I live in Oakland, CA, right across the bay from San Francisco. And I use public transit to get to/from work. You can just imagine the conversations I hear about the latest and greatest apps, gadgets and gizmos of the tech scene in Silicon Valley.

Instead of reading a book this morning, I sat with closed eyes and mapped out the flow of this blog. How could I share the importance of separating big ideas in to chunky, achievable blocks without sounding like a project manager? It’s easy for me, but I see and hear people struggling with this all of the time.

As I sat, I was subjected to a rather loud conversation in the aisle next to me. (Note: I was forced to listen, I wasn’t actually trying to hear the details.) It turns out that it was exactly the information I needed.

The man speaking was a gamer. You know, the type that spends hours in front of a TV or computer monitor shooting things and earning points. He not only plays games, but he builds them.

On the commute he was telling his friend about why a certain game was destined for failure. Essentially, it was one, long ‘game’ with very few ways to earn or use points.  He found the game boring and frustrating, mainly because he had to keep trying even when he saw how futile the task was.

His take on how to fix that game was exactly what I share about projects and dreams we have:

  1. An overarching goal/theme. Rescue the princess. Save the world. Launch your business.
  2. Levels of difficulty. In business these are called milestones or fence posts, and are ways to break up the entire project. How can you break your idea in to smaller ideas?
  3. A specific goal for each level. What is the purpose of that particular level? How does it fit in to the larger picture?
  4. A sense of urgency. In gaming you see a timer. In life you have a calendar, a clock, etc. Put a deadline on it and go for it.
  5. Rewards. The ultimate reward is winning the game, but don’t forget to reward yourself along the way. Gamers get to collect stars, tools, weapons, etc. that help them on their larger journey. What is rewarding to you? Massage, movies and TV shows, vacations, etc.? Pick your reward, know what you have to finish in order to get it, and then tackle it.

There is a difference between process and outcome goals, but I’ll save that for a future post. If you have any questions on this one, let me know. Much to the chagrin of my sisters, I’ve been a process and organization junkie since I was young. Just imagine my sock drawer!