Home :: Productivity Lessons from The Sims

Sam thinks I wasted half of yesterday by playing The Sims, but I was actually researching for this article. Well, if I manage to get an article out of it, I’ll use that as my excuse. Then play again for a while in the name of fact-checking.

The Sims?

It’s a game, from the same series as SimCity, SimEarth, SimTower, SimAnt, and so on. Unfortunately, it’s one that gets dull rather quickly, but I hear the later versions that are out now are much better.

We can learn about productivity from this?

Probably. Let’s have a go anyway. It’s my excuse for a bit more playing.


The biggest challenge in The Sims is fitting in all the things your Sim has to do. There’s no weekends in The Sims, so all the fun, all the socialising, and all the learning have to be done in a short bit of time in the evenings. They usually finish work relatively early, though, so it sort of balances out to be pretty similar to life. The trick to fitting more in is workflow – doing things in the right order, and fitting small jobs into the gaps. If you call a friend and invite them to pop round, you’ll have a few minutes before they arrive. You can fit a couple of jobs into this time – taking the rubbish out, or paying the bills.

As for order, if you need to take the rubbish out, and you need to bring the paper in, you can save time by doing them in that order. Whilst you’re out at the kerb putting the rubbish out, get the mail, and bring it in whilst you’re coming back. The same tricks work in life. In Getting Things Done, David Allen talks about collecting things into context based lists, so you do things that need to be done in once place all together to save time. If something needs to go downstairs, dump it at the top of the stairs, and take it when you’re going anyway. When you find something you need to speak to someone about, add it to your @Agendas list, with their name next to it, and by time you see them you may have several items you can get out of the way at once.

Build the Happiness Bar up Before Working

Sims won’t work unless they’re happy. If you haven’t let your Sim play games or read a book for too long, they won’t study or work out when you tell them to. We have to play too, and we’ll work better if we’re in a good mood. So playing games could be good for productivity, in the long run. I’m making excuses again, aren’t I?

Productivity Tricks and Organising is the Player. You are the Sim.

If you leave your Sim unattended, they won’t just stand there indefinitely. They’ll go to the toilet before they make a puddle. Usually. If they get really tired, they’ll go to bed and sleep. They’ll eat when they’re hungry, and play games when they’re bored. They will never, however, pay the bills or take the rubbish out. They’ll become distressed about the state of the room, but you have to intervene to get them to actually clean up. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty much an unattended Sim, when left to my own devices. I’ll play if I’m bored, and I’ll eat when I’m hungry. I don’t have to make any special effort to go and sleep when I’m tired.

When it’s Sunday night, and I know the alarm is going to be going off early Monday morning to get to work, I do have to make a special effort to go to bed a bit earlier than I would naturally. Jobs like paying bills or cleaning the house never get done unless I really think about it and make myself do it. Think of it that way, and getting your day to day work done is just as much fun as playing The Sims. Unfortunately, that works the other way around too 😉

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