While this will make me sound really stodgy, I generally order my day by half-hour and hour blocks. Until I’m off work in the late afternoon, I’m always thinking ahead of what I want to be doing next and how much time I want to allocate to each task. Get up and start exercising for 30 minutes, then a half-hour to dress and make breakfast, then a half-hour to get a few things written, that sort of thing.
One tool that I’ve used — not always, but on occasion — is a countdown timer. This is mainly when I have tasks that are too big to do in one day or when I have a lot of things that need to get done and have go dedicate only a portion of time to each. So I’ll put a timer on for, say, 45 minutes and see how much of a task I can get done before moving on at the end of that.
Out of curiosity, I started doing this for when I play games at night. Oh, I’ve timed my gaming sessions before, but I’ve never had an active countdown timer sitting on my desk ticking off the minutes remaining. Initially I thought that this might make gameplay more stressful — I want to unwind after the day, not feel like I’m pressured or under the gun — but in actuality, it’s freed me up to enjoy my sessions more.
That sounds weird, I know. But for me, it really works. Gaming with a timer results in satisfying and more focused sessions, and I’m not stressed out in the least by it.
I think that part of my problem in trying to juggle more than one game in an evening is that I never knew how long I should be playing each one. I’d be thinking about the next one I wanted to squeeze in, which would make me cut short my first game session or feel guilty about playing it when there were others to do. Instead, now I take the gaming time I have that evening (say, two or three hours) and divvy it up between the titles I want to play. I set a timer and then go, making it a fun meta-game to see just how much I can do before the time is up.
The timer not only subtly challenges me to do more in the time I’m given, it keeps me in games longer as well. I think I pressure myself to log out earlier when I do just one or two quests and then lose focus and start puttering around. Knowing that I’m committed to playing a game for the next 45 minutes removes that constant evaluation of whether or not I want to call it a night for this title.
Ack… I don’t think there’s any way to make this sound helpful or non-nutty, but I’m telling you, I’ve been doing it for over a month now and find that I’m blasting through more MMO and solo game content while freeing myself up for more pre-bed reading. I don’t think that I’ll ever want to push more than three games a night with this, but two or three seems to be a really nice spot for play. Thought I’d share that with you, is all.