Friday, September 03, 2004

Techniques for Turning Work Into Play

by Asim Jalis

More reflections. If I was asked to play tetris for 8 hours a day I might find that boring as well. Part of this seems to be that working for N hours creates a desire for not working. It makes me look forward to 5 PM when I can stop working. Work defines itself by what you cannot do. If I forced myself to play tetris for 1 hour that too would be oppressive. So how can we fix this. I don't know. One way to stay engaged with work is to alternate between work and play. Between work and fun. So it's not like we don't know how to have fun. We have something to work with. We have the baseline, which is to alternate. However, we are trying to find something deeper. We are trying to look for a way to fuse work and play. Here are the ideas I have right now: CALL IT PLAY First, we must not call work work. We must call it play. Just telling yourself that you are playing changes something. I play from 9 to 5. I play in Redmond. I am at play right now. I'll get back to you when I get home. Using "play" instead of "work" feels weird. This might wear off in a few days. But it's fun. Ask your manager: So what do you want me to play with next? Initially he won't understand what you mean. But when he does it will change his attitude as well. ADD AN ELEMENT OF MAKE BELIEVE INTO IT Let's take an example task. I have just been assigned a bug. I have to go into the sources, figure out what to do, make the change, and then do some paperwork (or rather paperplay). For the paperplay I have to resolve the bug in the database, and send out an e-mail report (using a template). This probably sounds pretty boring. But now what if I reframe this task. Agent Smith has just infiltrated the system (the Matrix). My task is to locate Smith, isolate him, and then terminate him. Afterwards I have to file a death certificate and a police report. I must finish Smith by 5 PM because otherwise the Machines will destroy Zion. (You need to see the Matrix Trilogy for this to make sense.) To make this convincing, I just printed out a picture of Agent Smith and I have pasted it to my computer. I can also embellish the details of the bug. Discuss in detail the horrible crimes that Smith is responsible for.