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Author Topic: I'm trying a thing...  (Read 792 times)
pspeed
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« on: February 19, 2018, 01:47:13 AM »

This is the time of year where I usually get kind of depressed.  It's the time of year that Facebook nags me about my failures in its own special way with "Facebook Memories" of when I started Mythruna oh so many years ago, bright-eyed and full of optimism. 

This year it's especially hard because I've been dreaming about working on it... the same way I was obsessing about building a guitar sometime back.

My main new year's resolution was "one hand for me" in the sense of the old sailing mantra "One hand for you, one hand for the boat".  The idea that if I'm not careful, I'll spend so much energy "righting the boat" that I'll fall off and get swept away.

So I'm trying a thing... my own productivity "hack" set compiled from several things that tend to work for me.

They are as follows, in combination:
1) Jerry Seinfeld's "don't break the chain".  This idea that if you track something on the calendar, you want to be able to connect each day like a chain... if you miss a day then the chain is broken.  I know this works for me because I've currently logged into "My Fitness Pal" 870 days in a row to enter the food I eat every day... and I get physically worried if it looks like I might miss the deadline on some day.  (I once missed at 170 days or something and was really bummed to have to start over.)

2) "small chunks".  This idea is that if you just convince yourself to work on something for a few minutes that you are likely to keep working on it.  But even if not, you get a few minutes farther.

3) "productive procrastination".  I haven't seen this one written about anywhere but I've used it all the time since I was a teenager.  The idea is that you do one thing you don't want to do in order to put off doing another thing you want to do even less.  Eventually, (in theory) there is only one thing left and it's easy to knock that off by then.

4) "productivity diet".  I tried this once before with mixed results on its own.  This idea that like a food diet where doing some exercise can earn you more calories to spend on food... in the same way, doing productive things can earn gaming time or web surfing time.  When I tried this before, it was pre-diet.  I tried to rigidly control the hours +/- and find a good multiplier.  It was just too much friction and easy to "fail".  After having been on a diet for a long time now, (870 + 170 days at least, right?)... I know that just being aware of what I'm eating versus my  caloric budget is enough to keep things mostly inline.  Some days I go over, some days I don't.  But I "know" and that's everything.

5) "gamification".  Finally, package it all up into something that is not too hard to manage and a little fun to update.

What I have right now is a spreadsheet I've created.  It has a top section and a bottom section.

The top section is for my productive stuff.  I can group rows by "type" that count towards a particular chain.  So practicing guitar and going to music lessons are part of the same chain.  Reading a gamedev technical article, working on one of my gamdev libraries, or working on Mythruna are all part of the "gamedev" chain and so on.

The columns are for days.  If I work some time on some day on a task... for at least some minimum amount of time (15 minutes), then I get to fill in the time.  The cell automatically turns green.  If I keep my chain going, the whole row is green.  It makes me happy.

The bottom section is similar but it's for the "red" things like watching youtube or playing Minecraft or Clash Royale or whatever.  Time I could have spent doing other things... but still time that in moderation keeps me sane.  These are the "empty calories".

So far I'm only five days into this but it feels really good.  When the spreadsheet becomes too hard to manage then I may devote some time to a simple web app... but it may be a while.  (In my day job, I manage a way more complicated spreadsheet that I have to recreate every three weeks... so this is child's play.)

I really needed something like this because I was going crazy.  Not even just about Mythruna.

My house currently spends most of its time in a shambles.  If we are going to have company over, I have to spend two solid days wrangling the kids to get their stuff picked up, cleaning, vacuuming, etc... I literally never get ahead of it which is why my office is knee-deep full of crap and you can't see the surface of my desk.  I'm normally a pretty organized and neat person... so this chips away at me EVERY. DAY.

The problem is that whenever I would get large blocks of time free to make significant dents, it was never enough time to truly finish... and then by the time I get time again it would all be back to it's previous state.  (The parallels between this and game development are not lost on me.)

I know the "work on this for just fifteen minutes" thing to chip away at it but the state of things gets to the point where it's just defeating.  If there was no extra motivation then it's really easy to just give up and wait until there is more time.

