Think about the rush you receive on Facebook when receiving tons of smiley faces, hearts, and comments on a brilliant post that you created…
Or when you used to receive gold stars or cash as rewards when you were in school.
“It’s play that helps us do serious things better.” – Daniel Debow, from Salesforce
We, creators, are biologically wired to receive a dopamine hit and feel rewarded around activities that we may initial drag our feet around.
Already studies are being done on employee engagement and really looking at how gamification can make us more productive. Earlier this year, I read this cool book called Reality is Broken, written by academic Jane McGonigal. All about how the workplace is broken and it needs to function more like a game.
How we can bring gamification into our creative businesses to invite more play and productivity into the work that we’re doing in the world?
Gamification is the use of game elements and game thinking in non-game environments to increase engagement and improve better targeting. This introduces game-like elements into what you’re already doing in order to get better at it and have way more fun doing it.
Creatives, we definitely need the visual reminders and the gamification. What we wanted to share with you today was how you can gamify your own productivity, and how you can do it old school analog style or with the latest gamification apps.
IN THIS EPISODE YOU’LL LEARN:
- How the neuroscience of gaming creates a powerful form of intrinsic motivation
- Fun ways to gamify your own productivity and implement new habits consistently
- Jerry Seinfield’s simple and effective productivity system
- All about bullet journals, day designers, app gamified trackers, and more
- Blog Post Get More Done Gamify Your Life
- Blog Post How to Gamify Team Productivity
- Blog Post 5 Apps to Gamify Your Personal and Work Lives
- The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
- Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal
You can also subscribe to this podcast on our Youtube channel.
Brad Dobson: “I’m so overwhelmed.”
Minette Riordan: “I need more clarity.”
Brad Dobson: “I don’t know how to do this.”
Minette Riordan: “My to-do list is miles long.”
Brad Dobson: “I’m exhausted.”
Minette Riordan: “There’s got to be a better way.”
Brad Dobson: Hi there. I’m Brad.
Minette Riordan: I’m Minette. Not only have we said all these things ourselves, but we’ve heard our community of creative entrepreneurs say them over and over again.
Brad Dobson: That’s why we created the Structure & Flow Podcast. I’m structure.
Minette Riordan: I’m flow, and this is the productivity podcast for creative entrepreneurs.
Brad Dobson: We believe that doing more and working harder are not the solution to your productivity challenges.
Minette Riordan: We believe in more play, more fun, and more profit. Join us as we explore the interplay between structure and flow so that we can bring more grace and ease to your creative business.
Brad Dobson: Hey folks, here we are with episode 123 of Structure & Flow.
Minette Riordan: 123.
Brad Dobson: 123.
Minette Riordan: ABC.
Brad Dobson: That’s right. It’s a podcast about productivity. Today we’re going to talk to the gamers out there. Strangely, I guess I grew up a little bit of a gamer. My son grew up-
Minette Riordan: Tetris.
Brad Dobson: As a big time gamer. Yeah, those types of things, very old school things, but our title today is, “Gamification and Productivity,” what games can teach us about motivation. Bear with us here. This is more interesting than you think and I think there’s probably a lot more gamers out there. Shout out to Charlotte, Pokemon Go. She’s out there doing it. What do you think?
Minette Riordan: What do I think? I think I’m Dr. Minette Riordan and this is Brad Dobson. We’re the co-founders of Path to Profit Academy.
Brad Dobson: I think they know who we are.
Minette Riordan: For those of you that are new to our podcast and stumbled across it because you thought the topic sounded really interesting. When I first proposed the topic, Brad was like, “What? I don’t get it.” But as I shared more and did some research and send him some articles, there’s actually already studies being done on gamification and productivity in the workplace. A lot about employee engagement and really looking at how gamification can make us more productive. Earlier this year, I read this really cool book called, “Reality is broken,” written by an academic. All about how the workplace is broken and it actually needs to be more like a game.
