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7 Apr 2014

Benefits of Taking Time Off as an Indie Developer

This is one of those rare Monday mornings where I am actually happy to be working. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy my work (I certainly do), but it’s easy to get stuck in the grind of things and feel a little burn out over time. You probably thought I was writing as usual when you were reading my posts last week, but I was actually overseas enjoying a vacation with my wife (‘tis the beauty of scheduling posts a week prior). I’ve tried to take a vacation every year since I have been financially able to do so, but this year’s vacation? It was much needed as I have been writing nonstop for months on end. Again, I enjoy my work, but I needed to reset my brain, rebalance my chi I guess you could say. I needed a rest, and the result? Again, I’m writing on a Monday morning, ecstatic for the work week instead of thinking to myself, “ugh, Monday already?”

You have probably went through the same thing too. Daily, you grind and do your part to ensure your game is growing its legs, getting off the ground per schedule, in an effort to make your next great game. It can become a grind to be sure, and when that happens? Take it from me: take a hard-earned vacation. Still not convinced? Consider these benefits for taking a little needed rest and relaxation the moment you start feeling the nasty glare of ‘burn out.’


But first: know you don’t have to go anywhere expensive

Early in my writing career, I went a few years without vacationing because I didn’t have enough money to go on a vacation worth my while. That was a mistake. When you start feeling burn out and knowing that you need a vacation, you can obtain the same benefits of a vacation by simply unplugging from the outside world and hanging out at home. Take a staycation if money is tight. Keep your smartphone powered off, your computer disconnected from the Web, and do whatever you desire. Perhaps you want to finally watch the entire series of Breaking Bad from beginning to end (a move I highly recommend) or you want to buy a few video games you haven’t had time to play and spend all week just gaming. Look, the point is to just unplug and unwind. I was unplugged all week this week from the outside world, and while it was difficult to put up with at first, it felt great to know that I wasn’t going to be bombarded with emails throughout the day.


Goodbye stress

My wife talked me into going on a cruise ship this week, and despite getting sea sick and food poisoning (both of us), I wasn’t stressed once. If that isn’t proof enough that vacation time is beneficial, well, I don’t know what else to tell you. Instead of sitting in my home office on a Tuesday afternoon writing for various clients, I was sitting outside reading Snow Crash without a care in the world, and it was great. No worries, no stress, and today? I can definitely feel the results of taking time off. Again, I feel rejuvenated, fresh, ready to tackle the work week – and you will too.


Improved mental state

Let’s face it: whenever you are bombarded with work week-to-week, it starts to drain you. Every weekend, you just want to lay around and not do anything (if you even get a weekend off), halfway dreading Monday morning because you just want to relax, halfway not dreading it because you love what you do (just like I do). While this could be a lesson into making the most of your weekends (a good topic for another post), a vacation can certainly help you to have an improved state of mind. Really, you don’t have to travel far to get the benefits of a vacation as stated previously. The key is to get away from what is draining you and keeping you from a healthy mental state. In this case, the culprit is very easy to spot: work and stress! Take a week away from it all! Stay home and unplug, or do what a PR friend does every year: leave the cell phone and laptop at home, take a tent out into the middle of nowhere, and camp for a full week. Spend a week with family you haven’t seen in a while (just make sure you visit family that will relieve stress, not compound it), just find an escape from your stress for a week. Believe me: you’ll return to work with a refreshed state that you simply cannot get without a vacation.


Boosted creativity

When you’re doing the same thing every day, this can really put a damper on how you work. You go through the same motions, and as a result, you are unable to be as creative as you need to be. You can get stuck in a creative rut, where you’re unable to fully utilize your creativity. By unwinding, letting your brain reboot, and returning to work the next week, you are going to be able to be more creative than ever – and with relative ease!

Think of your brain as a wireless router. Sometimes, your devices (i.e. your brain) cannot connect to the router and communicate properly, causing them to slow down or not function at all (i.e. your creative rut). So what do you have to do? Unplug it from the wall and plug it back in so it can reboot (i.e. vacation time). And what happens after that? Your wireless connection works properly once again (i.e. the benefits of vacation time).

It all comes down to rebooting, rejuvenating yourself, and returning to work with a new lease and zeal for the work that you love. Burn out happens to the best of us – even those that have a huge passion for the work they do! It’s inevitable, and when it happens? Do something about it and take a vacation. Your work and quality of life will benefit from it – I guarantee it.

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