GameDev Protips: Five Simple Techniques That Will Legitimately Skyrocket Your Productivity

There can be a huge difference between being busy and being productive, so how can we shift our business into productivity? Here are a few techniques that will assist the effort to do so, but keep in mind that these won’t be catch-alls; if one doesn’t work for you personally, try something else.

First off, try using the Pomodoro technique. The concept is simple, really, and is something you’ve likely seen before in some fashion. The concept is to simply break your work day into specific time boxes, whilst throwing in breaks between each of those blocks. The traditional approach is to work for 25 minutes with 5-minute breaks, repeat a few times, then have a longer break, but anything goes as long as it fits your schedule. The key here is to be disciplined to not cheat the system; it won’t do you any good if you just say “I’ll wait 5 more minutes” or “I’ll just play one more game” every time your break is about to end.

Secondly, consider making a S.M.A.R.T. to-do list. What does S.M.A.R.T. stand? It stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-related. For example, you may have a list item that says “Finish creating and implementing the weapon shot sound effect before noon.” This is good. Saying “make some progress on the next weapon” is not quite.

Third, use a streaking system. This is a system you often see in mobile games today, most recognizable in the form of a daily login bonus that becomes better the longer you go without breaking the streak. The idea is to simply come up with a goal, mark a date on the calendar that you wish to have this goal realized, then use the chain of days between now and that date to motivate you. It sounds silly, but for whatever reason, we seem to find these streaks to be easier to follow and even satisfying to follow, as you’ve probably noticed from those previously mentioned login bonuses. Try it out!

Fourth, use the power of triaging to get things done. This technique is intended to give you something you can focus on and thus effectively spend your time. The technique, summarized briefly, is to collect what has your attention, process what it means, put it where it belongs, review it frequently, and finally, simply do whatever needs to be done. Creating and continually re-evaluating a todo list, sorting by priority and time sensitivity is a great way to make sure that more important tasks get done first, followed by less time-sensitive ones.

Finally, you can look towards creating a truly actionable list by breaking down large tasks into chunks. The idea is that for every interaction, you should be assigning an action. For example, if you’re working on a game, for every potential task you might need to get to finish the game, you should be making a list of actions you will need to take to actually pursue those tasks. Having a list of things to do that you can simply start doing at any given point will definitely help motivate your will to work; if you just need to follow your list, you don’t have to bother with the stress of figuring out what needs to be done that can often shut down your productivity before you’ve even started.

In the end, there is no perfect technique to instantly boost your productivity, but the above are certainly strong possibilities. If they aren’t working for you, try to view them more as frameworks and then you can add your own twists to the frameworks. Once you find something that works, it’s just a matter of sticking to it and iterating on the process.

Important Takeaways: There are lots of techniques that can be used to boost a developer’s productivity. Pomodoro techniques help you avoid burning out on the work that you’re doing. S.M.A.R.T. to-do lists make sure that you have very clearly defined goals that are easy to follow, thus making it easier to start being productive. Breaking down large tasks into smaller chunks is great as well, and is something to focus on which will catalyze your productivity. There is no perfect productivity technique, however, so if none of these work, use them as frameworks and twist them in your own way until they do. Once you’ve found a working technique, you just have to stick with it and you’ll see the results!