Science, Fiction, Life

Checking In

A month or so ago, I posted about my new plan to leverage my enjoyment of video games to encourage myself to exercise and write more often, and I said that I would check in here to assess how the plan has been working. I’m happy to report that it works pretty well! It does a good job of moderating my gaming habit and encouraging me to do the more productive things that I want to do. I have joined the local YMCA with Erin, so I have more exercise options than before, which is helping to motivate me to exercise. Also, there’s the fact that I can listen to an audiobook while doing cardio, which is good motivation. I have found that I more often do the exercise than the writing, so as of today I have decided to tweak the formula slightly. Before, I would earn 2/3rds credit for fiction writing if I did not exercise that day, and full credit if I also exercised. This basically implies that doing exercise AND writing is the expected level of effort, and realistically I often don’t have time for both. So from today onward, I have changed it so that I now earn full credit for fiction writing without any exercise on the same day. If I do also exercise, then I earn 4/3rds credit for the writing time, plus the 15 minute exercise bonus. So, doing both on the same day earns extra credit because it is above and beyond the expected level of effort.

I have also decided that there needs to be some motivation for consistency. For fiction writing in particular, it is easier to do, and the resulting writing seems to be better, if I build and keep some momentum. So, I have added a reward that works as follows:

Consistency reward = 5 minutes *(# of days with more than 15 minutes of fiction writing in the last 4 days – # of days without fiction writing in the last 4 days)

This should motivate me to do at least 15 minutes every day in order to build up the consistency reward. I may need to tune how generous this reward is, or up the minimum from 15 to 30 minutes but I’ll give it a try and see how it goes.

I have also found that I needed to set some other rules. First, instead of cutting myself off if I run out of minutes during a gaming session, I have been allowing myself to go into gaming debt. So If I have 45 minutes of gaming saved up, I’m allowed to game for longer than 45 minutes that day. The catch is, I am then not allowed to game again until I have a positive balance. So, a couple weeks ago I had a rare evening at home by myself and ended up going into massive gaming debt. I played a game for several hours and it was great. But then the flip side of that was that it took me the better part of two weeks to recover from that.

The other tweak that I made was that I gave myself a couple days off last weekend because we were travelling to a friend’s wedding out east and there was no time to exercise or write. So, I reserve the right to waive the “didn’t do anything” penalty for extenuating circumstances. I was actually not going to cut myself any slack, but Erin convinced me to do so. I will generally try to avoid this, but it’s an option for when things get really crazy. To formalize this rule, I’ve decided to allow two free days per month. These will carry over from month to month if I don’t use them.

So, all in all, the system seems to be working! I’ll see how the tweaks described above work out and may make some more adjustments in another month.


  1. Kevin

    How do you track everything?

    • Ryan

      I’m using a google spreadsheet. I could probably share it if you’re interested in seeing the formulas, etc. in action.

  2. infamousgingerGinger

    Days off for not doing anything by tradition (see The Bible) are one day in every seven. Sunday is a day of rest.

    • Ryan

      I have plenty of days where I don’t do anything, I just get a small penalty for them. The goal here is to build a consistent habit, so I’m avoiding tempting myself with free days too often.

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