We’re already past the 2-week mark of the 2015 IGMC! That said, it’s not too late to pick up some new techniques to help keep you productive.
Here are 20 Productivity Tips and Tricks to get the most out of your time:
- Keep in Flow! To summarize my last article, to achieve flow you need 1. Uninterrupted Concentration 2. Clear Goals 3. Immediate Feedback and 4. the Challenge/Skills to keep you focused. Flow not only improves productivity but happiness levels as well, and we can all use more of that!
- Work on your project EVERYDAY! Even weekends. If you’re dedicated, you’ll set time aside daily to work on your project. This isn’t just about putting in the hours; it’s about creating a habit. If you just work on your project “when you feel like it”, you’re leaving too much to chance. If you instead work on your project on a regular schedule, you won’t have to waste willpower deciding whether to work on your game or not. It’s almost magic how easy it becomes after doing it every day for a week or two.
- Plan ahead. Without some kind of outline or design doc for your project, you’re flying blind. Break down the tasks needed to complete the project as much as possible and budget them out over the month. That way you’ll know what you should be working on every day instead of guessing.
- Know where you left off the previous work session. It’s often easier to pick up on an unfinished task than to start a new one. Don’t wait too long though or you might forget what you were doing! If you’re working on something complicated, like a custom script, make sure to leave good notes so you can jump back in quickly!
- Try to have ONE MAIN FOCUS each day. I’ve experimented with Todo lists and I find that it more often leads to disappointment than not. But it’s much more manageable to have ONE MAIN TASK to focus on each day. This should be the task that if completed, and nothing else, the day would still have been productive. Note: If you use Chrome, try out the Momentum extension. Every time you open a new tab, you’ll be presented with a beautiful dashboard with your main focus for the day right in the middle to help keep you on track! You can also add additional items on the side Todo list.
- If you get stuck, try working on a different task. Chances are you’ll work out a solution by the time you come back to it. This will mitigate creative blocks that might otherwise derail a productive work session.
- Don’t be a perfectionist. Instead of getting lost in the details, keep working on the core design of the game and iterating until it’s good. Then, you can add all the polish you want.
- Keep communication open if you’re working on a team. It will help keep the project on course and also feed into the collective team energy. Team members can also be an important source of feedback to tell you how you’re doing. Make sure you utilize all the advantage that working on a team has!
- Write down your ideas. Even if the idea is not pertinent to the task at hand, you might use it again in the future. I try to store them all in a big note titled “Idea Bank” for later reference.
- Do warm-up exercises before you sit down to work. When writing blog articles for example, I sometimes do Free writing, a writer’s technique where you just keep writing whatever comes to mind. I can literally feel my brain settling into a creative space while doing it. If you’re an artist, maybe do some contour drawings of your off-hand.
- Practice good work hygiene. You should have an ergonomic desk setup if you want to work at your best and prevent discomfort or injury. Your eye level should be aligned with the top 1/3rd of your monitor and at arms length distance. Your forearms, wrists and hands should be level with your keyboard to avoid “shoulder shrug”. You should be sitting all the way back in your chair to give lumbar support. Your knees should be at a 90 degree angle with your feet touching the floor. Use this image as a reference. Note: Some of these might not be possible with your current setup, but there’s a lot you can do if you get resourceful. Before I got my monitor stand, I just put textbooks under my screen to prop it up.
- Take regular breaks. I’d say at least every 25 minutes, you should take a minute to stretch or get up and walk around the room. This will help keep the blood flowing. Also, try rotating your eyes in a clockwise motion. It will prevent tunnel vision and keep your brain more active.
- Go on 20-30 minutes walks. Ideally by yourself and with headphones. Not only is it good exercise, but it puts you in a very creative space. Many of my “aha!” moments were during walks.
- Take a shower. Showering is one of the few times we allow our brains to disconnect from stimuli, which allows more space for those “aha!” moments. Also, no one likes a greasy developer!
- Get enough sleep. Studies show that you need 7-8 hours of sleep. You might be able to get by on 6, but anything less than that and you’ll start feeling the effects. It might not be obvious if you don’t normally get a good night’s sleep. If you’re feeling tired during the day, consider taking a short 40-minute nap. Meditation is also shown to give some of the benefits of sleep.
- Eat well. There’s a ton of conflicting science out there about what’s good and bad for us, but there are at least 3 things all nutritionists agree on: 1. Too much sugar is bad 2. Hydrogenated fats are bad 3. Veggies are good! Limit your sugar intake, avoid food with lots of trans fats and eat lots of veggies to keep your body in good shape for the contest!
- Limit caffeine intake. Especially coffee. Caffeine has diminishing returns and can lead to headaches and anxiety in high doses. It’s also a diuretic which means you’ll have to get up and pee every 2-minutes which isn’t helpful either. That said, I drink several cups of tea a day and I find it gives me a “clear calm”. I also just enjoy it. So just use good sense with your caffeine intake. Don’t rely too much on it.
- Remove distractions. These can include notifications, chat clients, email, etc.. It can also include noises in your environment. If you work in a particularly noisy household, try working during quieter hours or invest in some noise-canceling headphones. To get into creative flow, you need uninterrupted concentration!
- Go on an information diet. This means News, blog articles, social media updates, etc.. While it feels good to consume all this information, it can also be super distracting. Even after you switch back to work, it will still be on your mind.
- Be an essentialist. It’s not just about how much you can get done but getting the RIGHT things done. Focus your time on energy on the highest points of contribution when working on your game.
Hopefully you found something to take away and try yourself. If you have additional techniques to share, please leave them in the comments! I’d love to hear them.