Greetings game devs!
Recently I’ve been reminded about the importance of time management. Long story short: Some family emergencies came up and now I’m working as many hours as I can to help keep a roof over our heads. Sometimes this means 20 hour days. Often times this means I’m lucky to have an hour or two to spare for myself before I have to crash and get ready for the next day.
Because of this I’ve become much better at managing my time, even if this has hit my blog post schedule and made it more varied.
Start with a goal.
Throughout our days we have all sorts of responsibilities to take care of. Work, chores, kids, whatever else life throws our way. That’s why it’s important to figure out what your goal is.
In my case I have three things I’m working to accomplish:
- Finish editing my novel to get it out there and published.
- Find better, more stable work, preferably in the games industry.
- Work on a small project to maintain and improve my skills.
Each of these goals have a lot of tasks associated with them and can get pretty time consuming, with the limited time I currently have to spare. So how do I keep track of all these things?
Make a plan.
As a game designer I can’t stress enough how important it is to plan things out. Whether it be the high concept or pillars you build your game around, or how you’re going to spend precious resources such as time, it helps to have an idea of where you’re going.
So get your hands on a day planner or some project management software. The reason for this is to break down and keep track of the tasks you need to do to complete your goal.
I hear a lot of people say “aim for the moon” and see so many people crushed when they don’t even get off the ground. The problem is they focused on the end goal and not the steps to get there. So once you have your goal in mind break that down to smaller, manageable parts. Personally I break them down to smaller components with their own task lists which help push me to the larger goal.
This works great with project management software such as Trello, Jira, though I prefer to use HackNPlan even with its free feature set. I create a board for my projects, set up tickets which let me know what needs doing, and I can jot down when I plan to start on a task and when I expect it to be finished. It helps me keep track of my own progress and what still needs doing with any of my projects and it is an invaluable tool.
Oh! And if you plan on working with a group, this stuff helps with accountability, not just for yourself but for your team. I can’t stress enough how many headaches were avoided by using something like HackNPlan so people knew what they were supposed to be doing, when it was due by, and what tasks they had to do afterwards.
Make time for your goal.
Whatever you’re working towards in life, you’re going to have to make time for it. Write a book, make a game, pick up new skills, lose weight, doesn’t matter. These things need focused, dedicated time to get anywhere. Nothing’s going to get done if you don’t do it after all.
This is something I struggle a bit with due to my erratic schedule these days.
Sometimes I’m lucky and I know I’ll have a few hours free in the day, barring some emergency. So I lock down that time, nothing’s going to keep me away from whatever task needs doing towards one of my goals. Friends can call, interesting videos or series can come up but I’ve gotten pretty good about pushing those things away. Learning how to say “no” is pretty important in this regard.
Other times, after everything’s done for the day, I have some spare time and I just have to take inventory of how exhausted I am for the day. If I’m not dead tired then I’ll pick one of the quick tasks to knock out. Usually this means I pump out a few job applications, write down ideas or design documents for my project, or I see how far I can get with edits. Sometimes though, you just gotta take a break. Watch a movie, play a game, read a book, whatever helps you recover so the next day you can start knocking things out.
Keep yourself accountable.
This one’s the hard part. When you’re working for someone else, it’s easy to know what you have to do and do it. If you don’t do your tasks, you’re going to lose your job, if it’s for school your grades will slip. There are consequences.
When you’re doing something for yourself, no one can hold you accountable but yourself.
Yes, there are consequences. You don’t achieve your dreams, you don’t get that new job, or you just don’t get to be as swol as you’d like. I’ve found that I don’t feel these things right away or as powerfully as I do further down the line when I suddenly become obsessed with my lack of progress towards something.
So how can you keep yourself accountable?
Keeping track of your progress is a great way with project management software. I like being able to look back and see just how much I’ve done towards my goal and helps keep me going even when things look pretty bleak. A blog is a good thing to use in tandem with this, especially when you have a problem. Write a quick post about what the problem you had was and how you overcame it. If you didn’t overcome it you can use that same post to keep details of what the problem was so that you can come back to it later or ask for help.
Another good way to keep yourself accountable is to talk to people about your work. Friends, family, random people on the internet. This lets other people know what your goal is, what you’re trying to do and chances are they’ll poke and prod you about it as time goes on, making sure that you’re actually doing what you said you would.
Of course there are also distractions to be dealt with. Part of the problem these days is that distraction is just sitting at our fingertips. Pop up some social media, hop on youtube and watch some videos, or anything else to distract from your goals. The problem is, most of us don’t even realize how much time we waste doing this stuff. It seems like a few minutes because it’s fun, but in reality it’s often hours of precious time.
For this I recommend getting a productivity tracker. There are a million of these and I still haven’t quite found one I’m too fond of yet but they’ll help you see just how productive you are. They can track your time on task, whether that be working on a word or google doc, or tinkering with things in Unreal or Maya. They’ll also track how much time you’re spending goofing off so you can see how much time you’re wasting when you should be working towards your goals. Some of these programs even gamify productivity if you’re into that sort of thing.
There it is! Another blog post. I swear i was planning to keep these shorter than I have been but I guess I just have a lot to say.
But in short:
- Start with a goal.
- Make a plan.
- Make time for your goal.
- Keep yourself accountable.
With these things in mind you’ll find managing your time to be much easier than it was in the past. There will still be challenges, like wrestling with all the fun distractions available to us, but with a bit of effort you’ll start making serious progress towards your goals. Just take it one step at a time.
For my next post, I honestly haven’t given it much thought with how crazy things have been lately. Maybe I’ll ramble about Death Stranding or Jedi Knight: Fallen Order. Both games I’ve enjoyed a fair bit recently and have a lot to go into and pick apart.
Until then! Have a nice day.