Category Archives: Gameful Project Management

This series will be about Gameful Project Management, which is based on the Self-Gamication approach, bringing anthropology, kaizen, and gamification together.

Join the Review Team for Gameful Project Management

I have some great news. I started releasing books in the series “Gameful Life.” Last week, Gameful Project Management went live as an e-book. The paperback will come out soon.

Thank you all, who expressed their interest in Gameful Project Management and the “Gameful Life” series. Thank you also for your support and exciting discussion on the topic. Note that the links and the picture above will lead you to the book’s page on Amazon. If you would like to see the book’s page on this site and see what other retailers have it on sale, then click here.

Even if the paperback is not out yet, you can already get a copy of the book, either by buying it as an e-book or by joining a Review Team. Taking we are having 2020, I have reserved 20 spaces in the Review Team. Several are already taken, thus please let me know ASAP (per e-mail to vib@optimistwriter.com) if you are interested in being part of it.

The book is short (105 pages); thus, you won’t be able to read much about it in the free sample. Therefore, I add here an excerpt from the introduction, letting you know what it is, what it is not about, who it is for, and what you could learn by reading this book.

What is this book about?

This book is an awareness booster.

That is what all non-fiction — especially those on personal and business development — and also some fiction books, video courses, documentaries, films, inspiring workshops, seminars, and conferences, as well as meet-ups with peers and friends, are. If we allow it, they can all boost our awareness of what else is possible, in addition to what we already know.

And that is what this book is about. I wrote it to raise your awareness of what is possible when you turn project management into Gameful Project Management; in other words, if you approach your projects, including the management of them, as if they were games, and as if you were both the designer and the player of these games.

What is this book not about?

And here is what Gameful Project Management is not about.

It is not an academic book.

Nor is it an exhaustive resource on the topic of Self-Gamification, which serves as the basis for Gameful Project Management. For an in-depth discourse on the Self-Gamification approach, go to Self-Gamification Happiness Formula.

This book is not about you buying new software or hiring new personnel.

We won’t be looking for the reasons you don’t feel as in control as you’d like over your projects, project management, or life.

This book is not about being too serious or demanding of yourself or your team. There is a word in project management that is often used: “accountable.” I feel it is sometimes used to add drama and exaggerate the need for precise recording of progress on a project, which is not always possible. And as a result, we put too much weight on the person who is expected to be accountable.

But excellence is not perfection. According to Elizabeth Gilbert, perfection is fear in disguise. Excellence is inherent to the gamers who enjoy the games they play. But there is no drama (or only jokingly expressed upsets) when they play games, while we seem to insist on loading our projects with drama and seriousness. So instead of putting too much weight and drama on project management activities, by claiming that they are vital and critical (which they might be in some situations, and not in others), you will learn how to address them lightly and gamefully, and at the same time with excellence and perseverance. After all, those who have fun with what they do, are successful at what they do.

Project management is about saying both “yes” and “no.” But we won’t be assigning things as either “good” or “bad.” I learned that if I keep things around for a while, then I want to do them, despite giving them all kinds of labels. The gameful approach that I address in this book will help you to put that labeling urge aside, and to view what you do as games instead.

The Gameful Project Management book is not about overthrowing the practices developed by the masters of project management. I was amazed to discover that project management knowledge has been collected worldwide for over 250 years. No, this book is not about replacing all this knowledge with a new approach, or distilling it in any way. It is about supplementing the essential project management toolkit.

Who is this book for?

This book is for everyone interested in making project management not only productive and effortless, but also fun.

What will you learn in this book?

You will learn about the synergy of anthropology (= awareness), kaizen (= small steps) and gamification (= bringing fun game elements into what we do). These three approaches are brought together by Self-Gamification, and when it comes to project management, by Gameful Project Management.

Here is why.

Without being aware of and appreciating what you have already achieved or what you have at your disposal, you won’t be able to grow. You need to know your “soil,” the “grains” and the “weather/landscape” conditions at this moment (not some future point), to identify the best next step to achieve the result you would like.

