Personal competition gets stuff done

A post on Time Management Ninja entitled Be More Productive by Making Your Life a Game struck a chord with me. While I do not adhere strictly to the premise of the article, I often transform aspects of my life into a game in order to accomplish more or increase my level of engagement.

Three from this past week:

  1. In order to save time, I often challenge myself to complete my shower in 150 seconds or less. I actually count aloud as I shower, and though this may not sound like a lot of time, I’ve found that if I apply myself and not waste a second, I can accomplish this goal with relative ease. The average American shower lasts 8-10 minutes. If I can keep mine under 3 minutes, I gain 5-7 minutes per shower over the average American, and while a shower may be relaxing, I typically have more pressing matters.
  2. Our two month old son likes to be held in our arms as often as possible, which is nice because when my daughter was his age, she wanted nothing to do with me. The downside, of course, is that I have a ten pound baby in my arms and a long list of goals to accomplish. Rather than waiting until my wife is available to take Charlie, I often challenge myself to complete as many chores as possible with him still in my arms. Emptying the dishwasher has proven to be rather simple. Sweeping and mopping the floor is not too hard at all. Folding laundry is exceptionally difficult but not impossible. It would be easy for me to simply wait until I have some help, but by turning these tasks into baby-laden challenges, I manage to accomplish goals while adding a competitive spin to the chore and taking Charlie along for the ride.
  3. I entered the grocery store on Wednesday with 12 items on my shopping list. Therefore I gave myself 12 minutes to locate the items and place them in my cart. Since I had never purchased two of these items before and wasn’t sure where they were located, this proved especially difficult. I was forced to run through the store during the last three minutes of the challenge in order to accomplish my goal, but I succeeded with almost 30 seconds to spare, and I did not get sucked into any additional purchases that I did not need.

I play games like this with myself all the time.

Some might say that a more leisurely shower, a few minutes of idle time with my infant son, or a shopping trip that does not require a stopwatch and a last minute sprint down the aisles are more important to a person’s well being than the few minutes that I saved by challenging myself.

I would say that that those people fail to understand a fundamental reality of life:

These minutes add up surprisingly quickly. Five minutes here and ten minutes over the course of a day, week, month or lifetime can quickly equate to hours of additional time to accomplish goals.

In this life, there are people who accomplish a great many things and those who do not. I suspect that those who take leisurely showers,  allow themselves to browse the grocery store for an hour and lack a general sense of urgency are less likely to accomplish great things.

This does not mean that everything that you do must be done with haste and immediacy. If the shower is the one place in your life where you are able to relax and collect your thoughts, spend as much time in there as you need. If you treasure the moments when you can lie beside your infant and stare into his eyes, by all means do so (I can often be found doing this as well). I am speaking more about a person’s general disposition in life.

You are either a person who moves quickly, maintains a sense of urgency and seeks opportunities to recapture lost minutes in the day, or you are not.

If you are the former, I believe that the chances of achieving your goals are much greater.

On my death bed, I suspect that I will not be wishing that I had spent more time in the grocery store or the shower.