Pac-Man & Productivity: Writing Your ‘I Feel on Top of Things’ List


Apr 24 2018

Gold Tape

Pac-Man & Productivity: Writing Your 'I Feel on Top of Things' List

How often do you feel rushed, overwhelmed, and behind?

And the better question: what makes those feelings melt away?

When I feel rushed, overwhelmed, and behind, I take a moment to slow down, take a full breath, and reflect. I ask myself, “What will make me feel on top of things?”

Productivity is like Pac-Man.

That manic feeling, of having so much to do and being under so much pressure to get it done, is like – hear me out – Pac-Man. So many dots to eat, so little time. Not to mention all those ghosts on your back chasing you away from the most logical route! 

Pac-Man, like life, is deceptively framed on the short term, when really it goes on and on. “All I have to do is clear this board. Then I’ll be done!” Aha, until another board appears. And it usually looks exactly the same as the one before. Hey, didn’t I just do this?

Are you chasing the cherries?

In PacMan, the dots are worth 10 points. The power pellets are worth 50 points and they turn the ghosts blue. And the cherry* is worth 100 points.

So here’s the question. As you go about your day, tackling your to-do list, are you chasing the dots or the cherries? 

Yes, you need to tend to the dots eventually, but do the dots give you that satisfying DING! of achievement that cherries do?

Sometimes you have to go a bit out of your way to pick up a cherry, but the reward is plentiful. The sense of fulfilment boosts you with the momentum needed to circle back to go after those essential dots. 

*The Pac-Man purist in me wants to be clear that while the cherries are most iconic to the PacMan aesthetic, they are actually the lowest point value of all the treats that subsequently appear on the board. Maybe one day I’ll extend the metaphor.

Notice the cherries: What tasks carry more momentum?

You may have heard about tasks being “urgent” and “important”. I could easily make a PacMan metaphor out of that concept (Dots are important, Cherries and blue ghosts are urgent, as they will disappear) – but this is slightly different.

Your “cherry” tasks are not necessarily urgent or important, but they carry higher momentum point values. They will make you feel more productive, fuelling you up for what needs to get done. 

Here are the cherries on my list. 

I feel on top of things when…

  • I’ve spent 30 minutes a day cleaning out my email inbox.
  • I start work on time.
  • I put on the laundry.
  • I arrive early.
  • I make time to read for fun.
  • I post on Instagram regularly.
  • I change the towels every week.
  • My nails are painted.
  • I take a moment to tell myself “I am completely on top of things.”

The funny thing is, the items on this list have been true for years. They are the quirks of my sense of accomplishment. Whenever I take the five minutes required to put on the laundry and let the machine do the work, I sigh and go, well that’s better.

Identifying these higher value tasks can help me feel productive. And feeling productive builds the mindset and momentum required to produce good work.

To identify your cherries, ask yourself: “What makes me feel on top of things?”

Let me know what answers come up for you!


P.S. This concept of chasing the cherries is similar to a step in my Spell for Feeling Well. Have you downloaded your free copy?

P.P.S. Hey do you remember that time I dressed up as Ms. Pac-Man for my birthday party?

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