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What The Sims 3 Can Teach You About Productivity

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Habits Die Hard

Read This First

I want everyone to read this section first, then go try an experiment.

Go buy (or borrow from your little brother / sister) a copy of The Sims 3. Install it, and set aside one day and just play it.

But while you’re playing, I want you to take notes about what it is that you do.

For example, do you:

Sims 3: Create a Sim

Spend a lot of time designing your Sim(s), their looks, their personality?

Sims 3: Career

Try to max out your Sims’ career, reaching the top of their career track?

Sims 3: Social Butterfly

Try to make your Sim the man or woman about town and a local celebrity?

Sims 3: Dream house

Spend time designing the house of your dreams?

Sims 3: Utilitarian House

Or live in a bare 4-wall box that is decidedly Spartan and utilitarian (aka efficient)?

So go ahead and indulge yourself for a day. It’ll actually be pretty fun, and is a good mental shift every now and then that lets you recover from the daily grind. When you’re done, come back to this article.

Back to Reality

So… the purpose of having you do that exercise was to realize this: how you do anything, is how you do everything.

In light of that, The Sims 3 (or any game like it) is more than just a day of mindless entertainment. It becomes a fascinating study for our natural behaviors, and how we manage our time and our lives. Because let’s face it – how we play a simulated version of ourselves, is not that far from how we act in our real lives. In fact, we could go so far to say that often how we play ourselves in a video game, is an idealized version of how we are in our real lives.

What we’re talking about here is our habits, whether conscious or unconscious. Habits are essentially patterns that permeate our lives, whether we’re aware of them or not.

Little Did You Know…

When we say that habits are unconscious, this is not to say that they are bad or unchangeable, it is to simply say that they are outside of our conscious awareness and control (most of the time).

A lot of these habits are formed from childhood – usually in our preverbal years. As we grow up, we model behavior from a multitude of sources: parents, siblings, extended family, religion, school and our friends.

A more comical example are favorite sayings you pick up from TV characters or the movies (“I am winning because I have tiger blood!”)

These modeled behaviours combine together to form our unconscious habits – and our self-image.

As we’ve said before, productivity is a habit. This is why understanding your unconscious habits is important – because it stands to reason that if you are productive in one thing, you are likely to be productive in other things too. And because habits tend to be patterns of behavior that are cumulative (in both directions), there is an ongoing chain of creating and destroying productive behaviors that happens in your everyday life.

This goes both ways. If you are productive in one thing, you tend to be productive in other things. If you are lazy at something, you are likely to apply that same habit (pattern) of laziness to other things. Looking around, it is rare to find individuals who excel at one part of their life and don’t at the very least try to keep everything else going as well as they can. There are some very astute business gurus out there who mention that most people simply aren’t cut out to run their own business – because if you think you’re going to work hard when you become your own boss… all while slacking away at your current job… the reality is that it just isn’t going to happen.

What this means, is that how you do what you do during your downtime (and for that matter every moment when you are awake) is just as important as how you act when you are at work.


The concept of how you do anything being how you do everything, applies at both a day-to-day level, and on the scale of weeks, months and years. Day-to-day, how quickly you spur yourself into action in the morning, how you take breaks during the day, how you go about your wind-down at the end of the day, affect how you do those things the next day. At a larger scale, how you went about this week is likely to affect how you go about next week. And next month. And the rest of the year.

My Simulated Life

When I took my day off the play the Sims 3, it went something like this.

The first thing I did, was go online and find a couple of strategy guides.

I then found these awesome things, called trainers, cheat codes and hacks:

Cheats, Hacks and Trainers

You’re probably thinking that that’s not playing by the rules. Well, my question is: whose rules?

When I want something done, I want to have a plan (strategy), and I want to get it done as quickly and effectively as possible. If that means that my Sims can acquire skills 10x faster than normal… so be it. There is no law in society that says that you can’t change how you go about doing something – if you feel that outsourcing a task to someone in the Philippines while you sleep is more effective than doing it yourself, then it probably is.

Next Actions

  1. Go do the Sims 3 Experiment.
  2. Start taking mental notes (or, digital notes on your phone) about how you go about your day.
  3. Look back over a month or so, and see if you can pick out repeating patterns. Change them as necessary.

Photo by: pasukaru76, Elven*NickyCheat Happens

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Posted by Zachary  | February 6, 2014 at 10:01AM | Reply

Read an article recently comparing life to a game. I like the analogy.

Posted by Louis Dias  | March 11, 2013 at 3:30PM | Reply

Great article, and sound advice. I too used to play a lot of sims!
The study of your sims is indeed eye opening. As the quote from Aristotle goes “You are what you continually do” Many people overlook this seemingly obvious point, and fail to take anything away from it.

May I recommend to you author, Rome Total War.
This game does not aid so much in personal habit realization as sims does, however it is a very fine test of your leading and decision making skills. Conducting real time simulated battles & managing nations/empires (successfully/to the best of your ability) utilises and excises many skills that you use in the common everyday world. Multitasking, risk assessment & risk taking, financial management, tactical expertise, organisation, negotiation, split second decision making and of course cunning upon which all higher level warfare is won with. Tricking your opponent.

Author seeing as you are Asian, you may enjoy Shogun total war (Based upon feudal Japanese samurai culture) But I personally prefer Rome, because their army was based upon discipline and organisation; The samurai on the other hand are more bravery and battle prowess orientated, making for more action and entertainment vs self development IMO.

Author, is you haven’t done so, do read Sun Tzu’s Art of War.

Thanks for the article, they are awesome!

Posted by Aaron Lynn  | March 12, 2013 at 2:00AM

Cheers Louis.

I’ve been recommended the Total War series before – never got around to playing them, but they look great!

Posted by Bojan Djordjevic  | May 6, 2011 at 4:10PM | Reply

Oh no! You actually recomended Sims! I used to play the first part. I don’t have the patience to play video games, but it brought back some memories :)

Posted by AE Thanh  | May 7, 2011 at 7:40AM

@011Bojan:disqus We love this game. I can’t count many hours I’ve spent on this game, but it’s good to know that it had some productive use too :)

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