Real Life Strategy Guide: Manage Your Time
I’ve been fairly effusive about the game Hay Day. (You probably haven’t noticed. I’ve only mentioned it about 14 times in the last 6 weeks.) The reason is that it’s a bit like running a business without any of the risk. I get to feel like the most successful farmer of all time without needing to invest any real money. It’s a game of strategy: what should I buy and what should I make in order to make the most money? I am really fucking good at it.
If only “virtual farmer” was a coveted resume skill.
So I cracked up reading Oliver Emberton’s tongue-in-cheek strategy guide to real life, treating our daily existence like a virtual game a la Hay Day. Except that buried underneath the humour is a really important idea that catapults people in both virtual games and actual life goals, and that is the point that success is deeply tied to an ability to manage your time wisely. That time — not money, not popsicles (which sell for $352 for only 3 hours of work!), not talent or skill or education or who you know — is the most important resource to manage.
You might not realise, but real life is a game of strategy. There are some fun mini-games – like dancing, driving, running, and sex – but the key to winning is simply managing your resources.
Most importantly, successful players put their time into the right things. Later in the game money comes into play, but your top priority should always be mastering where your time goes.
It rings true that the ability to level up is using your time well. That you level up in life faster not by forcing yourself into productivity, but in also leaving yourself time to dream and relax and have fun. That using your time well doesn’t mean not wasting one minute. It means finding that balance between work and play. Between depleting and recharging. Between the yeses and noes.
In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell outlines his 10,000 rule, which is that in order to be successful, you need to dedicate 10,000 hours of what amounts to practice time to hit the top of your game. He’s talking about lasting success. Sure, there are flukes, where someone has been doing something for 30 hours and suddenly finds themselves with heaps of attention. But the problem is that sort of success is not lasting success, and it can’t be recreated or sustained. It’s the difference between having a viral post and having constant blog traffic. I’m sure most of us would opt for the latter since it’s sustainable. But according to Gladwell, the only way you get there is to plod along, hour after hour.
And the way you log those 10,000 hours is to say no. A lot.
I am not the best no-sayer in the world. I tend to say yes and kick myself a lot. It is really hard to say no, mostly because I know how it feels to be on the receiving end of a no (or even worse, a lack of answer) and it feels like crap. So I don’t want to make anyone else feel like crap. But the problem with saying yes is that I’m dedicating myself towards someone else’s goals and not my own. And that’s fine on a small basis, it’s necessary if we want to live in communities. But I find myself getting into states where I’m not getting my own work done because I’m too busy doing someone else’s (or something that is beneficial to someone else, but not to me). It’s one thing when it’s for the twins or Josh. It’s another when it’s for a company that is looking for free publicity.
I’ve decided to start looking at life as I do virtual games. Looking at the time I’ve collected, the resources I have, the work that still needs to get done, and my energy levels. And saying yes or no accordingly. Even though I’m really terrible at saying no. I wish they would teach that in school: how to say no and not feel a gnawing sense of guilt that eats up your time anyway.
Are you good at saying no? How do you do it without feeling guilty?