’re mostly gone, which means that procrastinating over one thing doesn’t result in me spiralling into a pit of bad feeling.

I’m continuing to work with Marian to develop other resources, which I also record in my bullet journal. I feel so much better about myself and I’m really pleased with the things I’ve been able to accomplish through gamification.

All because of that one session with Marian and Clean Coaching. That intense, avalanche-like, seismic session.

About Kat Elliott

Kat Elliott's avatar

Kat has trained in Clean Language for 4 years and successfully uses Clean in a business capacity for Amphora Research Systems. Kat has a background in science and a passion for helping others learn science through working as a personal tutor and former Mad Scientist at Mad Science South East. Kat uses Clean to support tutees and help the tutees understand how they learn at their best.

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