Brad Dobson: Interesting.
Minette Riordan: Because the way games work in our brains, the neuroscience of gaming is really fascinating and goes really deep, and we’re not going to get that deep on this podcast today but highly recommend reading, “When reality is broken.” What it gave me more than anything was why our son so addicted to gaming.
Brad Dobson: Very cool.
Minette Riordan: Right? Because it really helps you understand like the physical things that happen to you when you’re engaged in a game, you actually get a dopamine release every time you beat a level, or conquer a challenge or capture a boon or whatever it is that you’re doing. It creates this dopamine hit and when your body feels that dopamine, it just wants more and it gets really, really excited. It’s also a form of intrinsic motivation. It helps you stay.
Brad Dobson: It’s a reward system.
Minette Riordan: A reward system.
Brad Dobson: We’re getting into our limbic brain and it wants reward and fear and happy and all of those types of things, but I’m going to do what you [inaudible 00:03:40] me. Let’s back up a bit.
Minette Riordan: I forgot the coach.
Brad Dobson: No, even before.
Minette Riordan: Even before that. I get all excited about the topic.
Brad Dobson: I think we do need to define the topic first as well. What is gamification?
Minette Riordan: Gamification is the use of game elements and game thinking in non-game environments to increase engagement and improve better targeting. Gamification is implementing game like elements into what you’re already doing in order to get better at it and have way more fun doing it which leads right to our quote for the day.
Brad Dobson: Got you. Cool. Our quote for the day from Daniel Debo from Salesforce. “It’s play that helps us do serious things better.” This is interesting because I’m reading, Minette bought a new book called, “Rest,” by Arianna Huffington. It’s much along these lines in terms of how rest and work are partners. To a large extent you could say play and rest go in the same bucket.
Minette Riordan: They do and it reminded me of, there are chant at our live events, at our Dream, Design, Profit events where our chant was that when I play I make money. I recently reminded myself of that mantra because I think it’s really powerful to stay in the energy of play and I think it’s the thing that gets us through the hard parts about building business. The reason that productivity I think is such a hot topic is because we’re looking for ways to get through the sticky bits, the bits that aren’t fun and that aren’t joyful, but that have to be done. For creatives in particular, looking at our numbers, looking at our data.
Brad Dobson: For our daughter it might be cleaning her room.
Minette Riordan: Cleaning her room.
Brad Dobson: We need to gamify that.
Minette Riordan: Folding the laundry in the living room that’s been sitting in the basket all week so that we’re not living out in the laundry basket.
Brad Dobson: I think that there’s a lot of creativity involved in bringing a reward system into something like that. Parents have been doing it forever in terms of I’ll give you a nickel if you fold the clothes.
Minette Riordan: Right, so as school teachers with gold stars and smiley faces.
Brad Dobson: You never give me gold stars.
Minette Riordan: Would you like gold stars?
Brad Dobson: Maybe it would help.
Minette Riordan: I have lots of them. It shouldn’t surprise you that this former school teacher has lots of gold stars and sparkling smiley faces.
Brad Dobson: Right, exactly.
Minette Riordan: I did send you a slack message with very nice. Did you see that?
Brad Dobson: Yes, I did.
Minette Riordan: On your replay page.
Brad Dobson: Maybe I didn’t get enough of dopamine hit from that.
Minette Riordan: Okay. Yeah, so it needs the visuals, right? Creatives, we need the visual reminders and the gamification. What we wanted to share with you today was how you can gamify your own productivity and how you can do it totally old school analog style. For those of us that still love good old fashioned paper and pen and a couple of recommendations for apps that already have the gamification built in.
Brad Dobson: Along the lines of paper and pen, when I was putting my little bit of thought into preparing for this episode, my brain made the connection between how popular planners are in gamification. I saw somebody’s bullet journal at one point and it just looked like eye candy. Right? I think, and of course there’s physical things about a planner that I really need as well, you know, you’ve got that nice, maybe leather-bound, beautiful organized thing. It seems like there’s also in old school gamification part of it that makes people want to buy the next planner or work from a planner or that type of thing.
