By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. (Genesis 2:2)

Apparently, sabbaticals were all the rage 2000 years ago. They are still going strong: academics are encouraged to take one year off for every 7, Stefan Sagmeister closes his NYC design studio on the same schedule (and does a TED talk about it), and various companies build sabbaticals into employee benefits. Generally understood as periods of rest and reflection, sabbaticals rejuvenate us, and give us time to reassess our goals, careers and lives.

In May 2009 I graduated from university, took a 2-week vacation to the Dominican Republic, and joined IBM full-time. I took 1 week off between IBM and Kinaxis in 2011, and, having just gotten back from a 3-week vacation in October 2013, I plunged directly into working on Postcard (then Travelabulous) after a few weeks of discussion with my co-founder. It’s been over 7 years since I took a meaningful break – longer if you count my degree with its intermixed internships.

Opportunity knocks. I think it’s time.

Enter Goal Gamification

How did this come about? Exactly 4 months ago, on May 19th, I went bouldering for the first time. I fell in love immediately. I’d climbed any remotely scalable surface when I was a kid – trees, abandoned buildings, construction sites – so enjoying rock climbing wasn’t a stretch. It was the progress I’d made, and the speed at which I made it, that surprised me.

Here’s how bouldering problems are graded at my climbing gym:

 

Bouldering Grades at Altitude Gym
Bouldering Grades at Altitude Gym

In just 4 months, I’d gone from struggling to complete a beginner pink to finishing a green. What was it about bouldering specifically that drove me to get better?

I think it has something to do with inherent gamification. Bouldering has a visible world map (the gym), clear levels, techniques and equipment. It has all the things that make video games addictive!

So I got to wondering: can I apply these concepts to the rest of my life, and make similarly impressive progress? In a nutshell, I’m designing my own Game of Life – and I want you along for the ride.

While the biblically recommended day of rest is too ambitiously short, the academic year-long sabbatical seems much too long for me. I’ll settle for a Goldilocks in-between: 3 months until the end of 2016 – 15 weeks, or ~100 days.

I’ve chosen 6 categories, 1 for every day of the week and a day of rest (recurring theme here!). They are:

  1. MEGABRAIN: I’ve written about this idea before (TL;DR: connecting all human brains together will make us more efficient and more empathetic), but I want to focus my sabbatical around digging deeper into it. Is it pure fiction or is it possible? Is anyone working on this already? I’ll be posting longform learnings on Fridays, and interesting links I find daily.
  2. DOMOREBOOK: What began as a gift to my boyfriend last Christmas has become an idea for a side project. I’ll be working on it and posting about it on Mondays.
  3. WORK: With Postcard, we’ve made some decisions early on that have affected our experience – for example, building the company completely remotely from our Ottawa and Toronto homes. I’d like to take Tuesdays to research and write about companies built remotely, and connect with people working on them.
  4. FITNESS: Bouldering kicked this whole thing off, so along with a few extra fitness goals, I’ll chronicle my progress on Wednesdays.
  5. STYLE: Didn’t expect this one, did you? 🙂 A little while back, I read “Flow” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. In it, Mr. C describes the state of being “in the zone”, when you don’t notice the passage of time, and distractions don’t even register. It became clear that sewing is the one activity I consistently achieve flow in, so I’ll be making my own clothes, and sharing the experience on Thursdays.
  6. FUN: This is a bit of a grab-bag of a category, but it will still have a clear, measurable set of achievements. On Saturdays or Sundays, I’ll be documenting my adventures in cooking, reading, and actual adventuring. [The FUN category never got off the ground, so I shot it in Week 3. Rest assured, undocumented fun is being had! –Ed.]

Naturally, as soon as I establish an order, I must break it: this inaugural week’s posts will not be published in the sequence above. We’ll get to scheduled programming next week.

By the way, I’m not the first or only person to recognize the appeal of gamifying goals: Steve Kamb wrote Level Up Your Life to encourage people to build their own quests, and teachers have begun to use gamification concepts in the classroom with interesting early feedback. I’d like to see if by constraining the experiment to 100 days, I can concentrate the results, and carry the afterglow into subsequent months. We’ll see how it goes, and expand from there.


Writing this, I am struggling to keep myself in one piece and not burst from gratitude. Huge thanks are due to my Dad and Alex for sponsoring all my whacky endeavours, and battling fear monkeys steadfastly by my side. Thanks also to Kirk (and the whole Postcard team!) for being a co-conspirator and an inspiration. Your kindness, patience, and generosity makes everything I dream up a possibility.

If you have any thoughts on this project, ideas or references that popped into your head while reading, send them over to sabbatical@mashakrol.com, or leave a comment below – I’d be delighted to check them out! I’ll also be writing weekly recaps of learnings and interesting things I found, so you can subscribe to follow along. The 100-day countdown begins today!

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