Wandering Dev Diary #4: Making The Most Of Time
Let’s talk about the one killer for development that hounds me most: time. I know I have talked a bit about this before, but I really want to discuss what I have been doing recently in regards to remedying my problems with time. I am going to do my best here in not listing reasons or excuses for why i haven’t done certain things. Instead, I want to assess the problems I have. Not just mention them, but dig into them and discuss my current and planned solutions for them. Part of this will also be an assessment on what my goals have been and what they need to be because there isn’t time for everything.
Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana. OK so let’s just focus on time flying instead of puns. Time really does fly by when you are not paying attention. All the plans in the world might not save you from running out of time. In fact the more stringently you plan the less survival that plan has. With no time to spare, every minute adds up to becoming hours and days behind. That time can never be reclaimed, not without sacrificing time you haven’t spent yet. Time is a resource but it comes to us constantly and leaves us without preamble or allowance. We are only able to spend what we have while we have it.
For me, the problem I have discovered is that I plan a lot, and it seems viable. A three day period and a to-do list, with an idea of when I have plans and when I have free time to get that list done, specified times for certain items. These all sound great and even look great on paper, but without fail this year those weekends end with uncrossed to-do items. Why? Inevitably stuff gets added. I forget something, an opportunity comes up, times get switched, or any number of things. What they all have in common is that the plan relied too much on not changing. Any deviations snow balled beyond what I was capable of doing. Some of that is seen here, like months without new Untamed Dice, and some of it is not, when I put of projects for months at a time. Sometimes I get something else done, and that’s great, but other times I just don’t get anything done, and that feel bad.
What it comes down to is that I needed to reassess how I spend my time.
To understand how things disappeared I mention how time slips away and why things get missed. What I haven’t done, and didn’t do until recently is actually go over what I have spent my time on rather than what I want to spend time on. I’m going to share a short list with you here, to get an idea.
- editing audio to catch up
- editing audio to stay on time
- figuring out articles
- writing articles
- thinking about ideas that I am not working on
- figuring out the ideas I am having trouble thinking about
- prioritizing the short term
- focusing on what needs to be done
- ignoring things that are distracting
- writing stuff I am in the mood for instead of anything else
- trying to decompress
- ignoring what I am “working on” because I cannot focus
- realizing how little time I have and making a new to-do list
One of the big take away was that I spent so much time trying to do something that wasn’t working out, I didn’t get anything done at all. Including relax. There is also the fact that I tried to ignore something in favor of other things. This, at the time, seems logical. This is important do it first. However, if neither gets done than what was the point. So how have I begun to remedy that fact?
Do Less, Accomplish More
This is the mantra from which I am working now. I remind myself of it every day and why I am doing it. It is helping. This took some time, some effort, and some reflection to come around to. I am still working on it and forming a balance of things. Regardless, that is where I am. It started with a list. No, I take that back. It started with throwing out my planner. Yep, that’s right I had a day planner which I would write things down in and check them off and plan ahead with. This has happened many times over the years but I never keep with it. I forget it, can’t bring it with me, or simply hate how little room I have. Recently, however, I rediscovered a method that works for me as simple as it might be: the to-do list.
This list takes up a single sheet of printer paper folded into my back pocket. I fold the paper first to give me lines, mostly for two delineated columns. Then I go to town. What do I need to get done today? What about tomorrow? This week, weekend? I also break big things into little parts. Instead of cleaning the house I write: cat box, cat bowl, dishes, clean desk. Instead of Rant episode 10 I write edit Rant 10, add music to Rant 10, upload. Sometimes I just write talk to so-and-so or figure out weekend or add next weeks homework to list. It is a reminder as much as a to-do list. Being in my back pocket also allows a great deal more and easier editing and is easier to remember as it sits next to my keys and wallet. I can also pull it out to check plans for the week when needed.
A big help to this method is that even seemly small projects can be exposed for their true size. By taking up space on the list I realize how long it might take and plan for less. Crossing individual pieces off the list also makes me feel more accomplished, like I am spending my time well, leaving me to spend less of it wondering how well I am spending it. But just tricking myself into feeling good about things that I have done and manipulating my habits to make tracking my goals / needs easier is just part of it. I also made a conscious effort to do less.
In order to do this I had to say to myself: no, you don’t need to get that done or try to do that. I specifically chose to let go of certain projects for a time. That was made with a great deal of effort and reflective prioritization. Beyond that, I also decided to devote a certain amount of time to doing nothing. I have done this in a couple ways. First a weekend without plans gets time devoted to nothing at all. A weekend with one 75% D&D play time and one free day gets a guaranteed “do nothing for the rest of D&D day” in my head. I have found that I never got that “thing I can definitely still get done” done anyways, so why worry and stress myself over it. Instead I commit to relaxing. If I am distracted I stop and do something else, watch something, or play a game until I feel the need to be productive again. Oh, and a key factor was devoting more time to making my space clean. I live with a few people and even when it’s not a disaster spending a little time to make sure thing aren’t going to pile up and wreck havoc on your subconscious is so, so valuable.
Re-Introduce The Dreaded Planner….Sort Of
As I have worked out a method for feeling good about not getting things done, feeling good about getting things done, and manipulating my psyche to work towards being productive when it isn’t being productive I have managed to come back to an equilibrium. Articles are coming more, and more regularly. The podcast is back. Projects are moving away from the wings of my subconscious and into my active thoughts. All of this without taking away from the rest. In order for this to continue in the long term and not be spurts of productivity in one area and not the other, however, I have realized I need goals. Not short term to-do list goals and not the hectic what day is it and what should I get out when planning of list-to-list thoughts. I had to go back to planning.
Instead of a planner I printed out calendar pages. By committing to the idea (not promising) of getting X article out on [SPECIFIC VIABLE DATE] I can give myself deadlines without over doing it. I can visualize spacing and likelihood and I can compare and contrast my to-do list. I can plan releases, game days, special days, and the like. A further result of that was the on site calendar to keep you guys updated and help keep myself committed to those. Right now I have two articles a week and audio every week planned. I also have one publishing project projected for end of month. It may seem like a lot (because in many ways it is), but it is far less than I always tried for. It is viable and it is viable with free time to do other things. Some of those things involves relaxing or getting away from the screen. Others simply involve me working on a project that is on my mind. Either way I am doing less and accomplishing more. As is my mantra, so shall I achieve.
This only scratched the surface of what I have been on about in my life these past couple months. I am more than willing to answer questions about how I keep track of things and what methods work or don’t work for keeping me productive. I am also willing to share what I found to be counter-productive despite all assumptions to the contrary. Feel free to ask and I shall do my best to share or help. Specific question about projects and where they are and if their coming are also welcomed!