Minette Riordan: Yeah, totally. I think one of the reasons bullet journaling is so popular is because it’s very visual, colorful, super creative. You could buy all the things. You get the gold stars and the stickers and the washi tape. There’s rewards in that that you can combine planning with creativity that way. I think your point is well-taken and the problem with planners is that people love to buy planners more than they love to actually use planners because I don’t think they’re gamified enough.
Brad Dobson: Not enough. Right.
Minette Riordan: As I say that, I’m thinking about our own planner, the art full profit planner. If I relook at that through the lens of gamification, what could I do to actually up level that? We just implemented inside our creative business accelerator and accountability tracking system, and the first thing I said was like, how can we gamify this? Can people get badges if they fill it out every day? It’s looking for ways that make people want to do the planning parts because planning, people, is the secret to productivity. Planning is the secret to rest, right? Planning is the secret to getting massive action going in your business.
Brad Dobson: Right. Now in terms of gamification and productivity, it’s not just about planning. We’re talking about gamifying-
Minette Riordan: Stick to the plan.
Brad Dobson: Right, but we’re talking about gamifying all different aspects even especially some of the maybe more onerous tasks.
Minette Riordan: Yeah. Let’s get a little more specific. For example, you’re trying to implement a weekly habit of tracking your numbers and your statistics, what in the business industry is called KPIs or key performance indicators. We have a series of them and we go through stages where we’re great at tracking them consistently. We, he, I look at him, he tracks them. Where we’re looking at them and he made it visual so it was easy for me to consume. Then I think we went on vacation, got off track, and we haven’t gotten that habit back. Really looking at what would be a fun way that Brad could get rewarded for collecting that information. We have to get really creative about that. Some fun ways to gamify tasks that you’re trying to implement consistently or habits that you’re trying to build. Marketing is another habit muscle that needs to get built.
Minette Riordan: You could do a few different things. You could give yourself gold stars. You could put a dollar in a jar every time you got a task done and then go get a massage at the end of the month. You could have a big calendar. One of my friends did this really creatively when we were … This was like, gosh, almost 20 years ago. We were raising our kids and she came from a big Jewish family and her mom yelled a lot and she found herself yelling. She didn’t like that she’s yelling, so she got a calendar and a big red, one of those old fashioned marks a lot, permanent markers and every day that she didn’t yell, she put an x, a red x on the calendar.
Brad Dobson: Are we all like our mothers and fighting not to be like our mothers?
Minette Riordan: Well, I can’t speak for everybody. I can only speak for myself.
Brad Dobson: Maybe that’s a different product.
Minette Riordan: The answer is yes to that.
Brad Dobson: Maybe that’s a different productivity episode.
Minette Riordan: I love being like my mother impacts or supports my productivity because my mom’s pretty darn organized. She’s way more organized than I am actually. She’s great at planning and systems, but big red xs. There’s another famous example, maybe Jerry Seinfeld, who-
Brad Dobson: Never miss a day.
Minette Riordan: Never miss a day.
Brad Dobson: Don’t break the chain.
Minette Riordan: Don’t break the chain. Right? Of those red xs and like what happens when you don’t break the chain, there has to be a carrot at the end of the stick. Figuring out what that carrot is for you is unique.
Brad Dobson: I guess there’s just a whole host of things that you can do and keeping in mind that this is about your reward system. This is like we talked about at the top of the show. This is your lizard brain that maybe just wants a pat on the head, that type of thing. Yeah. I respond very well to pats on the head.
Minette Riordan: Loves having a head rub just because they needed to know that.
Brad Dobson: But it might be something fun with your kids. I’m standing here thinking about how I could involve my now 17 year old in this, maybe to help me keep me accountable but also have something fun that I did with her.
