Gamification doesn't have to mean literally turning something into a game. But you use game principles in your process -- like racing a clock or incentivizing certain goals or actions. I find it makes work not only more fun, but it also helps me get more done in a day.
Here are five ways you might use gamification to increase your productivity and enjoy your freelance writing work more.
1. Set Up a Rewards System
This is probably the most basic way you can attach incentives to your freelance writing business. You simply set up a rewards system by creating a list of goals, a to-do list for the week, or some other kind of plan. If you complete things within your deadline, you get a reward.
For small things like getting through everything on a daily to-do list, you would give yourself a small reward -- maybe your favorite dessert. For larger regular things you might have slightly larger rewards -- like enjoying a night out with friends over the weekend if you complete your week's goals. And you can also set grander rewards for much more significant goals -- like a vacation if you reach a yearly income target.
The idea is to give you something to work for beyond simply finishing the work itself.
2. Implement a Points System
Along those same lines, you can set up a points system. Think of it like a credit card's rewards points program where you accumulate points until you can redeem them for a reward. Again, come up with a list of rewards. This time assign them a point value. Then assign point values to different tasks involved in your freelance writing work.
For example, you might get one point for clearing your email inbox each day, three points for each cold call or query letter, five points for clearing up a client project, 2 points for social media marketing each day, etc.
You accumulate your points on an ongoing basis and redeem them for rewards when you have enough. This could be a better option than tying rewards to regular to-do lists. If the rewards become too common (like that favorite dessert from our last example being "earned" every day of the week), you might lose the incentive.
3. Use a Timer
Another easy way to gamify your freelance writing work is to use a timer. Personally I use the Pomodoro technique. That's where you work for 25 minutes, and then get a five minute break. Each of those cycles is a Pomodoro. After every four Pomodoros you take a longer break of 15 minutes. I use E.ggtimer.com and the Pomodoro Tracker Android app for this.
You can use a similar system with your own time limits and breaks, or you could just set a timer when you're facing writer's block or feeling unmotivated. It's about challenging yourself to do as much as you can in a short period of time, because no matter how "stuck" you feel, you can muster the energy to get through that short spurt of productivity. And if you're lucky, you'll get un-stuck fairly quickly and keep up the pace.
Challenge yourself by doing this for a full work day and see how much more you can get done. I was shocked by how much work I could complete in a mere 25 minutes.
4. Compete With a Colleague
A great way to gamify your freelance writing business is to enlist a colleague. There's nothing more like a game than good old fashioned competition. Just keep it friendly.
For example, you and a local colleague might challenge each other to complete certain similar tasks. Whomever gets the most done, or finishes the list the fastest, buys coffee the next time you meet up. If you're a blogger, you might set a weekly blogging goal with a colleague, and whomever reaches their blog post writing goal for the week gets a guest post from the "loser."
5. Chart Your Personal Progress
If you don't have someone who can serve as an accountability buddy or challenge partner, a visual representation of your progress might serve a similar purpose. A personal example might be to keep a large chart on your wall to track your weight. If you keep it somewhere where you'll see it often, it serves as a regular reminder of what you're working towards and how far you've come (or how much you still need to do).
When it comes to writing you could do something similar with any kind of simple numerical goal -- word counts, blog post goals for a month, etc. As an added bonus, you can still get the accountability factor if you keep your chart where others might see it (whether that's your family or visitors).
Do you use gamification to increase your productivity or enjoy your work more as a freelance writer? If so, how do you do it? Can you think of other ways to do this that aren't mentioned here? I'm always looking for new ways to work more productively and have more fun, so I'd love to hear your ideas. Leave a comment and tell me about them.
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This post was originally featured on February 26, 2013. It was updated with an additional idea added May 12, 2014. The audio version of this post was added on February 12, 2015.