Racing the Clock

While it’s true I sometimes play portable games at work, it’s not like my job consists of nothing but empty hours of me sitting there trying not to drool on myself. Cases where I just kick back and play a game for hours on end are exceedingly rare; more often, I’m playing a game while I’m working, weaving the two tasks together like some kind of magically productive nerd tapestry.

It’s a give-and-take thing. If I play too much game none of my work gets done. But if I do too much work, none of my game gets played. Obviously these are both less-than-ideal outcomes!

I’ve come up with a system that works pretty well for me. My weeknight work consists of performing a set of actions on each of my company’s fifty-ish databases. Each of these actions takes a few seconds to a few minutes to complete, depending on how cooperative the system is being that night. The databases are numbered from 1 to 60.

The earliest the system will allow me to start my database work is 12:01 a.m., so that’s when I start working on Database 1. Once it’s done, I move immediately to Database 2. Once that’s done I check the time. If it’s still 12:01 I’m a minute ahead, and can play my game until 12:02. At 12:02 I’ve “caught up”, and need to start working on Database 3.

As long as the minute hand on the clock is lagging behind whatever database I’ve reached, I can play. This lends itself really well to RPGs, where a player can accomplish a lot ┬áinside of thirty seconds. That’s about how long it takes to run across a map, or input a few combat rounds’ worth of commands.

Some of our databases are larger than others. Databases 1-9 are the biggest, so I’m almost always behind the clock until I reach Database 10. There is no Database 14, so I always gain a full minute there, and from then on the schedule trends towards “work one minute, play for two” for the rest of the hour. A lot of working databases come up empty on many nights, and the higher the numbers get the more missing databases there are, so I typically finish the run by about 12:50, at which point I’ve earned my short break.

The 1:00 hour is spent doing unrelated tasks away from my desk, and the 2:00 hour is my lunch. At the top of the 3:00 hour I start the clock again for my second run through the databases, following the same rules.

I always find myself organizing my life into these strict little rituals. I think it’s because I feel comfortable having rules govern everything I do, even if I’m the only one enforcing them and there’s no penalty for breaking them. I don’t have to think so much, you see. Do I work or play? Well, check the clock. It’s that simple.

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