Minette Riordan: She actually loves tracking.
Brad Dobson: Yeah, exactly.
Minette Riordan: It’s super motivational for her.
Brad Dobson: It can really run the gamut. It could be just like Minette said, the little gold star.
Minette Riordan: The check marks. There’s a reason why to do less work. People love either checking off things or crossing things. Checklist are so popular as lead magnets because it gives people that sense of the reward of I’m working through the list.
Brad Dobson: Right. It could be some music, it could be a 15 minute break doing something.
Minette Riordan: Yeah, reading fantasy fiction. I just downloaded a new Brian Sanderson audio book.
Brad Dobson: Oh boy.
Minette Riordan: That’s like 24 hours, so 15 minutes of that and painting at the same time, that’s a reward for me.
Brad Dobson: Yeah. I think when we read through the articles that Minette researched, a couple of them referenced the Pokemon Go stuff and it’s really interesting because it’s this positive feedback loop where it gets people outside and of course they get a little vitamin D and they get their heart rate up and so that they feel better related to that. They’re able to use, integrate their Pokemon Go habit with a little bit of a dopamine hit and so they can give that to themselves as a gift.
Minette Riordan: It’s also community building, right? Like we mentioned, Charlotte, she’s got friends that she made in her community from playing Pokemon Go because they have clusters of people. Getting people engaged in gamification. One of our complaints about our son when he was at home was he would spend all these hours gaming, but the truth was it was his social time. He wasn’t gaming alone. He was in a multiplayer. What are they called?
Brad Dobson: Well, massively multiplayer things.
Minette Riordan: That one, massively, anyway, he was buying online games with a whole bunch of other people, people he knew, people he didn’t know, so we had to let go of some of our discomfort around him playing with strangers and realize what it was that he was getting out of gaming. He has continued even into university to do some of that. He doesn’t do nearly as much as he used to, but there’s still that need in us to win. Right? We love to win and so the more we can set ourselves up to win and that there’s a prize at the end, the more fun we’ll have along the journey and along the way.
Brad Dobson: One, it speaks to building habits as well.
Minette Riordan: Big time.
Brad Dobson: When you learn about habit building, it’s a reward system and that’s how you make a habit stick is to have an effective reward system.
Minette Riordan: One of our favorite books, “The Power of Habit.”
Brad Dobson: “The Power of Habit,” that’s right.
Minette Riordan: We’re going to have a long list of resources on this particular podcast, “Power of Habit,” “Reality is broken.”
Brad Dobson: Getting something like that in place is really critical. We talked about some of the things that people could do in the real world or semi real in terms of Pokemon Go to add those things. What else can they do?
Minette Riordan: First of all, the tracking piece is super important in gamification, right? It’s one of the things that inside of the technology applications happens natively to the environment but when you’re doing it old school analog style or using spreadsheets or Google Sheets or Google Docs or Google Keep or Trello boards, whatever your personal way of tracking is. The thing is, is that you have to track your progress, right? Technology comes in from the tracking progress way really beautifully. Some people do that quite well in an analog old school way, whether that’s bullet journals or life planners or the day designers or the Stephen Covey’s system is a massively pre-done for you tracking system of habit tracking. There’s a lot of ways to do this, but I think what I’d like to do is maybe share a couple of the apps that I found because I thought they were really creative and fun.
Brad Dobson: I know. I started looking at them. I’m like, “Oh, I could do this. This would be too much fun.”
Minette Riordan: I only downloaded one. Here’s the caveat. I am going to tell you what the apps are and because I prepped for this podcast at the last minute instead of our normal couple of weeks in advance, I didn’t go get all the apps and play with them, but I’m going to because they look really cool. The one I did download and take a peek at is called, “Habitica.” It’s one of the most popular and often used. The thing about the apps and some of them do this better than others and so we’re going to name four of them and we’ll put them in the show notes as well. What they do is that they literally allow you to turn what you’re tracking into a quest. Think Hero’s Journey, think Joseph Campbell and Star Wars.
