What Games Do You Create to Succeed in Life and Work?

I wish I could tell you I was perfect at doing all the work on my list. Nope.

Every so often, I procrastinate and delay on some specific task. In the past, I worried because I didn’t finish that work. (The more I worried, the less I did.) I created a reinforcing feedback loop that didn’t serve me at all.

Now, I have an alternative. I gamify the task, so I start—and complete—it. As I gamified more and more of my work, I realized I reacted even better to the game.

My games create reinforcing feedback loops that help me succeed.

Why do games work?

We play games with ourselves and others all the time. Sometimes, those games are finite. An example is a given football or baseball game. One team wins, and the other loses.

Other times, we play infinite games, where the game’s purpose is to continue to play another day. In sports, the idea is not just to win one game but also to win enough games to get to the playoffs. That creates an infinite game (for a season) out of a finite game.

At work, we play infinite games against our competitors. (With any luck, those competitors are not inside our organizations, but other products in the market.)

I like to play infinite games with myself. That is, the more I succeed with the game, the longer I can play the game.

Possible Games

I gamify my walking. Aside from tracking my daily steps, I look for streaks. How many days in a row did I meet my step goal? The longer the streak goes, the more I win at the infinite game. My most recent streak was 75 days, and then I got a stomach bug. No, I did not walk those days!

Steps alone aren’t enough. I practice correct walking. The more I reinforce my good walking, the longer I will be able to walk correctly. That’s another reinforcing feedback loop that leads to an “infinite” game. (No, I don’t expect to live forever. My walking should make my life more enjoyable and sustainable.)

I apply these games to my writing, too. I use a spreadsheet to count my various types of words. The spreadsheet shows me—at a glance—where I have and have not written this week. And because it’s a spreadsheet, I can see my weekly, monthly, and yearly totals by type of writing.

Yes, I freely admit I’m a bit of a geek about creating reinforcing feedback loops that work for me.

Not All Games Work in All Circumstances

In 2021, I wanted to write more fiction. So, I started to use a wall calendar with stickers. Every day I wrote fiction words, I gave myself a sticker. My streak lasted from Jan 1 to the first week of May. I picked up again the second week of May and had trouble maintaining my streak in June.

That’s when I realized my weekly fiction word count was more effective for me than a daily word count.

Interesting, isn’t it? My daily step count means more than my weekly step count. But my weekly word counts matter more than the daily word counts.

Principles I Use for My Games

I tend to use principles that create infinite games. I play the game so I can continue to play the game—a reinforcing feedback loop.

Here’s how I create my games:

  • Identify a loop I want to reinforce.
  • Create some practice around that loop. I’ve offered steps and words here.
  • Use multiple measures so I can assess and then choose what works for me.

This is another form of an experiment, with a hypothesis and measurements. ​

Do you also like to gamify your work? Hit reply and let me know what you do.


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Read More of Create an Adaptable Life

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Till next time,


© 2021 Johanna Rothman

3 thoughts on “What Games Do You Create to Succeed in Life and Work?”

  1. I use EXCEL to track weekly, monthly and yearly totals and build graphs with trend lines for my physical activities.
    Without this tool I can’t exercise regularly.

    1. I also use Excel for my word counts. I’m fine with the Fitbit app. We have a Garmin scale, so I also use the daily/monthly/yearly trend graph for my weight. The trends matter!

  2. Pingback: Where Can You Create Reinforcing (Virtuous) Feedback Loops? - Create An Adaptable Life

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