Keeping Track

About a month ago, Bryan Prillaman did an AMA on the judge subreddit. It’s a great thread and you should read it if you haven’t. And then you should subscribe to our subreddit if you haven’t already, because /r/mtgjudge is also great. (Shameless plug!)

Anyway, when bprill was taking questions, I decided to go out on a limb and ask something a little personal. I asked Bryan what I could be doing better with this blog. Here’s what he said:

I think bears repeating could use more…accessible topics. Like many of the topics are high concept. I think it could use a few more low concept. Ex. How do I get a TO to pay me, how do I deal with a TO that won’t let me DQ a player. How avoid bias when judging and playing in the same event

As one of the co-hosts of Judgecast, bprill has been producing regular Magic and judging content for longer than I have. When he gives me advice, I listen! (And you should too.)

So this article is my first effort at writing something a bit lower to the ground. The examples bprill suggested were all pretty much about judging, which is great, and I definitely want to do more of that in the future, too. However, this particular post is only peripherally about judging. It’s really about time and task management, using examples from my involvement in the program. If that’s not your cup of tea, well, at least you can’t say I didn’t warn you!

Judges are busy people. Even beyond playing and judging Magic, we tend to have vibrant and full lives. We go to school and/or work; we pursue our other hobbies; we hang out with our significant others, our friends, and our kids. We’re software engineers and scientists, philosophers and marketers, and much more. Every hour we spend on the judge program is an hour we could be spending productively some other way. And yet we put our time into judging all the same, because we enjoy it so much.

We’re also really bad at saying no to things.

As a consequence of these two factors, it’s easy for us to commit to a lot of events and projects…then find ourselves unable to fulfill all of these promises, as they begin to jut up against other parts of our lives. And make no mistake: I’m using the first person here deliberately. Taking on too many responsibilities has been a constant struggle for me for years, since well before I became a judge. I’m right here with you.

Here’s some of the ways I keep things together.

  1. Make a list.

    It’s much easier to remember your commitments if they’re written down somewhere. Creating a “brain dump” of your projects, upcoming events, and other obligations is a great place to start. Then move anything that’s ongoing or recurring into its own section.

    You can jumpstart this process with the main page of JudgeApps, which provides a convenient overview of your future events and current projects. (And if you have suggestions for how to make the main page better, let us know!)

  2. Check it twice.

    A list of current commitments is useless if it isn’t kept, well, current. Once you have your master list, refer to it early and often, and update it whenever things change. If it’s physical, tape it somewhere prominent; if it’s virtual, put it prominently in your bookmarks bar, or even make it your browser homepage.

  3. Find allies.

    This is the big one. Like most aspects of judging (and life), you don’t have to go it alone — nor should you. It doesn’t matter if you’re a project’s leader or its newest member. It’s invaluable to have someone who can motivate you, hold you accountable, tell you when you’re right, tell you when you’re wrong…and knows you’ll do the same for them.

    I encourage you to cultivate at least one person like this for every project you’re working on. Sometimes these relationships will crystallize naturally, which is great. But if that doesn’t happen, don’t be afraid to just explicitly ask someone to be your ally.

    And to those who fill this role for me: thanks.

  4. Find harmony between your skills and your projects.

    I mentioned earlier that there are a ton of opportunities in the judge program. But lumping these together as “opportunities” actually does everyone involved a disservice. No one is equally well-suited for every task: we all have strengths and weaknesses. And that’s the way it should be!

    When evaluating your current projects, be mindful of how the needs of the project align (or don’t) with your own abilities. With so many opportunities out there, it’s worth taking the time to find the one where you can contribute most effectively.

  5. Devise a routine that works for you.

    Building habits is huge, and focusing on creating a weekly routine is a great place to start. Involved in three projects? Maybe it makes sense to work on Project A every Monday, Project B every Tuesday, and so on. Or maybe you want to set aside one night a week as your “judge program night,” and hammer out all three projects sequentially.

  6. Schedule reminders.

    Similar to the above, once you have a routine, codify it in whatever works best for you. (Google Calendar, day planner, diary…) I like Google Calendar because I use it both as a reminder system (like “Check-in with So-And-So”) and as a way for blocking off chunks of time to work (like “Write Bearz Repeating”). In both cases, I end up getting email and pop-up notifications about whatever I committed to do, which helps keep me on track.

As always, these are guidelines, not rules. They work for me, but maybe they won’t for you. If you try them, I’d love to hear about your experiences. And if you have a killer productivity strategy you’re dying to share, the comments section is open.

I’m not perfect — but I’m trying to get better. I hope you are, too.

One thought on “Keeping Track

  1. Crosspost from my reddit comment:

    One important thing (and maybe a follow-up article) is when to cut back or say no. It’s been a big thing for me to cut weeknight MTG events, and being more selective on the events I apply to judge. It was too big of a physical & mental toll to be out late all the time, and always rushing to get places just in time for that night’s event on top of work & other goals.
    It’s never fun to not do things you’d enjoy, but it has to be part of a larger framework managing all of your commitments. And sometimes, an hour of relaxing at home is worth more than cramming in 3-4 hours to draft.

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