I grew up playing a lot of role playing games. My first RPG (hack ‘n’ slash?) was The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64. My older brother poured countless hours into beating that game and its various sidequests. I was only 5 years old when we first got our N64 with Ocarina of Time, so (unsurprisingly) I was pretty horrible at the game. My brother had to constantly help me finish quests and even bought me a guide book so I could get through it.
As I grew up, I started playing all the “essential” RPGs on my consoles and PC. Some of my favorites include:
I have a lot of great memories staying up late and finishing quests or power-leveling my characters. I also constantly find myself drawing parallels to RPGs in my daily life.
Simultaneously, as much as I love RPGs and all the great nostalgia I get remembering my favorite games, I don’t play video games much anymore. There are a bunch of reasons for this, but mostly, I’ve just found that work has taken the place of strategy and role playing games in my life.
Most people treat their work strictly as work (ie something serious that’s detached from regular life), but you’ll probably have a lot more fun working if you draw parallels between your favorite games, books, or movies and treat the work as play and just have fun with it.
I think that the early exposure to video games for a lot of Generations X and Y has given us a unique perspective on life. I’ve always had a natural inclination to gamify things and look at life as if it were a puzzle or a challenge; I sometimes treat difficult tasks as if they were boss battles!
A staple of the video game RPG genre is the “pause menu” where you can usually check all of your stats, change equipment, save the game and lots of other neat stuff (like the Sky Pirate’s Den in Final Fantasy 12, which lets you see in-game achievements).
You should work on building your own pause menu in real life to act as a sort of progress tracker, todo list and/or OODA system. Whiteboards are a great tool to use for setting something like this up. Moot, founder of 4chan and Canvas, shared his whiteboard on his blog. It includes:
I love this idea and highly recommend building your own productivity “pause menu”. I think whiteboards are a lot of fun, but you could also use an Excel sheet or set it up to display on your desktop using GeekTool for Mac OS X or Rainmeter for Windows (if you’re on Linux, you can probably hack something together quickly with a combination of shell scripts :D)
At the bare-minimum, you could just write down your daily tasks on an index card and set it on your desk while you work. Easy!
Magic is a fundamental part of high fantasy and all kinds of role playing games. It enables the weak to become powerful and helps to boost strength during battle.
Just as you would use magic to augment your character’s existing traits in a role playing game, you can use automation and systems to augment your skills during work.
If you use gmail as your main email provider, one system you can start using right now to make your workflow more efficient is to start using gmail filters.
Gmail's filtering function offers a lot of awesome functionality and it’s super easy to get a working system in place. You can open a specific kind of email (for example, a message from your boss about work) and create a filter to “filter messages like these”.
You can then specify how gmail should automatically handle a message that matches the criteria you entered (categorize, label, mark-as-read, etc.)
This is a very powerful system you can put in place to save you hours every single day.
Another way to shave off a lot of time in gmail is to enable keyboard shortcuts to make navigating the gmail interface much simpler (example: instead of using your mouse to click each checkbox next to a message for bulk delete or labeling, you can use a few keystrokes to select your messages and move them around).
Enabling keyboard shortcuts is easy:
Keyboard shortcuts in general are an excellent way to increase efficiency and productivity. I recommend drilling your keyboard shortcuts a little bit every day. A great website to help you do this is Shortcut Foo. They offer tons of shortcut training exercises for all sorts of applications including Excel, Gmail, Photoshop and many others.
Keyboard shortcuts might sound like such a small thing to improve on to most people, saving only a couple seconds here and there. However, if you stick with it, all of those seconds add up and you’ll start feeling a bit like Superman as you become faster and faster with shortcuts.
I briefly mentioned todo lists earlier as something you can integrate into your “pause menu” to help you keep track of tasks and get a good big-picture overview of your current projects.
There are tons of different todo list and task-management applications. For the minimalists, Todo.txt is a good one (and even has a smartphone app)
Teux Deux is another great one with a really sleek design. I used this one quite often a couple years ago. Great choice for someone who wants a simple, clean todo list open in their browser while they work.
Excel and Google Spreadsheets are other great choices because of how insanely customizable they can be. Right now, I currently track most of my tasks in a Google Docs Spreadsheet and use conditional formatting to show me when a task is nearing a deadline or is very urgent.
Omnifocus is a great choice for people who are into the Getting Things Done productivity system. While it’s not a free option like the others on the list, Omnifocus is a very powerful application and has a great iOS app you can use on your iPhone. The only drawback of Omnifocus is that it has a fairly steep learning curve, but once you figure out how to effectively use it, it’s a very powerful application.
If you really want to go all-out and turn your life into a role-playing game (complete with graphics, items, stats, HP and monsters!) you can start playing Habit RPG!
The goal of Habit RPG is to “gamify your entire life”. The nice thing about playing Habit RPG is that you can either choose to play solo and keep your tasks / habits to yourself, or you can play with friends and recreate the “party” feeling of role playing games.
Playing with friends is a great way to hold everyone accountable and create a bit of social encouragement for people to stick to their habits and complete all of their tasks. There’s also a ton of great apps (Chrome extension, iOS app, Android app, normal web app), so you can play Habit RPG just about anywhere; it’s really easy to integrate into your daily life.
Habit RPG is fairly complex, with lots of neat features. It can be kind of confusing for beginners; fortunately, there’s also a great wiki site dedicated entirely to learning how to play the game!