Be A Time Ninja

I’ve settled into my new apartment and job and trying to get a decent schedule for working on my different game projects. For now my iPhone game is my ‘main’ project which I spend Monday through Friday working on in the evenings. Weekends I devote to side projects such as Gunstyle. Trying to make progress is getting increasingly harder as my time has become extremely limited to about 1 maybe 2 hours a night during the week. Trying to debug a complex issue in 1 hour is usually not possible for me. And the constant stopping/starting between 1 hour sessions a day apart really hurts productivity when trying to run down a difficult bug. In the end I’m still making progress at least, though a bit slower than a few months ago.

Cutting the Fat

Since I’ve moved I’ve kind of been borderline obsessed with planning, time management, and scheduling. Just a couple of things I’ve come across over the last few weeks that’s helped me:

  • When planning a development schedule for your ‘free time’ in the evenings, take how many hours you think you have to dedicate to a project and cut it in half, if not more. I’ve found that while there’s a 3-4 hour window of time it for me to do work, 2 of those hours are typically eaten by a) random phone calls from family/friends b) my cat c) misc chores that need to get done d) laziness.
  • Remove garbage from your life and daily routine. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been very aggressive in stopping habits that simply waste time, or cutting back significantly on a lot of things.
    • TV? Cut. Only time it’s on is in mornings while eating breakfast.
    • RSS feeds? I’ve cut most of the spammy, useless news/time-waster ones. Every couple of days I scan my list and if I find a feed that I’m simply constantly putting aside from reading then I deem it not important enough to follow and it’s cut.
    • Games? Sadly, yes :<. My Xbox 360 currently isn’t even hooked up. On the weekends I play quick games of QuakeLive, DeFraG, Tribes 2, or any other multiplayer game. I choose multiplayer because the investment isn’t long term (like a 40-hour epic single player game) and it’s easy to ‘unplug’ from the game and any commitments to it.
    • THE REST OF THE FUCKING INTERNET. I’m still bad at this, but improving. If AIM is on or I stumble on a somewhat interesting link it becomes a HUGE time sink. When you are working on a project with extremely limited time the internet is your sworn enemy.

So in essence, as an indie developer with a day job I think an argument can be made that your most important asset is your time. Being a one man crew or a small team, you are working under very tight constraints and you constantly have to be on the look out for creating a more efficient production schedule. I have some nights where literally every minute counts because not finishing off a feature that night essentially means another day lost to that feature.

Estimating And Scheduling Times

Another issue I’ve come across lately is when it comes down to actual implementation details and estimating how long a feature will take to implement, I tend to draw a blank. Before, when I was on a less ‘strict’ schedule in college I would just work ‘until it was done’. Now with me working with a little more urgency and trying to put together weekly development plans it’s become an ever increasing problem. From the past couple of months here is what I gathered and hopefully may help someone else:

  • Take a task or feature and determine if it’s something you can do in one sitting. If not, break it even further down unil you think a single item can be done in one sitting/session.
  • I find that I over-estimate my coding abilities A LOT. My main flaw is I greatly under-estimate the time needed for debugging and optimization. I tend to finish the initial implementation of features fairly quickly, but then I spend the next 90% of the time debugging, optimizing, or tweaking it. And since this is usually not in the same session, I have to spend time reading my own code to get back up to speed on where I was prior to leaving it. I now take this into account when planning my weekly goals.

This post is pretty much an obvious ‘duh wtf’, but getting some of it into a list may help a few trying to find things to create that extra 30-minutes or hour so they can get just a tad bit closer to finishing their own game :). Adios.

3 comments

  1. I enjoyed reading this post about time management and I recognize myself tremendeously. I work as an IT security specialist with a 2-3 hour commute every day. Outside of that I have to manage my time to fit in: Music making (Imphenzia Music), Game development (Imphenzia Games), Soundtrack and sound effect making (Imphenzia Soundtrack), Texture gaterhing (Imphenzia Textures), web site development (imphenzia.com). Then I’ve got my hobbies such as motocross, online racing, online poker, graphic design, video making, photography and multiplayer gaming. Then I’ve got socializing and maintaining contact with firends and family, and of course spending time with my lovely wife. On top of that, a house that needs maintaining AND with large plans to extend the house… and now trying for a baby as well.

    As you can imagine, time is my greatest enemy 🙂 Luckily enough my interests follow a pattern and I can focus heavily on music for say 2-3 weeks, then game development for a few weeks, then site upgrading for a few, and so forth. I probably lose some time regaining momentum every time I switch, but there is simply no way I can fit it all at once.

    Oh – did I mention I’ve just launched a business with my wife as well?? Quite scarey when you start to list it all.

    Again, thanks for your tips in this post!

    1. I’m very glad you found the article useful, even if it was just a friendly reminder of how busy our lives are :). And I spent an hour browsing your audio library and you’re music sounds great! Very talented! Good luck with your current endeavors :).

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