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.
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.
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.
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.