Framework

How To Be More Productive At Work

Dota.jpg

If you’re serious about growing your business then I think you should consider playing more strategy video games. You heard (read) this correct. Whether you’re a Clash of Clans “Clasher”, a multiplayer online battle arena type League of Legends or Dota player, or someone who really likes the speed and variety of Hearthstone; I’m going to argue that all work and no play literally makes Jack a dull business building boy (or girl). In this post, I’m going to challenge you to reallocate the time you spend taking social media and online content consumption breaks during the day to playing more casually strategy type video games.

Really.

Let’s start by acknowledging that most people don’t dedicate every “working” moment of their day to adding to their own (or someone else’s) bottom line. There are lots of studies and frameworks that suggest getting the best productivity out of someone they actually shouldn’t be trying to be productive 100% of the time. There is, in fact, a diminishing marginal return type of effect when it comes to productivity. It’s from these studies that you see frameworks like Pareto, Eating Frogs, Personal Kanban, SMART methods, and the productivity hacking list literally goes on forever.

When it comes to time management and productivity there is no shortage of the ways in which you can organize your day. Regardless of how you organize your day though there is a constant and that constant is some kind of downtime or transitional time. This is where the fun begins.

game-meme.jpg

I want you to get more play time into your day by using your breaks strategically. Before we can do that though I want to cover why breaks are important in the first place.

Why is it important to take breaks?

1. Taking breaks during the workday help stave off boredom and keep us more focused. Keeping boredom at bay and staying focused is important because it directly impacts the return on the time you’re spending and the quality of the outputs regarding your given task.  Alejandro Lleras a psychology professor at the University of Illinois explains, “…Deactivating and reactivating your goals allows you to stay focused. From a practical standpoint, our research suggests that, when faced with long tasks (such as studying before a final exam or doing your taxes), it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself. Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task!”

2. Breaks also help to reevaluate goals. I think it’s safe to assume that we’ve all had experiences where it feels like you’ve been working really hard and are throwing a ton of time into something only to find out you deviated from your original goal or intention by the end. Taking breaks along the way allow you to come back to tasks with a refreshed perspective on the work that you are doing.

3. Some of the best problem solving happens when you’re more relaxed. I mean I can’t be the only one that has his best ideas in the shower or when I’m on a 40-minute drive to and from a client site right?! When we are relaxed our brains can better free connect ideas and concepts because our imagination takes the wheel in our brains associative bits. Focused work actually creates cognitive barriers that can actually impede our natural problem-solving abilities.

4. Breaks also allow for the reduction of stress and the management of morale. When you take a break it allows you the opportunity to escape from the demands of the work at the moment. It allows you the opportunity to take some time for yourself and to engage in some self-care. It’s not uncommon for advice like go outside, get up and stretch, talk to someone, etc. These activities are encouraged because they are proven to drive morale up. When you’re happier at work, you’re more engaged and you feel better about getting through the rest of your to-do list. Not to mention all the quantitative benefits that can be gleaned from happier and healthy workers when you start to factor in things like the marginal product of revenue.

Ok so now that we’ve set the table on productivity and the importance of breaks let’s jump into why playing strategy video games is important.

Casual strategy video games afford the same kinds of benefits as the other, more traditionally,  recommended break time activities. You get all the benefits listed in the 4 points above so I won’t be repeating myself but here’s where the extra benefit comes in.

Video game play has been shown to reduce stress, increase cognitive function, increase resource allocation or management skills, and even help people reframe how they think about time management.

Let’s break each one of those points out briefly:

1. Reducing Stress. Building and growing a business is stressful. Giving yourself permission to stop when you can and schedule in some time for some levity, escapism, and adventure can be good for self-care. Allowing yourself to temporarily step away from deadlines, duties, and responsibilities can improve mood and help facilitate feelings of control which can combat the anxiety that entrepreneurs can experience doing the work to grow your business.

2. Increase cognitive function, resource management and problem-solving. Strategy games have been shown to increase cognitive flexibility. Cognitive flexibility the ability to hold different ideas simultaneously or to be able to switch between concepts rapidly. When you’re building a business you’re often faced with having to make decisions in real time. The more practice you have with juggling different, possibly dissident, ideas the better you’ll be at charting your decision throughline to make better decisions consistently. These types of games also often have players manage resources and solve problems in real time which translate to better real-world planning skills and innovative thinking to move past challenges.

3. Time management. A study (link to study) from psychologists at the Plymouth University actually found that playing Tetris helped to improve self-control. Self-control is one of the biggest points of failure when it comes to trying to hold yourself accountable for your time management systems. In the last five minutes, I’ve checked my phone three times during a time that was supposed to be dedicated to creating this content. Ouchies.Circling back to the list of all the different productivity models will show that breaks are built into all of them. While the timing and durations vary the fact that you need a break to do your best work is a pretty consistent theme. Allowing yourself this structured play time can give your brain a dopamine hit to look forward to instead of incentivizing you to go out and find one during predetermined work periods.

