I used to play a computer game called The Sims. In this game, you control a character as he or she goes through every day life. You direct the character in everything from making career decisions to when to cook meals and when to go to the bathroom. It was a surprisingly fun and addicting game. In this game, you don’t win or you lose but you try to improve your character’s life and make the character happier.
Directing the character really isn’t the best term. You make suggestions and the character may or may not follow the suggestions. For example, you might suggest that the character study for a test but if the character isn’t in a good mood, the character will balk at your suggestion and refuse to do it. You can then have the character do something enjoyable such as listen to music or play basketball to increase his “fun” points till he is in a good enough mood to study for the test. To progress your character you need to strike a good balance between what the character should do and what the character wants to do.
I find that I am very much like the Sims character. For example, I trade the stock market. In the evening I know I should spend some time looking at market activity, analyzing charts or learning more about trading, but I feel I just don’t have the energy and am not in the mood so I don’t, and my trading suffers and I lose money as a result.
When I started learning Chinese, I was spending some time every evening, doing at least one Rosetta Stone session and often more than one. Then I started feeling guilty. I was thinking if I can summon the energy to study Chinese, I should be able to spend some time on my stock market education. I decided that after one Rosetta Stone segment, I could not do another segment unless I did something, anything, on the stock market first. I found that this worked very well. Soon I expanded it to other areas and came up with the concept of what I call “Rotations”
What I learned about myself is that I like doing things for a short amount of time and then moving on to something else. I ended up with a series of rotations, each representing one area of where I should spend time to lead a productive, fulfilling, happy life. Your rotation areas might be different. These areas are:
Passionate Interest – Find something you always wanted to do or learn about but never got around to. For me it is learning Chinese. For someone else it might be painting or learning guitar.
Financial – Learn how to manage your financial affairs better. I primarily focus on stock market trading. For somebody else it might be looking into mutual funds or tracking a budget.
Fun – Do what ever you want that makes you enjoy at the moment. It might be watching TV, reading, or whatever your little heart desires.
Chores – Something that needs to get done around the house. It could be doing dishes, cleaning a shelf, or paying the bills.
Health – Do something that improves your health. It could be exercising, flossing your teeth, tracking your weight-watcher points, or taking your medication.
Relations – Do something that improves your relationships with somebody else. It could be Facebook messaging a friend, calling your grandmother, or talking to your kids.
News – Improve your knowledge of the world around you. It could be reading a news magazine, browsing a news website, reading a book on economics or politics, or watching a news show.
I try to do rotations as much as possible when my time is under my own control, when I am not at work and when I am not doing something with my wife. The goal is to do something in each, even if it is something very small. For example, for health for one rotation I might run on the treadmill. On another, I will just floss my teeth. I find that by doing rotations, I am much more productive, much happier, more fulfilled, and I feel my life is in balance.
I suggest that you come up with your own set of rotations and try it. See what it does for your life.
ROTATIONS: I like it. I started something like that myself: to accomplish a hated task, I promise myself that I need only get started in a small way. And it also helps to instruct myself in a kindly tone: Take out the trash, take out the trash
I found this doing big tasks in small pieces worked well. For example, I decided I wanted to clean a room. In one rotation, I might just clean one shelf. Over time, I cleaned the whole room.