Since I became self employed two years ago, my biggest challenge has been relaxing and taking breaks. I use almost every hour of every day working on some aspect of my business, and when I’m not working, my mind is constantly racing with ideas and to-do lists. I have no separation between work and pleasure, which has been great for business, but not so great on my mental and physical health. Recognizing this, my boyfriend has tried many ways to get me to chill out more often starting with Lumosity, an online site providing short games designed by neuroscientists to exercise parts of your brain, and then a Nintendo Wii U console we got to supplement a screaming deal we got on a 50-inch TV.
At first, I viewed both Lumosity and the Nintendo with HUGE amounts of skepticism. Call me old fashioned, but I’ve never been an advocate of video games. Blame my conservative upbringing or my penny pinching spending habits, but video games on consoles, smartphones, or PCs have never been appealing to me at any age of my life, sans a few middle school sleepovers that involved a few Mario Kart battles. In fact, I’ve never even owned a television in my entire adulthood until this recent behemoth took over our living room. After warming up to both Lumosity and Nintendo, today I view them as essential in my daily decompression rituals, as well as hugely supplemental to boosting my productivity. That’s right, when used properly, games can make you more productive. I actually have some visual proof thanks to the Lumosity Performance Index (LPI) metrics.
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Basically, this chart is showing that based on the scores of the Lumosity games I’ve played from April – November of this year, my overall attention, memory, problem-solving, and flexibility have improved quite a bit, proving that brain training by use of games can indeed be very impactful. How does this translate into my business practices? Here are 3 key takeaways.
1. Practice makes perfect.
Both Lumosity and Nintendo are super entry-level games. In fact, most gamers will probably brush them off as being too simple or soft, but they are perfect for my attention span and level of gaming. That’s not to say that either of them are easy! My first few days with the Nintendo, particularly Donkey Kong and Super Mario 3D World were generally met with me throwing the console aside and storming off in frustration due to my lack of technical skill and foresight. But, as the old adage goes, practice does indeed make perfect and before I knew it, I was flawlessly passing levels in the games and seeing a huge uptick in my progress. Overall, my practice with games has helped me visually see how practice and repetition can pay off in both virtual and business worlds.
Action: No matter what stage you are in in your freelance or self employed journey, there is always room for improvement. Always be on the lookout for new skills you could acquire to strengthen your business offerings, and keep practicing until you’ve perfected your skill!
2. Even small wins are important.
Nintendo video games are incredible in that many times, all it takes it a slight tweak in your technique to determine whether you pass a level or not. There are certain stages in Donkey Kong in particular that I’ve played over and over again, almost flawlessly until the very end when I fall off of a plank or miss jumping into a barrel by mere centimeters. Precision is crucial in many video games, and it is both eye-opening and celebratory when you finally figure out that one move or button push that makes all the difference. These same lessons have been directly applicable to my daily business processes and they’ve made me more attentive to the many small wins that also deserve recognition and celebration.
Action: The reality of most small or independently owned businesses is that large “wins” can be infrequent, but it’s still important to remember that the mere act of operating a small business is a feat in itself. Keep yourself psyched up and remember the milestones of your journey by breaking down small tasks and taking time to properly credit yourself for a job well done.
3. Exercise self control by giving yourself an end point.
One of many reasons why I love Lumosity is the fact that each game lasts no longer than a couple of minutes, and your daily play dose is only about 5 games a day. Many Nintendo games such as Donkey Kong and Super Mario also operate similarly, since you are only appropriated a certain number of lives to complete levels. In both cases, it is much easier to determine when to call it quits and not let games becomes a time suck when there is a pretty clear ending point. I’ve learned to apply the same principles to my work projects, although I’ve had to take the extra steps to determine what my ending points are. Sometimes they’re as simple as breaking up my days into time chunks by using time management software such as Rescue Time, or other times they are based on achieving specific milestones of projects. Either way, setting small daily goals throughout my work day helps me determine when it’s time to take a break and move on.
Action: Similar to point number two, remember to celebrate small wins, and take breaks for ergonomic health reasons as well as refreshing yourself mentally. Sometimes, all that’s needed is a trip to the gym or a quick walk around the block to give yourself a fresh perspective or new idea to incorporate.