This article was originally published on EventMB & reprinted here with permission.
Being a professional event planner is a stressful job. Here are 4 ways to make being an #eventprof less stressful.
Using Gamification to Cope With Stress
Whether you are a veteran or newcomer, burnout is a serious concern in our industry. The common pressures of being #eventprofs have us constantly looking for new ways to reduce and manage stress. One way to reduce stress is gamification. Gamification is the process of applying the exciting elements of games to non-game situations such earning rewards, points, or badges for crossing off tasks on your to do lists and being awesome. As discussed earlier on EventMB, event professionals should care about games because they are not just fun and games any more! Games are now being designed for people of all ages and for a wide range of goals, including increasing memory and attention, event attendee engagement, and even stress relief.
World renowned game designer, author, and researcher, Jane McGonigal, PhD has studied the effects of gamification. Her research indicates that even though games may seem to be a waste of time, they can actually be exercises that help build resiliency in 4 different areas: physical, mental, emotional, and social. This resiliency helps people deal with stress and difficult situations. McGonigal has even created SuperBetter, a customized game full of power-ups, quests, bad guys, and allies that is specifically focused on building and strengthening these 4 areas of resiliency.
Gamification is everywhere! Let’s look at a few more ways that you can use gamification to defeat stress and level-up in your everyday #eventprof life.
1. Checking It Off
Love the list! As #eventprofs, we seem to have endless tasks and to-do lists. Have you ever added something to your to-do list after you actually completed it, just for the satisfaction of being able to check it off? If so, you are already gamifying your world. That instant gratification you feel is one of the reasons people play games. Use gamification to take your task list to the next level.
If you like role playing games (RPG), Habitica may be a great option for you. You can turn your life and all the tasks in it into a customized RPG game. By setting up your own daily tasks and activities in the game, you can boost your productivity by completing your tasks on time. When you complete the tasks on your custom list, you earn coins and gems (or any other reward you choose) to level up your avatar, unlock new features, and go on exciting quests. Just be sure to set realistic goals or you will give yourself even more stress!
If you don’t want the full gamified experience for your checklists, and feel that marking a “done” checkbox is enough of a reward, take a look at Basecamp. It is an excellent tool to organize your task list. Sometimes, the small rewards are the best and being able to visually check off a task gives you a great sense of accomplishment. On those days where it is difficult to focus, gamifying your to-do list could be the difference between a productive or wasted day!
2. Let’s Get Physical
I recently conducted an informal experiment with a large multi-day event I was working on. There were a series of events spread out over an entire college campus. The days were long and the amount of walking was daunting. Instead of dreading what was coming, I invited the staff working during the event to participate in a Fitbit Daily Showdown Challenge. The challenge recorded how many steps each participant took and shared them to a leaderboard. It was open to anyone who had a Fitbit tracker or the app on their phone. The results were amazing! Instead of complaining, people were really competitive and enjoyed the challenge. Some staff jogged in place during normally boring downtimes or skipped a ride in the golf cart to get more steps. Some even volunteered to pick up needed items so they could get extra steps and move up the leaderboard! In the end, we were all a lot less stressed, and were actually able to build stronger connections due to the gamification of our chaotic day!
Whether you are bogged down with work or can’t seem to focus, try getting up and moving around. Even a short walk can help refocus and re-energize you. Exercise stimulates your endorphins, which make you feel happier, which in turn, helps reduce stress. If you can’t seem to get up out of your chair, try rewarding yourself and gamifying your exercise!
Gamify for the greater good! Besides step challenges with friends, you can also double down and help your favorite charity at the same time. There are a few apps like Wooftrax and Walk for a Dog that donate money to your local animal shelters every time you log a walk or run. If you are into a different cause, you can also use an app like CharityMiles to earn donations for your choice of a variety of charities simply by logging your exercise into the app. What a great reason to exercise!
Whether it be competing with friends, taking a walk during the day, or using some simple health and fitness tips, exercising will help you reduce stress and gamification will help keep you motivated and enjoying it!
3. Checking In and Staying Connected
Most #eventprofs typically have full, stressful days, with too many errands to run and too many different places to go. Since you have to do it all regardless, you might as well make it fun and get awesome stickers at the same time! By using Swarm, you can earn nifty badges and coins by “checking in” at all the places you have to go. There are secret badges and surprises that you can also earn by checking in at different locations.
Sometimes these “check-ins” can even lead to spontaneous social interactions with your friends. When passing through an airport or other location, you may see that your friend has checked in at the same spot. It’s a great opportunity to grab a bite to eat and catch up. You can also interact with friends and family by competing for who can visit a place the most times and become the “mayor”, earn the most coins for the most check-ins, or get that special sticker first! At the event I mentioned previously, we also competed for who could become (and remain!) the mayor of buildings on the college campus.
Ultimately, gamification can help you make the most out of your normal, daily tasks.
Are you traveling a lot and find yourself stressed when you are away from your family? Whether due to time zones or just a busy schedule, it is often difficult to stay in touch and connected with friends and family while traveling for conferences or events. My family uses multiplayer games like Scrabble or Words With Friends. Everyone can play when it is convenient for their schedule, and it creates a small connection with loved ones, knowing that they are thinking of you each time they play a word.
4. Quick Breaks to Recharge
If you are feeling overwhelmed with a huge to-do list, make sure to prioritize. Then, dive into the most important task and stay focused on it, without multi-tasking. Instead of just staring at the clock and counting the hours, consider using the Pomodoro Technique®, in which you work in 25 minute increments, followed by a 5 minute break. After 4 cycles you earn a longer break.
Gamify your time management by using apps like ClearFocus or Focus Booster. They are productivity timers that use the Pomodoro Technique and can help make getting things done feel like a game instead of a chore. You can use the recommended time frame or customize it to fit any schedule. It is quite amazing how simply using a small, visual timer can quickly focus you. There are no badges to win with this one, but sometimes I find myself intentionally making the “game” harder by trying beat the clock so things don’t carry over after the break.
Most importantly, don’t forget to take the breaks! If you feel like breaks are a waste of time, consider rethinking the concept of a break. You don’t have to come to a complete stop. You can switch gears for a few minutes and use your break to make yourself stronger and think more creatively. You can boost your energy with exercise, or play quick mental challenge games such as Candy Crush, Dots, DuoLingo, Lumosity, Elevate, Minecraft, or Tetris.
In Conclusion (Extra Life!)
Games are not just for kids any more. Today’s games are created with research in mind and can help you become a stronger and more resilient person. By becoming more resilient, you will be able to react and handle stressful #eventprof (and life) situations better. Try using gamification as one way to help build your mental, emotional, and physical strength, which in turn, makes you a better and calmer #eventprof. Maybe we can then push the job of Event Coordinator off the list of most stressful jobs.