How To Stop Procrastinating Game Development
Today we’re going to talk about the famous subject of PROCRASTINATION. I’ve received a lot of emails about this, a lot of comments, a lot of tweets, and it’s something that I’ve been wanting to talk about for a long time. I just didn’t feel that I was ready because I didn’t feel that I had all the answers—and I still don’t have all the answers because procrastination is still a problem in my own life. The things I’m going to share with you here are going to be based on just some of the techniques and tactics that I’ve used to kind of combat procrastination—-but that bastard keep sneaking up on me. I’m still working on this and I’m still trying to fight it. I’m sure there’ll be more articles in the future on the different things that I do as they evolve and as I get a grip on this. I’m still struggling with this as I’m certain lot of you are. Procrastination is a bitch but it happens.
There are 3 primary things that I want to share about procrastination. I noticed that for me, a lot of my procrastination is usually based on indecision. So when I am avoiding working on the game, or I’m avoiding doing something, there’s usually a decision to be made. I don’t know if most people are like this, but if I have to do laundry or something it’s not usually a big deal because I just have to put the laundry in the washer and there’s no decision there.
For example, if I have to finish my game and I have a bunch of shit to do, picking which thing to do is usually part of the reason why I just like end up on YouTube or Facebook or Reddit or whatever. What prolongs the difficulty is not wanting to make a decision. A lot of times I receive an email that I need to respond to it but I don’t exactly know how to, so it just kind of sits there in my inbox for a couple days. After a couple days, I feel too stupid to respond to it because now I’m a couple of days late and I look like a stupid idiot that doesn’t respond to email immediately. So in the end, I just don’t respond. The person probably thinks I’m an asshole—this is an example of procrastination causing a simple situation to spiral out of control. Procrastination sucks!
- Sometimes making the wrong decision is better than making no decision.
Sometimes just moving forward and taking action, even if it turns out to be the wrong, is better than not taking any action at all. I find this to be the case the majority of the time because when you’re taking action and you make a wrong decision, you’re still taking action. You can always course correct and make the better decision later. You can change it or you can just move forward with what you’re doing.
Almost 99.999% of time, taking action in the wrong direction is better than taking no action at all. I have a quote on my email from my freelance company that says, “Indecision is the mother of mediocrity. Don’t be average. Make a decision to be excellent”, because I think the quick decisions are what defines average people from great people. A lot of the great people that I know, the people that I admire, the mentors in my life, the people that I look up to—they’re decision makers, they just make shit happen, they just decide.
I have always looked up to that because I’m the kind of dude that would do 1 million hours of research on Google and YouTube videos, etc. I realized that all of that is wasted time.
If you really need to do research on a decision, like figuring out which way you’re going to go with what mechanic you’re going to build, what art style… whatever it is…You can find the majority of what you need to know in the first 10-20 minutes. Everything after that is useless. There are things that will improve you 1% or 2%, or set you off in a slightly different direction, but it’s the 80/20 rule. You need to focus on the big chunks of stuff. That’s how you get more shit done. That’s how you move forward and stop procrastinating. You just make a decision and go do your move. I have a video called “Go with Good Enough” and that’s a really good concept to stop procrastinating too because a lot of procrastination comes from decisions as well as perfectionism.
We sometimes keep focusing on shit and get caught in it so much that it stops us from moving. And you always want to be moving forward. So sometimes the wrong decision is better than no decision just remember that. I’ve been in a lot of shit in my life that was a result of indecision—- and not just in game development, even in financial decisions, and all kind of stuff.
- Break tasks into actionable chunks.
I’ve shared this before in the “overwhelm” article together with a a few other concepts like that for productivity. I noticed that because a lot of my procrastination is based on indecision, that if I have a bunch of actionable items that I know will take me anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes to complete (the timeline is important), if I could just pick the top list, I can get into my mode of productivity and just start developing.
We have a task tracker on Game Dev Underground so I can look at everybody’s tasks. Aand one of the things I’ve done is I’ve made a research on how people use the tool and what they do, and I noticed that a lot of the tasks in the task manager are big things like finish the game engine, or complete the art, or these big massive projects. One of them was create 10 weapons or create 25 weapons or something like that.
Those tasks, like the 25 weapons one, maybe that’s actionable in a way, but it’s going to take you days or weeks to do all that. No one wants to spend that much time to click a checkbox. For me that click-ness of the checkbox gets me excited to keep going. I find that checking shit off every 10 to 30 minutes, if I can do that, I get momentum going. I’m like, “Oh cool! I want to get this whole list done.” And if I get 5 to 10 of those tasks done and checked off in a day, I feel really productive. Sometimes I’ll even make my load smaller with just a few items—just so I can get through the day, if it’s one of those days when I’m really procrastinating.
- Change your environment.
I love the room I work in. It’s awesome. It’s a cool little office. It’s very comfy, I have my stuff set up the way I like it, I have the lighting setup, I have everything that I need. But sometimes I don’t want to begin there. Sometimes being in that room makes me procrastinate.
I like to go to Starbucks, or to Panera Bread, or to some of these other internet cafes, hang out, and get shit done. I tried this with Panera specifically and there’s something that happens psychologically when I go in there and work. I would get shit done. I noticed after a month or two of doing that, really improved my productivity. I used to be a lot worse than I am now. Sometimes I would go 3 to 5 times a week as if it was my office. People there knew me by name and my usual order.
I don’t do that as much anymore but I noticed that when I go there it’s like I go into productivity mode. It doesn’t matter how much procrastination I’m doing, how I feel whatever. When I walk though those doors, and I sit in my spot, it’s like it activates me. Like my brain knows that this is a workplace and that I shouldn’t mess around here. It’s like an emotional imprint in a way. I noticed that places for me get emotional imprints for whatever I do in those places. So I found that Starbucks and Panera for me have these positive emotional charges. Sometimes when I’m in a rut working for a couple weeks on end and I’m just not feeling it, like I’m getting to that burnout stage or whatever, being home or being in the office has that negative emotional imprint.
Getting out of the house and going to one of these places like Panera or Starbucks gives me that positive imprint and my brain was, “Okay now is the place to get shit done.” That’s part of it but sometimes it’s really just the change of scenery. Panera usually has these big windows everywhere and it’s very bright. My office tends to be dark. I love it at night because I have all the bright lights and daylight bulbs and stuff, but I love the yellow sunshine. As a programmer, I’m way too pasty white for my own good.
So sometimes, it’s good to get a some sunshine and just be around people. That’s another thing. If you’re lonely and you’re alone all the time working on your shit, sometimes it does help to be around people. I’ve always been more productive in a chaotic environment. If there are people walking around and shit happening everywhere, I could put my headphones on. I can concentrate more with chaos than I can being alone in my fortress.
So those are my three tips to stop procrastination. I think each one of them has its own important role. They usually solves my procrastination issues. As I said, I’m still working on it and still figuring things out. I’m sure there are other things out there that help and I’m sure I’ll do a follow-up to this sometime in the future.
Perhaps you guys have some suggestions? If so, please leave them below. On the other hand, if you’d just like to add your own experience or comment on the topic, please comment below, I’d love to hear from you.