Five days in and I'm feeling pretty good.  Every day I've done at least 15 minutes of "nesting" to make my spaces more enjoyable.  "Productive procrastination" also works great here.  The past two days, I couldn't see any easy low-hanging fruit in my office so I worked on the piles in the bedroom instead... in only one case did I work the minimum 15 minutes.  In all other cases, I worked for 40 minutes or more just because I was on a roll and I didn't stop.  I've cleaned the kitchen, I've cleared the house of amazon boxes, etc... I feel better even just thinking about it.

Moreover, in the last five days, I've spent almost 5 hours total doing gamedev related stuff... even if it was just reading a technical article for 20 minutes or whatever.  In some cases, I'm doing some hardcore jMonkeyEngine fixes that I've been putting off for 3-4 years... and making actual progress.

It feels great.  Hopefully I can keep it up.  Hopefully everyone's health continues to go in a stable or positive direction.

We'll see.
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Michael Musgrove
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« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2018, 02:15:51 PM »

I watch some videos on productivity management on youtube, and one of my favorites is the Pomodoro technique. If you haven't heard of it, it's basically using a timer to say "I'm going to work on this for so long" then take a break, which is subsequently timed, and repeat. I think the model is 25 minutes working, 5 minute break, or whatever. I just felt like sharing.

Anyways, keep up the good work, Paul, and don't push yourself too hard. Just remember how to eat an elephant.
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pspeed
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« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2018, 11:06:11 PM »

I watch some videos on productivity management on youtube, and one of my favorites is the Pomodoro technique. If you haven't heard of it, it's basically using a timer to say "I'm going to work on this for so long" then take a break, which is subsequently timed, and repeat. I think the model is 25 minutes working, 5 minute break, or whatever. I just felt like sharing.

Anyways, keep up the good work, Paul, and don't push yourself too hard. Just remember how to eat an elephant.

The pomodoro technique is good for work that you do at your desk if you are a certain type of personality that otherwise has trouble focusing on productive tasks at your desk (or don't take breaks often enough).

Unfortunately, it's not going to help me with my tasks that stretch all over the house... but it is using some of the same principles.  Also, in creative pursuits, I find the "take a break now" cut-off better as a suggestion than a rule because if you are on a roll you definitely shouldn't stop.  I spend a good deal of my waking life trying to find those double-productivity waves and I'm not going to interrupt it for anything short of a medical emergency (which unfortunately has happened all too often).

Thanks for the comments, though.

Today was a real test because I didn't want to do any of it... but I still managed to tick some time off of every box except (so far) my guitar practice which I'm about to do.  No chains broken yet.
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« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2018, 01:18:14 AM »

8 days in, no chains broken.

The chain thing is really working, too... because there have been two days I would have given up on some things if not for that little nag.  And one of those days, I ended up putting in the most time I'd put in so far.  Well above my minimum.
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« Reply #4 on: March 22, 2018, 10:21:53 AM »

I remember a much older post you made about how you also found it difficult to work on large, winding tasks, because it requires you to work on it for a few hours... To keep the information you know about it in your head as you work on it. (Because sleeping on it breaks that, and you no longer have everything sorted out in your brain like you did when you were working on it)

I'm really glad you've got something going, Paul; It sounds like you haven't exactly been in the greatest shape, mentally. My love goes out to you, and your family on this.
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pspeed
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« Reply #5 on: March 22, 2018, 11:26:33 AM »

Thanks...

Over a month in and I haven't broken any chains yet and I'm still really inspired by this system.  It's passed many tests, too.

There have been nights I just wanted to go to bed but I decided I didn't want to break my "cleaning" chain so I just spent 5 minutes cleaning part of my office... only for that to balloon into 15 minutes of really thorough organization of some pile of crap.  Then finally going to bed feeling much better about life in general.

One of the projects I cycle through as part of my "development" chain is a web app to take over for the spreadsheet.  The spreadsheet is still doing a pretty good job so I'm easily distracted by my other more fun development tasks... but still, I make a little progress on everything all the time.  Maybe soon that web app will be ready for others to try it, also.  I've already had a handful of people express real interest (and another handful express passing interest).

Maybe I can start the "cult of getting stuff done". Smiley
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Rayblon
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« Reply #6 on: March 22, 2018, 05:07:36 PM »

Maybe I can start the "cult of getting stuff done". Smiley

The cult of procrastination would like to have a word with you.
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« Reply #7 on: March 22, 2018, 10:08:00 PM »

Maybe I can start the "cult of getting stuff done". Smiley

The cult of procrastination would like to have a word with you.

...when they get around to it.  Wink
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