I recently quit my day job as a senior analyst programmer in the financial sector, for the past twelve months or so I’ve been dabbling in iPhone game development and have taken the plunge by Jumping into the Deep End. This is not a step to be taken lightly, and if it were not for my decade and a half of experience in software development I probably wouldn’t have done it.
Working for yourself on your own time schedule is a lot of fun, but it’s also a big shift in my work processes too. As I don’t have a big team to rely on, a manager to ultimately decide on what my team does and a business entity to tell me what they want. It’s all up to me, win or fail and on a limited budget.
So one of the most important things for me was becoming a more efficient game developer by getting the most out of my time.
Distractions and Filters
So the biggest time killers are distractions, anything that interrupts your thought process and makes you focus on things that are not #1 priority right now are a distraction. They come in many forms but the worst are these…
By far the worst of the lot, reading and answering emails. It’s a necessary evil, but email works for you, not you for it. So when you get a new email and your already in the middle of a task DONT! read it until you’re done. I’d even go one step further and say allow 2-3 time slots in a day to read and send emails, I prefer to do it first thing in the morning, sometimes at lunch and then right before I log off for the night.
I also recommend that you filter your emails, separate work and home emails. If you subscribe to online mentors (which I recommend that you do) only follow 2-3 people that are in your niche and provide key information to helping you in your goals. This also applies to other communication mediums.
Instant Messengers (Google Talk, MSN, Skype etc):
Much like email, but in a way even worse. Start up a conversation with some one and keep switching between that and work? It totally takes you out of your groove. Sure it’s a good communication medium, but what are you trying to do? Chat with a friend, or work as effective as possible.
Twitter, Facebook and Others:
Do I need to go into this one? Huge time wasters when you’re on the clock. Time is money, and when you work for yourself it’s your own money your wasting.
Planning, Execution and Process
Poor planning is instrumental to all failures, or on the flip side as the British Army put it in their 7 P’s “Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance”.
So proper planning at the beginning is the key to successful completion of the task at hand, it has even been said by one of my favorite mentors Brian Tracy that every minute spent planning saves ten minutes in execution. So wouldn’t you rather spend ten minutes planning rather than was hours in task jumping?
Some of my key points to planning and execution are
- Break work down into the smallest possible tasks, the smaller they are, the quicker the win and the better you feel
- Set tasks daily and prioritise them
- Always single mindedly work on the first task first, everything else is secondary
- Follow a process to the letter (For me it’s the Agile Development Methodology)
- Set good habits and break bad ones
Tools and Streamlining
They are almost better than Vegemite toast, almost!
So I’ve spoken about how you save lost time in distractions and gain time in planning. But effective tools are that third icing on the cake thing. As an iPhone games developer working on a computer all day it’s really easy to save time in the mundane repetitive tasks by automating them. That’s what computers are best at after all.
So for me I use software for the following things
- Setting daily tasks (Springpad, Evernote)
- (Agile) Project management (OnTime, JIRA, Codespaces, Rally)
- Code Backups (GitHub, Codespaces)
- Custom key shortcuts (OSX does this well on it’s own, but for windows peeps read up on Executor)
- Mind Mapping (Mind Meister, XMind)
So the main things here are to improve you as a worker, cut the distractions such as email. Implement processes that are going to improve your efficiency in time you are going to spend anyway. And also to use great tools that you can find online cheaply and a lot of the time for free.
But if you were only to take away a couple of things from my post then please take these as you will get most benefit from them:
- Cut the email distractions, they are the biggest time killer around.
- Set tasks daily, prioritise them and work single mindedly on them in the correct order
I hope this helps you become more efficient, I know it’s helped me to no end in my goal of being an upcoming iPhone game developer and even create my third game in ten days. But thats a story for my next post