Brad Dobson: Some of them have a kind of dungeons and dragons feel to them.
Minette Riordan: They do like, you get to create an avatar and your avatar gets to go on these journeys and fight epic battles and conquer and have conquest. If that’s something you love, it’s out there already done for you so you get to just insert yourself into something that’s already been created. One that does that really in a super, super fun way is called EpicWin so that epic piece, it’s totally connected to the Hero’s Journey and the concept of the quest. EpicWin is a great one if you like the avatar concept and you want to be a superhero going on an epic journey to master that habit of daily exercise, for example. Would be an example. Another one was LifeRPG. That one, what I liked about it was it was neat, it was organized, it was still colorful, but it didn’t quite have the cartoon feel of a game, which it could be good or bad, depends on your style and how you like things. The last one is the one I think I’m going to buy.
Brad Dobson: What’s that one?
Minette Riordan: It’s called SuperBetter.
Brad Dobson: I saw that one.
Minette Riordan: I just loved the name even like SuperBetter.
Brad Dobson: It wasn’t like a role playing game type of thing.
Minette Riordan: It was not a role playing game, but what all four of these have in common is they use the concept of quests, badges and digital rewards to keep you going. Even MyFitnessPal does that. Do you get badges in MyFitnessPal?
Brad Dobson: Well if I use it consistently.
Minette Riordan: They all nudge you when you stop making progress, right. You get the notifications if you have them turned on that popped up. You also get the rewards, “Hey, you tracked every day for the last five days, don’t give up, keep going.” It’s the reminders. Right. The challenge with doing it old school analog is you don’t have the built in reminders and you have to build in reminders and you can use timers or alarms on your phone or alarms in your Google calendar that pop up that remind you to track, but you got to actually do a little extra work to really gamify old school analog systems. I’m a big fan of finding the one, one, not all of them. It’s pretty tempting to go get all of them and play with them but to find the one app that works for you and you might have to test a couple until you get there.
Brad Dobson: See, I’m surprised by that. I thought you would have been the person that went the creative art crowd and totally did the gold star and you get to do this really pretty entry in your journal or whatever it is.
Minette Riordan: No, I think I’ve really in the last year made that shift to all of my plannings happening digitally. I’m doing so much more and my phone is always with me. I’m tracking my meditation on the phone, right? For me, I’m already using the phone in that way and so if I can add the habit tracker to that, MyFitnessPal is on there. What was the running one that we liked so much?
Brad Dobson: Runkeeper.
Minette Riordan: Runkeeper does a great job of tracking and reminding, “Hey, you’ve worked out three days in a row, keep it going.” For me, I’m used to doing it that way at this point. What I found for bullet journaling was that I get too lost in the play. For me it’s finding the balance between the right amount of playfulness and productivity.
Brad Dobson: That’s interesting.
Minette Riordan: It’s easy to over gamify things and then not actually get work done.
Brad Dobson: Well that speaks to an important side note is that people like Apple and Google and the people that are making your smartphone-
Minette Riordan: They’re studying psychology.
Brad Dobson: Yeah. They have a lot of PhDs working on ways that engage once again your limbic brain subconsciously to make you interact with the phone more. Certainly Facebook does. Things like likes are gamification, that’s why you find yourself going back there because it feels nice to get a like or a heart or whatever, a smiley face.
Minette Riordan: Gosh, on Instagram, man, those hearts and those likes are total dopamine hits.
Brad Dobson: Right. It turns into some sort of little validation and then that gets worse and worse and worse and all of a sudden you’re spending all your time doing that. I guess there’s a bad side to some of this gamification. You need to make it work for you. Certainly if you’re engaging with social media all the time because of that gamification, that’s not a healthy thing. That’s something to think about and be aware of as well.
