Time is a resource that we will never earn back again . . .
. . . which makes this game component an interesting one. As humans, we make one of two choices, 1.) Use our time wisely, or 2.) waste time and yet this perspective is all relative to the goals of the users. Time is only essential when we have a goal in mind. When we don’t have a goal in mind, time feels abundant. Yet, when we have abundance of resources that has no intended purpose, it just stays abundant, it’s wasted and unused. When we lack resources like money, we will do anything to conserve what we have in order to reach our intended goal. Time is very similar, when we feel like we have a lot of time, we lack agency in reaching our goal(s) and when we lack time, we are in hurry to accomplish our goal(s) hence spending the time we have left. Scarcity in time is a game component that helps us reach our goals by changing the way we think, function, and behave. It definitely puts us in a “fight or flight mode” which help us narrow of attention to the objective intended, aka “the tunnel vision syndrome.” I frequently go through this syndrome when the following video game phenomenon happens:
Let’s look at a couple scenarios where scarcity in time affects people’s behaviors and actions as it relates to the goals they have.
Casey’s Bucket List
Casey, my black lab, was diagnosed with lymphoma in fall of 2011. It was a very devastating disease. When he was diagnosed, the doctors said that if he wasn’t treated with chemotherapy that day, we would have to put him down sometime that week. $1000 later, he was treated and his tumor went down. I was relieved for the time being as the symptoms dissipated. The oncologist told us that for pets, the purpose of chemotherapy was not to kill the cancer off but to provide a better quality of life for our pet while our pet had the cancer. With that particular treatment protocol, the Madison-Wisconsin Protocol, we had to go to the oncologist every 2 weeks to get treatment in addition to providing antibiotics, prednisone, and other meds. As I have noticed, days after the treatment, the tumor size grew back once again. The size of the tumor was basically my clock and my time left with my pet. At the time, my goal to was to find other means to prolong his life, get his immune back in check, shrink the tumor, and use his immune system to kill the cancer cells. The more I researched and read veterinarian oncology medical journals, the more pessimistic this situation became as I learned that 30-40% of dogs who go through this treatment go through remission for about 6 months – 1 years and then the tumor comes back with a vengeance, changed to point where the cancer is chemotherapy resistant. From mushroom supplements, to feeding my dog whole food instead of kibbles, to daily walks to Ocean Beach, to chasing sunsets, to daily hugs and tears, to the weekly drives to the oncologist, I continued that routine until the day I found out the strongest of the chemotherapy, doxirubicin, didn’t kill off the cancer. From that point, my goals changed from killing off the cancer to providing him comfort while changing the chemo protocol. During that time, I had a bucket list to bring Casey to places he’s never been in the Bay Area and beyond. We crossed off all the bucket list items except visiting the snow. On the first day of Spring of 2012, he crossed the rainbow bridge.
The lack of time made me go through a version of tunnel vision only focusing on saving my dog from this disease and doing also almost anything to provide him comfort and a better quality of life. The lack of time also made me re-prioritize my goals after I found out that doxirubicin wasn’t working so that planning to get through all the bucket list location and spending time with Casey is more important than my time spent trying to save Casey from cancer.
12th Round Boxing
As a fellow boxer and a boxing fan, I only have to 2 minutes and 3 rounds to make results. This is certainly not a lot of time but just enough time to make results. Throwing punches accurately and frequently was key in addition to not getting tagged. My favorite round and the round I hated the most was the last round as my energy was spent in the first two rounds. I usually get a second wind knowing that I needed to out punch my opponent in the last round. One my favorite matches and favorite round was the Oscar De La Hoya vs. Shane Mosely Fight in the 12th round. Knowing Shane was behind by 1 point, he either needed to knockout Oscar or outscore him. Scarcity in time definitely changed his behavior for that last round so that he is more active that the previous 11 rounds. As a result, he outscored Oscar in the last round.
Prioritizing Our Time
I saw this video a couple years ago and decided to bring it back for another round of analysis. Though oversimplified, there is truth that majority of us spend most of our adult lives working a 9-5 job. As a teacher, I work an 8-6 pm job + weekend + some summer time + some winter break and spring break days, this really made me question how I spent my time.
In the past 15 years, my goals was to grow and evolve my practice in education. Though I make time for myself, my health, and my family, I had to compromise my social time so that I can advance in areas that I feel are my priorities. Almost 40 years young, I’m starting re-evaluate where I am at and seeing if I need to change my priorities as there are other things I want to do outside of teaching that also provide me an intrinsic sense of happiness. Part of engineering my happiness is investing the time to get there and being aware of the things that make me happy. The things that make me happy at this point of my life is doing things that allow me to be creative, my time with family, friends, and dogs, attaining financial freedom, being outdoors and gardening, and having fun with combat sports.
When it comes to feeling frugal with time, we have prioritize the things that make us intrinsically happy. Frugality in time forces us the evaluate and reflect on the things that are most important to us. Time isn’t a renewable resources so we have to play with time by readjusting our goals and the time spent for our goals to get the most out of it.
Implications of Teaching
The best ways to get things done is to create an artificial sense of scarcity in time aka setting deadline. I’ve been in situations where I set too much time for a project where there was no agency to finish it until the week of the due date and there were moments where I didn’t give students enough time and therefore their product wasn’t their best work. Finding a balance between time spent on a project and quality of the process is something we test out over time. Eventually over time and iteration, we will find an equilibrium between time and the quality of the process.
Another facet to look is the concept of a “work in progress”. Any project that we are immerse in is always a work in progress and always needs improvement. This lessens the focus on the quality of the product and focuses more on the growth of the learner. When we provide checkpoints of a product draft, we can measure a student’s growth and ability in meeting objectives when we see the improvements ,based on feedback, made between the current draft and the previous draft.
Though we all need to give ourselves deadlines in order to completed tasks, constantly overwhelming our students and ourselves with different objectives and different deadlines, will also provide a stressful situation in which they are cognitively overloaded and overwhelmed (the bottleneck effect). Our learners can easily shut down when they are overwhelmed.
In my STEAM, I do have a due date but I also have a cut-off date. If students follow the due date, they are meeting deadlines on a timely manner. If they are not, the bottleneck effect will start build up. The cut-off date is the date in which all work must be submitted in by which is a week before the grading period end. Because time isn’t a tangible concept for middle school student, I made sure that the scarcity in is visible on my website.
When the timer reaches 0, all submission portals within my website shutdown and students will not be able to submit work. The symptoms of scarcity will emerge when students have 10 days lefts. My goals is to support students before the time reaches 10 hours so that I’m not bombarded by student’s freaking out about their lack of time.
As you think about your classroom, how can you do balance scarcity in time with a student growth in meeting the objectives so that your learners are optimally focused on meeting the learning goals and enjoying the learning experience?