Without being willing to take a small step at a time, and to make only a little or no investment for each of these small steps, you won’t be able to grow continually. Instead, you will experience bumps.

Without adding a fun factor to what you do, without enjoying what you do, you will struggle to produce something that others will enjoy too.
By introducing these three skill sets, the book will equip you with simple tools to address any challenges you experience with your projects, and the management of them.

You will learn how to improve performance in your project management without considerable investments in expensive technology or new personnel.

You will find out how to achieve these improvements using what you already have at your disposal, and with minimal additional effort.
You might also experience what I did, when time and money were saved in a project — that the company I worked for as a sub-contractor received referrals, not only from their customer, but also from their customer’s client. The most fantastic thing about this achievement is that the only parameter changed was the gameful approach described in this book.

You will also discover that saving time and money comes as a natural result, as does the acquisition of new customers. These are the by-products of embracing the essence of Self-Gamification and Gameful Project Management.

For you, as the project manager, this essence is to approach each project and project management with awareness, in small steps, and gamefully.

Contact vib@optimistwriter.com to join the review team for Gameful Project Management.

What Projects to Turn into Games?

Reading time: 7 minutes.

You can turn any project and any activity into a game — both at work and at home.

There is also another aspect of what we can or maybe should gamify (turn into games). I discovered that most satisfaction comes when I turn those tasks into games that appear tricky and tough. A task seems tough and overwhelming when I resist it. Turning those tough tasks into enjoyable and fun activities helps me melt my procrastination and increase my desire to “play” them. That is the actual fun of Self-Gamification.

Let’s look into this a little more.

Many of us have learned at various points in our lives to classify our projects and tasks into urgent and non-urgent, important and unimportant. I learned and tried to apply this system multiple times too.

While turning my life into games, and by observing myself and the world around me non-judgmentally, I discovered that there are only two types of projects and tasks depending on how I treat them.
I either:

  • escape from them, or
  • escape to them.

That is it. Nothing more.

There is, of course, psychological research about how and why we behave in various situations. Human behavior is so complex that there are numerous scientific disciplines studying and trying to explain it.

Thus, it is even more amazing to realize that independent of the causes for our actions, we treat whatever we want or have to do in only two ways:

  • We either avoid them (in other words, we don’t do them), or
  • Do them while escaping from other things.
Escape-from tasks

What are the tasks and projects from which we tend to escape — those we procrastinate about before attending to, or avoid forever? What are these?

When I considered what these were for me, I realized that there were again two types, or sub-types, of projects and tasks, independent of whether they had to do with work, my family and friends, or myself.
My thought processes determined these two sub-types of escape-from tasks, and this is how I thought of them:

  • Sub-type 1: I either felt that I wanted to do them very much, but didn’t have time for them, or
  • Sub-type 2: I thought I didn’t want to do them but had to do them.

Here are some examples of the tasks I wanted to do but thought that I didn’t have time for (sub-type 1):

  • I wanted to spend more time writing my works-in-progress during the day but I couldn’t because I had so many other things to do.
  • I wanted to learn and speak better Danish (since I live in Denmark).

Here are examples of the tasks I needed to do because I had committed to them, but claimed or thought that I didn’t want to do them (sub-type 2):

  • I didn’t like doing bookkeeping for my business, but I had to.
  • I didn’t like working out or doing any kinds of sports, but I had to because it was better for my health.

While practicing Self-Gamification, I discovered something surprising that now sounds logical and revealing to me. The tasks we ”have” to do must also be something we ”want” to do. Otherwise, we wouldn’t keep them around but would give them up entirely after some time. We can become aware of this by recognizing that they are, in fact, parts of the more significant projects or goals we want to achieve. Such as preparing for exams to get the degree we want.

