Tetris is a timeless classic.
Millions have indulged an obsession with dropping blocks to form an unbroken line. Even before Angry Birds and Candy Crush, non-gamers and gamers alike knew Tetris. Over 125,000 Million copies of the game have been sold.
Tetris is pretty amazing. It’s applications are near endless.
For example, did you know that Tetris can:
Beyond all that, Tetris even includes an amazing technique through allegamy that you can start using today to improve your focus and productivity.
Introduction: My History with Tetris
If you owned an original Nintendo GameBoy, then chances are you’re very familiar with the game since this is the original pack in for the system. The music for the game is instantly recognizable, and almost impossible to get out of your head. The Gameboy version also included a strangely memorable sound effect when ever you game ended, that sounded a lot like a goat laughing at your misfortune.
I think one of the reasons I was even allowed to have a NES in the house was thanks to Tetris. It was one of the few games that both my parents loved.
My dad was pretty good at the game, but realized that enough is enough. When you start dreaming about blocks falling when you sleep, or see them falling every time you close your eyes, chances are it’s time for little break.
How Your Work and Life is Like Tetris
One thing that most people aren’t aware of however is that Tetris contains a fantastic technique for managing your focus and concentration at work.
Consider the challenge you’re faced with in a game of Tetris: you are literally responsible for making hundreds or thousands of decisions for how to place and position a wide range of different types of blocks, as they are falling, and with increasing speed.
Imagine if you tried playing a split screen 2 player version of the game all by yourself, having to simultaneously turn, and align two blocks at the same time.
That alone would be very difficult but imagine if you were trying to handle a four player game of Tetris with four separate screens, simultaneously working four controllers just to position four blocks – that would be just plain crazy!
But when it comes to taking on projects at work and multitasking in our own lives – this is exactly what we try to do!
And then we wonder why we are not successful or why we encounter so many setbacks.
The Secret to Boosting Focus and Productivity
So here’s the secret that you and I can take away from Tetris and be much more successful, productive, and focused on whatever challenge or project we take on.
Tetris only gives you one block pattern to deal with at a time.
The game only allows you to:
You have a preview window up in the corner of your screen that shows you just the very next block – this tells you what’s next, but nothing more.
Yes, you need to make thousands of choices, but the game only allows you to focus your effort on one block at a time. The world’s leading expert on personal productivity, David Allen, calls this idea “Appropriate Engagement.”
This means that the engagement (focus) you place on the block you are controlling is significantly higher than the focus you place on the preview window.
Clearing Your Inbox Like a Stack of Blocks
Just think about how you handle your work today – an easy example to pick on would be your email inbox.
If you’re like many people I know, you will read an email that requires you to make a decision or take action, but instead, you close that email and move on to reading the next email before you make any decisions.
But consider this: when we start opening up multiple emails, reading the contents, but not acting on it, we end up delaying the inevitable and we feel overwhelmed.
At some point, we become so overwhelmed with so many different things to do, that it even becomes difficult to decide which one to work on first.
A more effective approach is to treat the email like a block in Tetris. Review the email and quickly make a choice about what do to with it – reply, delete, delegate, or save as a reference. If you can complete the task within two minutes, then do so before even opening the next email.
Just like in Tetris, we perform our very best when we are focused on one task at a time, choosing not to worry about the next task until we have completely finished what’s at hand.