Friday, October 11, 2013

Life Update: My gamification system, ten months in.

Well, hello there! And sorry that I haven't gotten a chance to update either of my personal blogs in so long (both this one and my main journal over at As those who regularly keep up with my life at Facebook know, 2013 has seen just as many growing pains with my arts organization, the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography, as 2012 saw, and for the last ten months I've been doing nothing but desperately playing catch-up with everything CCLaP is behind on, to the point of literally making myself sick on several occasions. But we've got lots of new people on staff, in three days we'll officially have released every book we're doing this year, I'm finally all moved and settled into my new apartment, and I'm finally getting back on track with everything; so I'm hoping that means I'll be getting a series of updates written and posted soon about all the things that have been happening to me this year. It's a lot, and it's going to take awhile to get it all written out for you, so here's hoping it won't take too terribly long.

In this post -- an October update from the "Gamifying all the crap I hate doing" system I started at the beginning of this year! As regulars remember, this is something I started because of a post I read at at the beginning of this year; it basically recommended assigning points to things one hates doing in one's daily life, much like you might assign to a child for doing their chores, then with a series of rewards you can 'turn in' for a certain amount of points, the main pleasure being not the rewards themselves but the luxury of cashing in such "indulgences" guilt-free.

So for example, since January I've been rewarding myself with one point every time I do something I dislike doing; shaving, for a good example, or biking to the post office, or doing one hour of bookbinding work, or sweeping my apartment, or emptying every trash can in my apartment, or getting something off my to-do list that's over six months old. And then the original plan was to turn in these points directly for little rewards -- so 25 points, for example, which I can typically generate in one week of steady work, gets me a night of beer and pool, or one dinner of takeout food -- but what I discovered was that this "one point = $1" system was not feeling very fair when all was said and done, what with some of my basic rewards only being worth $10 or 15 in the real world, so now I grant myself one "gold star" for every 25 points I accumulate, and with my rewards now based on stars instead of points. So basically any reward I want to turn in whatsoever is now worth at least 1 star, which lets me turn them in for tiny rewards like a night of pool and beer without feeling that I'm underspending myself; but the "1 point = $1" rate still applies for big rewards that require multiple stars, so for example if I want to spend $100 at a used book fair, I have to expend 4 gold stars in my reward system. And if I don't HAVE four extra stars, I don't get to spend $100 at that book fair; and that's what keeps my indulgences equal to the amount of work I'm actually doing, while still feeling that even little rewards are worth it, as opposed to when I was spending the points directly on tiny little rewards.

And how are things progressing at this point? Well, I started this system back in January, and I said at the time that I'd be extremely happy if I reached 1,000 points at the end of one year; and here we are, ten months into the system, and I've now racked up 1,300 points. AND THAT'S GREAT, because that was the entire point of trying something like this, to build up a lot of daily crap work I hate doing; and obviously I'm at a higher point right now than I was even expecting. But yet the entire system really balances itself out, because I'm literally not allowed to spend money on self-indulgent items unless I've built up a certain amount of back work on finishing and promoting the things CCLaP does, and it's this finishing and promoting that leads to the kinds of sales that lead to the kinds of money that leads to the kinds of points that leads to these indulgences in the first place.

And again, just to be clear -- it's not the rewards themselves that I treasure so much (it's just a night of pool, just a used book); it's the opportunity to indulge in these rewards guilt-free that is the main pleasure, which as a self-employed middle-ager is the thing that's truly difficult in my life, not to pamper myself but to feel like I earned that pampering. That's the single best thing about this reward system, besides it being a remarkably self-correcting way to determine just how many nice things I deserve in life; because when you're spending your savings on these indulgent rewards, it's difficult to do so unless you feel like you truly earned them, and this point system is a way to determine that without feeling guilty. It's a way of feeling like this entire system is balancing itself out naturally, so that you're only patting yourself on the back exactly the amount that you deserve to be patted on the back.

So yes, back in January, I said that if I managed to reach 1,000 points in twelve months, which I thought was going to be difficult, I would reward myself with a vacation to the Caribbean (specifically Puerto Rico); and here we are, only ten months in and already 1,300 points ahead. So am I going to be taking that Caribbean vacation? Well, no; because since making that decision, I've also made the decision to move into a new apartment, which was a BIG MAJOR FUCKING CHANGE TO MAKE IN MY LIFE HERE IN CHICAGO, and which by definition cancelled out all the plans I had previously made to have a big self-indulgent vacation in a far-off exotic island. (I had budgeted $3,000 to move into the new place, and to buy all the new furniture I needed to expand from a studio apartment into a one-bedroom; but I ended up spending around $5,000 instead, which was all the extra money I had in the bank, which means I no longer have an extra cent to go down into the Caribbean.) I mean, I'm glad, don't get me wrong; I'm glad to be in the new apartment, and I'm glad to own the $2,000 in new furniture from hipster creative-class places that I now own, the couch and recliner and chairs and tables and loft frame and computer desk and coffeetable and bookshelves that I used to NOT own and that I now DO. But certainly that means I can no longer even begin to afford a trip down to the Caribbean, although I take comfort in the idea that my move to my new place actually took place right around the time I reached 1,000 points.

So what's the plan for rewards now? Well, for the time being, I'm still SUBTRACTING points I'm earning from the thousands and thousands of dollars I spent moving into the new place, because I literally don't have enough money in the bank to indulge myself in even the tiniest amount of self-indulgent rewards; so as of today (October 2013), I'm up to 12 indulgence stars without being able to yet afford to buy something new, so I'm going to keep adding up those stars until I finally CAN afford to buy something new and self-indulgent in my life. And when that happens, I will have considered my "psychic debt" finally paid off for that move into the new place and all the new furniture that move required; and then I'll finally be ready to start adding up those rewards again to new self-indulgent presents. And like I said, this turns out to be a remarkably self-sufficient system; so much so that I HIGHLY recommend all my creative friends trying this in their own lives themselves.

Okay, so enough about this boring subject. 11pm here in Chicago and I think I'm ready for bed; and hopefully soon I'll be getting everyone caught up on everything else going on in my life these days, and I'll finally be ready to move forward with all the things I"m getting done right now. As always, more later!

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