Escape-to tasks

Now, let’s consider the things that we escape to. The things that we choose to do before those discussed in the previous section. Let’s take a look at the projects and tasks we blame for our procrastination of escape-from tasks.

I discovered that here, there are also two sub-types. There are “obvious” and “productive” escape-to tasks.

The obvious are those we describe as, “I deserve a break, so I’ll do that instead of what I planned to do.”

These could be, for example, watching TV or random videos on YouTube, reading a book for leisure, playing an online game, staying in bed, spending time on social media, surfing the internet, etc.

And the second type is productive activities, but not necessarily those that are urgent or necessary to reach our set goals. Instead, these are beneficial but non-urgent, and things we might attend to when we “should” be doing other more pressing activities or those we claim we want to do.

For me, that used to be doing laundry (or in the absence of it, other household chores). If I was finding it a challenge to write an article or a blog post or a book chapter or to compile advertising copy for my books and services, I sometimes followed the impulse to go and check if there were enough dirty clothes to wash or any clean and dry laundry to fold.

Others might choose, for example, gardening before any other things they have to do. Or, if you work in an office, you might find yourself re-structuring the folders on your shelves (or in your computer file system) or some similarly useful but not necessarily urgent activity.

Escape-from and escape-to tasks can switch places

While reading (or listening to) the above, you might have had difficulties to differentiate clearly between escape-from and escape-to activities, when thinking of yours.

That could be because the activities we escape from can become those we escape to and vice versa, depending on our state of mind.

The first time I noticed that for me was when I was putting off laundry and checking the books for my business almost daily, even if there were rarely daily income and expense entries for a one-person business, while I let laundry grow into a considerable mountain.

How can this classification help you?

You might have felt a little uncomfortable looking at what you escape from and escape to and also at the complexity of your thought processes. So why doing it?

First of all, its purpose is to give you a simple approach to study your behavior toward various projects and activities, as well as your thought processes, anthropologically, in other words, non-judgmentally.

This consideration is also meant to make you aware that you procrastinate not only the things you think you don’t want to do but have to, but also those projects about which you think you cherish.

The awareness about what your escape-from and escape-to projects and activities are, in various situations and state of your mind, can help you design your Self-Motivational Games in such a way that you create an enticing challenge. Above that, you can give yourself more rewards for your escape-from projects and activities, and limit your rewards for the escape-activities.

For example, I limited points to a maximum of one per day for doing laundry. If I gained a point for it on a particular day, trying to do more laundry wouldn’t earn me another point. That motivated me to come back to writing and other activities I feared and procrastinated about so that I could make more points there. Giving myself a point for each tiny bit of a task I procrastinated about, for example, for writing a paragraph for my book or working a few minutes on another escape-from project made those tasks more attractive and effortless to accomplish.

If an escape-to task switched places with an escape-from task, then I adjusted my Self-Motivational Game correspondingly. For example, I had the following game-design twist for the example above, when laundry and book-keeping for my company switched places. I have reserved a spot on my calendar for each Friday to check my business and private accounts and update my business books and personal expenses. Until Friday came, I wouldn’t get any checkmark (or point) for doing this task. Now I was free to do the other tasks I had on my to-do list like laundry, for example, which had become an escape-from task.

Your gameful epiphanies for today:

Before you go on with your day, contemplate what epiphanies you had while reading this piece. Jot them down and revisit later as you had more time to digest what was said here. You are also welcome to share them with me on my social media or by writing me an e-mail (see Contact).

If you want to learn more:

Sign up to Optimist Writer’s Blog to follow the Gameful Project Management series.

Check out my coaching and consulting services to work directly with me.

Take a look into my book Self-Gamification Happiness Formula.

Go to this link for the list of all the resources I offer on Self-Gamification.

Why Turning Project Management Into Games?

Reading time: 7 minutes

Let’s look at the reasons why it makes sense to turn project management, among everything else, into fun games.

The order below feels right to me right now (note: it’s not hierarchical), but you are free to read these reasons in the order that feels most appropriate for you. Each paragraph is a reason for itself. I numbered these reasons for your convenience.

