How My New Year’s Resolution Is Helping My Indie Game Development

For all of 2017, and even part of 2016, I’ve had a serious problem focusing on making games. Most of my time was spent making a living like a proper adult, but that was no excuse. I think this can be attributed to just generally poor time-management on my part: instead of spending every waking available moment I could on my games, I found myself exhausted at the end of each day, defaulting to TV or Internet, or else going straight to bed.

So I made a serious resolution for the New Year’s of 2018: to better organize my time and work more on my games. It’s February now, and so far, it’s working.

Keeping a timesheet and sticking to it can be a great motivator.

The idea was simple: I would keep track of the time I spent on a given task (ie: game development) on a weekly basis with a timesheet, and would try to meet a minimum quota. I would use this idea not just to track development, but also other things I felt I was missing out on (in my case, this includes writing comics, watching animation, playing video games, reading, etc.).

I decided I would allocate 24 hours a week on these “tasks.” Including my full-time job, that’s approximately [9 hours, 7 days a week], or could be seen as [10-11 hours, 6 days a week (Sunday off)]. When including other menial tasks (driving, eating, cooking, shopping, laundry, etc.), this might seem most of my time is now gone, but on the contrary: I would want to spend most of my free time on these “tasks” anyway. This just helps track what I’ve done so far each week, guiding me on what I should do next when I find myself with an hour to kill. For example, if it’s Friday and I’ve already spent time on writing comics, then I would decide to spend some hours on game development. If I had already met my quota on game development, I might read a book from my growing library of unread novels. If I had done all of that, I might actually PLAY a game for once (valuable research on trends of modern game design). If, and only if, I finish each task before the week is up, can I take extra naps or browse YouTube aimlessly. The goal is to meet the 24-hour quota by the end of each week.

In my case, I am allocating 6 hours a week on game development. Yes, this time-management strategy means I will not spend more than 6 hours a week on development, which is a pathetic-sounding amount of time compared to my regular 40-hour-per-week-full-time job. But for most of 2017, I rarely spent more than 6 hours a MONTH on development. This strategy is an improvement in my case, it keeps me motivated to stay on track. If I find necessary, I could reallocate those 24 hours to put more time on development and less on other tasks (3 hours a week to read books is a bit much anyway…). And should I finish the 24 hours on time, then I might have some spare time to do as I please, which may include spending extra hours on development if I find myself on a roll.

I don’t know why it is that this strategy is working for me this time. Maybe it’s because I plan to continue tracking how many weeks pass where I successfully fulfill my quota, to grade myself at the end of the year, making it feel like a “gamification” of my life. Maybe it’s because I am taking things one week at a time, long enough a period to give me some flexibility, but short enough to prevent me from ignoring it. Most likely, it is because all of the things on my “task” list are things I WANT to do, where beforehand I was disappointed in myself because I wasn’t spending time on all of these things. Saying you’ll spend a hour a week exercising typically doesn’t work out, but if you WANT to exercise and feel excited to do so, then you are more likely to keep to your goal. More so if you make rules, like telling yourself that exercising for an extra hour ahead of time allows you to buy a box of donuts for breakfast that week.

So far, it’s February 2018, and I’ve successfully met my quota for 4/5 weeks (one week needed extra time at my job, which takes priority). Only time will tell if I keep with this by the end of the year, but I’m impressed I have kept up with it this far. If you find yourself unsatisfied with missing out on important things in life, maybe this type of strategy will work for you too.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to finish texture-mapping a castle for the final boss of my game, maybe I can finish those 6 hours early this week.


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