Low Hanging Fruit and Project Motivation

Some days it takes a herculean effort to force myself to sit down and work on my game. Some weeks it can be destructive to my entire schedule, while others its a complete non-issue. Overtime I’ve found prioritizing my tasks wasn’t enough to really Get Things Done. I needed a way to organize my daily tasks in such a way that would maximize my motivation to actually work that day, particularly after coming home from my day job. By taking my top priority items and then sorting them from easiest/most fun to hardest/most boring I think has helped my overall productivity.

I’ve resisted the temptation to try to squeeze in and finish off any low hanging fruit when I’m finishing up for the day and leaving it for the next session. Why? It increases the chances that I start on time the next day and get ‘into the zone’ faster for when I need to really concentrate on the harder bugs and features later into the day. It’s much easier for me to come back to an easy fix or feature. Whenever I have a really hard bug I tend to dread working on it before I’ve even sat down at the computer. Sometimes this can’t be avoided as some bugs can take days of work to finally be fixed, especially if you’re on a very limited time schedule with a day job and other obligations. I haven’t met many people who look forward to debugging some crazy hard bug when they start their day’s work. Once over the ‘hump’ when you’ve settled into just doing the easy things you can quickly ramp up and tackle the hard problems on your to-do with little fuss.

But when the day (or in my case, the night) is winding down, I try to save away some of those easy or fun 5 minute tasks for the next day to really help motivate me into starting on time. As for other tips on game development project motivation and such, instead of going into other aspects of it I’ll just link you guys to a post by Jake Birkett, of Grey Alien Games, that sums it up very nicely for indies looking to get ‘serious’ about their game development business. In particular, this bit:

I’ve run out of motivation

Well perhaps game programming isn’t for you but some other aspect of game production is? But maybe you just need to re-motivate yourself! There’s plenty of stuff about this all over the Internet. Try doing something that inspired you to make games in the first place – perhaps you need to play some of your favourite games, or boot up an emulator and play some old classics, or read some stories about other people’s success, or make a little fun minigame, or listen to some Commodore 64 tunes or Euphoric Trance music. Whatever gets you back into that space where you really want to have fun making and selling a game! Be sure to REPEAT this process whenever you feel your motivation dip.

Having a plan really helps out as you can chart your progress and see clearly what you need to do next. Also if you feel unmotivated, just START something, anything on your project and 5-10 minutes later you’ll probably be really into it.

That last bit is very important and speaks to the issues I encounter most often. For me, that ‘something’ is usually a 5-15 minute fun/easy high priority task that needs to get done. Planning this ahead of time helps as staring at a list of tasks and ‘cherry-picking’ when I’m in a state of lousy motivation usually ends up with me picking things that don’t need to get done right away and leaving more important tasks to linger on the list. Game development isn’t all fun, but with a little forethought and planning you can really help minimize the mundane feeling parts of software development.

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