Please note that this list is not exhaustive. Use the space at the end of the chapter to add your possible reasons why Gameful Project Management makes sense.

  1. Projects are building blocks of our lives. Most of our days have to do with projects, either work or on a personal level. So if we want to make our lives more joyful, then approaching the building blocks of our lives needs to be joyful too.
  2. Drama falls away in games. If we look at what we want or have to do as a game, then the stakes are not that high, are they? It’s just a game, isn’t it?
  3. We are less reluctant to start playing a game than say yes to a real-life project.
  4. We are less critical to ourselves in games. In games, we don’t dwell on bumping a car into a wall if we want to continue playing that game. Instead, we notice what happened, rear back, turn the car around if necessary, and carry on. We can do the same in our real-life “games” (including projects and project management activities).
  5. We are less afraid to fail in games. In fact, failures in games often are not considered as failures but steps to the win. That is true, especially for game design. All the discarded game designs are rarely regarded as failures. They are scarcely analyzed for why they “failed” at all. They are just the natural steps to that successful game design.
  6. When you see and treat whatever you are up to as a game, then you can better deal with fear and anxiety. Self-Gamification and its three components can help you to address and bypass fear and anxiety, which are as present in project management as they are in any other activity, in which we want to succeed. The more we want to succeed, the bigger the fear, both failing and succeeding, as well as what people might say in either of these two scenarios. But if what we do is just a game, then the fear diminishes considerably, and we are more willing to try again or try something new.
  7. And in games, you don’t stay upset for too long. If you do, then you stop playing the game. To continue playing, you need to put your upset aside and focus your attention on the next move in the game. Or to another game. Imagine how much easier real-life projects can become if you proceed with them in the same way. In real-life projects, you can do the same: acknowledge the upset and move on.
  8. When you don’t spend so much time on upsets and complaints as you did previously, then you save an enormous amount of time. I observed this consistently in many projects, which I turned into games. What happens then is that the projects or tasks are completed with much less effort than anticipated and often before the deadline (or at least on time). So you save also money in the process. And because of the great atmosphere in the project, and better results than expected, you might even get referrals, not only from your customer but also from your customer’s customers — all as the result of awareness, small steps, and gamefulness.
  9. When we see and treat our projects like games, which we both design and play, then we can stop seeing the challenges the project poses as hardship, but instead something to be addressed with curiosity and creativity.
  10. You might even become curious about something you resented before. You might observe yourself to be eager to start your work on that project now, just like you couldn’t wait to try out a new (or old but newly rediscovered) toy or a game when you were younger.
  11. It seems to us to be much easier to be present and give our best so in games. We don’t try to get done with the game if we enjoy it. And if we don’t have fun playing it, we either leave it for another game (or something else) or modify the design so that we enjoy it.
  12. As a game designer, you feel in control; you can be that in project management too. Because as a game designer of your projects and project management games, you can adjust one or both of the following: the way you approach them and the way you record the progress.
  13. Game designers are utterly resourceful. And you can be that too, in an instant, if you become aware that you are both the designer (or co-designer) and player (co-player) of your project games. If you consider anything you do as a game, of which you are the designer and the player, then you immediately become resourceful on how to adjust the flow of your work so that it becomes fun for you and all involved. With gameful practice, resourcefulness becomes effortless and extremely fun.
  14. Empathy is more natural in games, and we judge our partners in games less than partners and customers in projects.
  15. Turning your life into games allows you to treat yourself as your best (customer) player and at the same time, your favorite game designer, to whom you gladly give your feedback to make your favorite games even better. And when you treat yourself like that, you also treat others with kindness more consistently. The result of that might astound you, but it will not be surprising because people tend to mirror our behavior toward them.
  16. In games, we don’t resent recording or documenting our progress; in fact, we love it because, with each move of our figurine on a leaderboard, we get closer to winning the game. If you despise writing reports or creating and updating checklists, project (or business) plans, road-maps, and others, then seeing them as your project game feedback system can help. And then modifying these in a fun and creative way will help you put your resentment aside with almost no effort.
  17. Gameful Project Management enables low-budget, effortless, enlightening, and fun optimization of all facets of your project management. You might frown at this sentence, but this is precisely how the management of your projects and your time can become when you turn them into exciting games and treat yourself as if you were both the designer and the player of your project management games.
  18. Turning project management into games will not require you to buy a new software system or hire new personnel. Instead, you can concentrate on how you can improve your project management activities with what you already have at your disposal and with little additional effort. With a self-gamified attitude toward project management, you will become aware of what you need for your work (and even life in general) and make conscious decisions on what to do next. You will also acquire skills of gameful resourcefulness and motivation in any of the situations, including tight deadlines when increased motivation is hard to achieve but often needed.
  19. Games and game design are an endless well for creative solutions for project management. “The design and production of games involves aspects of cognitive psychology, computer science, environmental design, and storytelling, just to name a few. To really understand what games are, you need to see them from all these points of view.” — Will Wright in the foreword to Theory of Fun for Game Design by Raph Koster. So why not tapping into such a multidimensional and fun discipline for inspiration?
  20. Since games are fun and contain elements that contribute to our happiness, why not approaching all our projects and activities in such a way that they become fun, engaging, and entertaining for us in the same way the games do? If we use fun as the goal, compass, and measuring tool in our projects along with awareness and progressing in small steps, then quality, excellence, success, improvement, productivity, efficiency, and all the other criteria of a successful project and business will come naturally as by-products.
  21. Any project is already a game; we just might not always see them that way.
If you want to learn more:

