Accumulating Marginal Gains

In preparing to run Mystamyr for the first time in a couple of months, I have been working to make progress through the accumulation of marginal gains. In other words, by doing little bits daily (or whenever I can make some time) I have been able to prep more than I would usually.

I’ve written about my Daily Game Prep wherein I add one small thing every working day. To this process, I have been aiming to add small bursts of prep whenever I can find some spare time at weekends. Taken together, these actions help me to realise my vision of having plenty of elements ready for game night.

I think I first came across the term, “the accumulation of marginal gains” from the British Cycling team, some years ago. The idea of making tiny improvements has proven a useful idea as a teacher too, helping students to see that they can make progress in small stages that add up over time.

Applying the principle to prep is a more recent development but helps me to overcome fear and paralysis. Whereas before I would see the enormous gap between my vision for the game and the reality of my notes, today I can take a small (tiny, even) step towards that vision knowing that I will do a little bit more tomorrow.

This is harnessing the power of habit to slowly develop the materials I need to deliver better games for my friends. Whether it’s drawing a map, typing up location keys, making reference cards, creating digital resources, or any of a thousand others types of activity, I know that it alls comes together given persistence and repeated effort.

Am I ever going to feel ready for a session? I doubt it – my sensitivity to uncertainty is far too sensitive and I know that the prep is never done. But I am happier knowing that what I have on hand today is enough to begin. Tomorrow I can add something else.

Game on!

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