This simple graph was designed as a life comment; as with many things, the lessons of life apply to gaming. Everything you do can be divided into four types, and each type has a quadrant. The upper right is for “Hobbies and Meaningful Work.” These are the things you enjoy doing and feel like you’ve accomplished something once it’s done. This is the magical conjunction of pleasure and satisfaction. I think crafty hobbyists spend a lot of time in this section. I see how pleased those knitters are with themselves as they finish their scarves on the bus.
Continuing clockwise (as we do here) is the “Chores” quadrant. These are things you want done, but you don’t want to do them. I believe we’re all familiar with this section.
Third is probably the worst quadrant, “The Zone of Oppression”: you don’t want to do it, you don’t care if it gets done. This is also known as the “Crap Job” zone. If it’s not fun, and there’s nothing to show for it at the end, it belongs in “The Zone of Oppression.”
Finally, we have the great seducers within the “Regret” quadrant. It sure was fun along the way, but looking back, you aren’t pleased with the outcome. As with all things, there are degrees. For example, losing an hour playing Civ IV falls into this section, but it’s not anything to lose sleep over. Losing a week to a heroin binge is a Very Bad Thing.
It pays to think about these zones within the context of your Dungeons and Dragons game. As a Dungeon Master, the prep for your game should exist almost entirely within that first zone. Are you having fun with it, and do your players enjoy the fruits of your labor? If it becomes odious enough to linger into the “Chores” quadrant, you need to find a way to make the tasks more efficient; Wizards of the Coast and many 3rd party publishers have devised many tools to help you.