Sign up to Optimist Writer’s Blog to follow the Gameful Project Management series.

Check out my coaching and consulting services to work directly with me.

Take a look into my book Self-Gamification Happiness Formula.

Go to this link for the list of all the resources I offer on Self-Gamification.

Self-Gamification News by Optimist Writer

I have some exciting news to share.

First of all, the Self-Gamification Happiness Formula, which I published in June of this year in e-book and paperback formats, is now also available as an audiobook.

The other news is that I finished writing the Gameful Project Management manuscript and sent it to my editor. In the coming few weeks, I will post some of the chapters, which I haven’t published as blog posts yet.

To celebrate both great news and because of the holiday season, I reduced the price for the e-books on Self-Gamification as follows:

The prices will go back to normal after the holiday season, so please make sure you let your friends and colleagues know so that they can profit from these books too.

 

Voluntary Participation in Gameful Project Management

Reading time: 6 minutes

“Finally, voluntary participation requires that everyone who is playing the game knowingly and willingly accepts the goal, the rules, and the feedback. Knowingness establishes common ground for multiple people to play together. And the freedom to enter or leave a game at will ensures that intentionally stressful and challenging work is experienced as safe and pleasurable activity.” — Jane McGonigal, Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World

Voluntary participation is the most important ingredient in the success of any project and any game. Successful exit from a game that is not rewarding or a project that goes in the “wrong direction” can be meaningful too. (See also the quote on the fun by Ariel and Shya Kane in “Fun is Not a Bonus; It’s a Must for Success.”) Also, when you might decide to return to it later. All are the parts of your path unfolding in front of you toward known or yet unknown goals. That is why I have put the definition of this game component at the beginning of this post and not at the end s for the other three elements of games (and projects). See also “Approaching the Goals Anthropologically,” “Embracing the Rules,” and “At Least Four.”

As you see in the definition above, voluntary participation is closely connected to goals, rules, and the way the feedback system is designed. So, if you see these three components as part of your game and do everything as a designer and player to keep them fun and efficient, then voluntary participation in your projects will become effortless.

