I’ve recently been feeling like I’m burning out hard each week. Day by day I used to be able to get so much done on my first gamedev project. Now my brain seems to give out before I’m halfway done with my day’s work.
Each week I timebox my work into 25 minutes segments. During my first gamedev project I did around 80-88 of these 25-minute timeboxes a week, but last week I struggled to hit even 8 of these a day.
I asked myself: “Am I just tired? Was my first project just a temporary 1-time boost of productivity that I’ll never get back?”
I started reading a book called “Eat That Frog“, an awesome book about improving productivity. I also of course read the productivity chapters in my favorite book “Soft Skills“. These two authors constantly say big problems must be broken into smaller ones.
I turned my direction to my weekly task list. Each work day I have a bunch of little 25-minute or 50-minute tasks, then hulking 6-hour+ single tasks called “gamedev”.
Can my task “GameDev” be broken down? I asked “What is ‘Gamedev'”? What does the task “Gamedev” mean? I’ve already asked myself this many times, so I gave myself the same explanation.
The task “Gamedev” means I must implement features in my game. I already have a planned list of features I need to learn how to implement, so I just pick one and figure it out. The tasks can be a bit easy because a large part of it is researching how I code and implement something in the Unity engine. I feel like I can do a lot of this work each day because the research makes it easy.
Good answer, I thought.
I continued to feel the burnout until just this week when I hit a turning point during my current project.
I had been coding an RPG class & weapons system into my game to make it easier to create content. Everything I did for 2 weeks was just C# study and coding. It was tough and I barely got through the 2 weeks.
Now that I got a ton of the coding done, I had some other tasks to do. I had to find and implement assets, create animations, designing/constructing levels, and test the game. Pretty easy stuff in comparison.
This is when I realized the mistake I had been making is accidentally mixing in easy tasks with hard ones. This created a huge inaccuracy of how much output was required to do the task “gamedev”.
I had forgotten just how much testing, constructing, and designing I did in my first project. All I remembered was the hard stuff: The coding. I conveniently forgotten the easy stuff that made the time just fly by. I had been bunching up all of the easy tasks with the hard ones.
I’ve been burning myself out for all this time because I simply thought most gamdev tasks had a similar difficulty. It took some good ol’ repetitive experience for me to notice this.
Finally I’m able to identify which tasks are mentally taxing and which ones are barely taxing. Starting this week I’m experimenting with separating my huge gamedev tasks into two simple categories: easy gamedev and hard gamedev. Keep in mind I make 2D games in Unity using C#, so some of these may not sound accurate otherwise.
- Planning of any kind
- Searching for, buying, and implementing assets
- Implementing sprites: Cutting, resizing, categorizing
- Implementing sprite animations
- Implementing music & sfx
- Sorting project folders, Unity scene hierarchy
- Level construction (including perfecting appearance)
- Meetings (If group project)
- Learning new C# code in order to implement features
Now I have a much more clear definition of my tasks. I’m guessing I can do a great amount of easy tasks each day, but only 3-4 hours of concentrated hard work.
I will plan my future timeboxing with this in mind. I’ll try to make sure each week I have plenty of easy stuff to work on so I never get stuck with unproductive “hard-only” or “easy-only” weeks. This also keeps me from subconsciously gravitating to easier tasks.
This is my first-ever version of this list, I’ll test it for the first time this week. Whether I need to make a “medium” list or move several of these tasks, I don’t know yet. I also might have to add in more tasks later. I’ll experiment and find out if these two difficulty lists work well for me.
I’ll be sure to share my productivity findings with you so that you can hopefully plan a more efficient week of gamedev for yourself.