Conclusion

I hope that by the end of this post I’ve challenged you to be a little more honest about how you spend your workday. It’s easy to dismiss the idea that playing games in the middle of the day are a wise use of your workday. It’s easy because there’s a stigma about what work should look like. How can you tell your boss, your client, spouse or to-do list that you’re being productive when someone walks in on you as your immersed in a fantasy-strategy world? Well, that same question can be asked of anyone caught mindlessly scrolling through their phone at work? The rub here is that predetermined work breaks that are designed to keep you engaged in your workday are always going to be better for you over the hundreds of times you’re checking your phone through the day. Especially, if it takes on average about 15 minutes to get back to your work after each break.

Moral of the story, play more games at work to do better work - because science.

You're welcome.

Why Blue Oceans Matter In Your Business

Blue Ocean Strategy is one of the business buzzwordy concepts that’s actually worth knowing about if you’re trying to authentically bring your business into the world. Its a methodology and planning process that was penned and cultivated in a book, Blue Ocean Strategy, by a couple of strategists and professors from INSEAD (international business school) by the names of W.Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne. They combed through mountains of strategic decisions made by firms over the last century and boiled them down into a strategic framework that you can use to help better position your business.

It’s an awesome idea and a great way to visualize how your business is making strategic decisions.

At the heart of it, Blue Ocean Strategy is all about finding the open and untapped waters of your market. You are literally looking for either new markets or under-served markets that you can pivot your business into and hopefully capture.

To quote one of my favorite authors and TED Talk speakers Malcolm Gladwell - you are giving your market some “extra chunky” (Here’s the TED Talk if you’re curious but make sure you come back!)

What this blog post is going to do is break out the major concepts of the Blue Ocean Strategy framework. This is not so much a review of the book but it will hopefully help you getting into a mindset that helps you find ways that you can differentiate and find a competitive space. That new mindset will give you the opportunity to offer a very specific and niche value.

The first big concept in Blue Ocean Strategy is working on Value Innovation. Value Innovation is not an easy thing to pull off as it’s simultaneously finding ways to offer more value while lower costs. One tools that you can use to help find your Value Innovation is something Blue Ocean Strategy calls the Eliminating-Reducing-Raising-Creating Grid. This grid is a tool to help you organize your business so that you can flush out where you can differentiate against other businesses in your industry. You are listing the factors in your business that follow the prompts in the grid and taking a strategic look at what’s happening outside of your business.

After you work on ways that you might be able to find your Value Innovations there is a four principle framework that will help streamline your strategy process. These principles will help you focus the factors you flushed out and really hone in on how you can position your business so that you are serving your own blue ocean.

1. Rethink your market boundaries.

Where can you create an uncontested (low competition) market? It’s not always easy to move away from trying to make your slice of the pie bigger and work on baking an entirely bigger pie. There’s no reason you can’t go out and redefine who your market is.

2. Think of the big picture.

Everything is variable in the long term so you need to think about what your business might look like a few years down the road. It will help in the planning process in the short term if you have an idea of the culture, processes, and value you want to offer in long term. Everyone wants profit so don’t just try to plan for that - this process will blow up in your face.

3. There’s always a little risk in this but you have to start thinking about offering value beyond what your customers think they need.

You are in business to provide a solution to a particular problem or set of problems. To find your blue ocean you have to try to get your finger on the pulse of the next set of needs your customers are going to have. How can you add value to what you are already doing so that your offerings are so full of value that you can’t possibly be substituted out.

4. Get your strategic sequence right.

This is not an overly complex sequence and it’s really powerful. It’s three big questions and if you are unsure or answer “no” to any of them you have to go back and rethink it through. The first is, are you offering the most value as possible, economists would call this utility? After that is the price you are asking aligned with your product or service for your market? Lastly, can you produce it at low enough costs to get to the profit goals you have set up for yourself and the business?

The last part of the Blue Ocean Strategy has to do with how you execute and implement. It relies on and utilizes tipping point point leadership and the development of fair processes. To boil those into the most actionable and digestible nuggets possible you should be thinking about how you can ignite the values and beliefs of your stakeholders and use passion to ultimately spread strategy. You get to leading with passion and conviction through trust. That’s where fair processes come in.

Fair processes happen when your stakeholders, employees, or partners trust that you will make the right decisions in terms of moving the business forward. What are the things that you can do to show the people that rely on you that you deserve their trust and have the compassion and drive to move your strategy forward.

Blue Ocean Strategy is a really robust framework and it would definitely take more than just one blog post to really do it justice. My hopes here were to present you with a different way to think about how you are bringing your strategy to life. How can you infuse a little Value Innovation, tipping point leadership, fair practice, and the four principles above into what you are doing everyday to push your business forward.