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Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

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43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

Danny O'Brien: Question on geeks and games

Danny & Merlin As you may know, Danny O’Brien and I are rumored to be working on a book for O’Reilly’s Hacks series. As we theoretically toil with this theoretical book, we’ll be lazily turning to you smart people from time to time to save our bacon. This is the first of those occasions.

Thus, Danny asks…

So one of the things that’s cropping up in the research is that geeks hate boredom more than other people: indeed, more than life itself. The whole “rather gnaw your own arm off??? is frightening close to reality here.

Given the choice between a fractionally tedious task that will save hours of effort, and something capitivating and challenging, we’ll bunk off the former.

I don’t know yet whether that’s not something that’s applicable to other people. But I am interested in linking this up with another bit of anecdata, which is that geeks often enjoy thought games and puzzles.

So, here’s my question: when you have a regular, mind-crushingly dull task to do, do you have a little game you play with yourself to make it easier? If so, what is it?

(Merlin reminds me to include the canonical Simpsons reference in this discussion:)

Bart makes a game of it Principal Skinner: Oh, licking envelopes can be fun! All you have to do is make a game of it.

Bart: What kind of game?

Principal Skinner: Well, for example, you could see how many you could lick in an hour, then try to break that record.

Bart: Sounds like a pretty crappy game to me.

Principal Skinner: Yes, well… Get started.

Sharif's picture

On long tedious drives, I...

On long tedious drives, I set the cruise control, pick random cities from the "Random City - x miles" signs and try to calculate, down to the minute, what time I will get to that point. For extra mathematical fun, I set the cruise control to an uneven number.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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