Minette Riordan: Just figuring out your style. For me, I like speed. I really like planning but I want it to be fast. What bugged me about bullet journaling was how long it took to prepare to bullet journal. Like how many I had to sit down and create the pages. If I was just using the kind of rolling to-do list model, I was doing that already anyway. I love looking at people’s bullet journals more than I love using them, so I have tons of Pinterest boards and follow people on Instagram and YouTube because I love seeing how creative people are, but it didn’t work for me.
Brad Dobson: I think I can give also an example of something that worked for me sort of for a while. I have another app which is quite good called Way of Life, which is a habit tracking app. It’s just a checklist you can put in all sorts of different habits that you want to do and you check them off during the day. I stuck with that for a while, but I don’t think that it was perhaps gamified enough because just the act of checking them off I had to do a little bit of mental work to make it feel like that felt good. It wasn’t like I just got this immediate happy feedback from it.
Minette Riordan: It wasn’t gamified enough?
Brad Dobson: Yeah. I think it just speaks to everybody needs to have something that works for them and you’re going to have to experiment with it and gamify.
Minette Riordan: Yeah, I think the point of our conversation is why you should consider gamification. We’re not here to tell you exactly how to gamify. We’d given you some suggestions of how to do that old school. We shared a few apps like Habitica or SuperBetter that are already created for you. What we’re here, just to invite you to consider playfully today is, can gamification improve productivity? I even thought about one of our popular episodes was the one we did on Focus Box, on your Focus Box you can even reward yourself at the end of a Focus Block. Maybe like me, you’re a IG junkie and it’d be a great hashtag, IG junkie. It’s probably already out there. It’s a reward. I do 90 minutes of work, my timer goes off, it’s the end of a work block of a deep work focus block and I get to go surf Instagram for five minutes and get up and go for a walk outside, or we like to go walk a couple of blocks to the 7/11 and get a diet Coke.
Minette Riordan: We don’t keep them in the house. We drink too many. Right? We walk, we talk, we get exercise, we get fresh air and the reward at the end is the diet Coke. There’s fun ways to bring gamification into your daily life to make it all work better and seem more playful and fun, especially on some of those burdensome onerous tasks that creative struggle with getting done when it comes to building profitable businesses.
Brad Dobson: Yeah, and you can turn those into good habits, which is a great thing.
Minette Riordan: Yeah, which is why I loved, loved, loved this quote from Daniel Debo and I did go look him up to see who he was. He actually is now a venture capital guy. He created a company that got bought by Salesforce, was the senior vice president at Salesforce for a while and has gone on to do a ton of stuff in the startup industry. He has some pretty cool work and research out in the world, so fun to know about him but it’s play that helps us do serious things better. Where can you bring more play into your day so that you can be more productive?
Brad Dobson: Good stuff. If you want to hear more about this type of stuff and discuss it, feel free to join us on Facebook, the inner productivity for creative business owners group. It’s a fun group.
Minette Riordan: Yup, it’s totally a fun group. It’s a great community. We’re in their sharing all kinds of stuff and helping to hold people accountable. Right? We could probably even gamify the Facebook group a little more. It’s all about building community, having conversations around how to be more productive as a creative so that you’re not completely overwhelmed by all of those brilliant, bright, shiny ideas that you’re having every day.
Brad Dobson: Coming up in episode 124, we are going to be talking generosity. Yeah, definitely, lots of generosity, profit and productivity with Ellen Rogin. It’s a great show and we can’t wait to share it with you.
Minette Riordan: Yeah, so we’ve already recorded that conversation and it was really good.
Brad Dobson: Yup, fun stuff.
Minette Riordan: She’s an abundance activists. Can’t wait for you guys to meet her. We’ll see you on the next show. Bye-bye.
Brad Dobson: Thanks for listening to Structure & Flow, the productivity podcast for creative entrepreneurs. To find out more about this episode and others, go to pathtoprofitacademy.com and click on the podcast link.