In self-gamification, voluntary participation is (at least) three-fold. It includes the will:

  • to see your projects as games,
  • to design and never stop developing these games (that includes the will to learn from other game and gamification designers; also those who practice self-gamification and approach among other project management gamefully), and
  • to play, in other words, actively engage in your self-motivational, that is, your project and project management games.

These three components of voluntary participation are essential for you to keep turning your projects (and life) into games if you wish to do so.
But there is also another, fourth dimension to voluntary participation in Self-Gamification and Gameful Project Management. I mentioned it above. “The freedom to enter and leave the game at will” is present in real-life projects too. It might not be as straightforward as it is in games, but each contract contains a clause of when a project is canceled.

Apart from that, you don’t have to close a project altogether to be able to “leave” it for some time. All of us have many projects we take care of. We go from one to another and later back to the first one. It is not very different from playing one game, leaving it for another (or something other than a game), and later coming back.

Moreover, if you stop recording points in your project’s feedback system (especially the additional one for fun, with points, badges, stars, or gems), then that is not a problem at all because it doesn’t mean a loss of something, or that your projects (or life) will take a turn for the worse.

After turning my writing into a game for the first time, I forgot about it but still felt its positive effects. I suspect that I turned bits of my writing process into a game without recording the points. After all, I did have a feedback system in the form of word count, and chapters reviewed and edited.

Equally for you, if you stop recording points, it doesn’t have to mean you will lose the fun you experienced in the projects. Even today, in some of my trickier projects, I use a simple feedback system (usually a scrap of paper) to get my work flowing, and as soon as it does, I stop recording the points and just enjoy the work on the project.

So don’t judge yourself if you notice that you aren’t following the plans for your games to the letter. You still have all four components of voluntary participation if you actively engage in what you are doing and have fun.

But if you notice yourself resisting and being “thrown out” of your game, then you can use the self-gamification tools in your always-available toolset to address the fear, resentment, anger, or anything else that hinders you in your project games, boldly, honestly, and kindly.

There is a clear benefit to turning our lives into games, which is also the reason I keep playing. The resisting thoughts and urge to procrastinate (including things we think we really want to do) will never stop appearing and becoming more sophisticated. That is probably why project management exists as an ever-evolving discipline.

These resisting thoughts might occur more rarely as we discover the fun in whatever we do, but there will always be a moment when our creative minds come up with some fretting ideas. In this case, Self-Gamification, and thus also Gameful Project Management, can help you turn the projects you fret about into Self-Motivational Games, in other words, real-life projects or activities that you love to engage in, both the design and the playing of.

When I got the feedback from friends who applied Self-Gamification, I realized something. Not only do Self-Motivational Games require voluntary participation for them to exist both in design and play, but playing them facilitates voluntary participation in our lives’ projects. It’s an utterly rewarding chicken or the egg causality dilemma, which helps us to experience the work on our projects as a “safe and pleasurable activity.” (See the quote by Jane McGonigal at the beginning of this post above.)

Here is where the synergy of anthropology, kaizen, and gamification embraced by Self-Gamification and Gameful Project Management (see “The Synergy of Three”) comes full circle.

So for your project management games to be successful, you must be willing to see what you do as games, design them, their rules, test the games, play them, follow the rules you have outlined, and through it all, be willing to have fun.

Please note, I don’t mean that you should expect to have fun. It is easy to take suggestions from others and test out whether they are fun for us, with the intention of proving it one way or the other. But what makes a game or any activity enjoyable is first and foremost, the willingness to have fun.

That is the fifth and the most important feature of the voluntary participation in Self-Gamification and Gameful Project management. The will to have fun.

P.S. If you haven’t yet, I recommend that you also read “Fun is Not a Bonus; It’s a Must for Success.”

If you want to learn more:

Sign up to Optimist Writer’s Blog to follow the Gameful Project Management series.

Check out my coaching and consulting services to work directly with me.

Take a look into my book Self-Gamification Happiness Formula.

Go to this link for the list of all the resources I offer on Self-Gamification.