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11 Oct 2013

How to Stay Productive as an Indie Developer

It’s Friday. I’m not sure if most of you face the same problem every Friday, but for me, my productivity is at an all-time low when the last day of the work week rolls around. This shouldn’t be the case – after all, I have plenty of work to accomplish every Friday just as I do Monday through Thursday. Yet, there is something spellbounding about Fridays that make me (and probably most of you as well) less attentive that I should be. I find myself correcting my lack of focus off-and-on throughout the day, whereas every other day of the week I’m focused 110%. It’s a problem you’re probably facing as well, so how do I stay productive on Fridays (and thus, every other day of the week)? Here’s how I do it, and take it from me: by following these tips, it’ll help you as an indie developer as well.

 

The Work Day Starts the Night Before

What does this mean? It’s simple: get enough sleep the night before! That means when 10:30 – 11:30pm rolls around, I get into bed and make myself go to sleep. In the past, I would usually browse a few subreddits before I went to sleep, but then I would get caught up in a few posts, and before I knew it, it was 1am and my mind was wide awake. A lot of you probably have this problem as well. You want to check emails, check on things for the next day of work, and so on whereas you should be emptying your mind, closing your eyes, and relaxing.

The way I solved this was to charge my phone on the other side of my bedroom. This accomplishes two things: first, I am not tempted to look at my phone while I should be sleeping. Secondly, when my alarm begins screaming at me in the morning, I have no choice but to get out of bed and turn it off, and once I’m up? It’s much harder for me to justify pressing the ‘Snooze’ button and getting an extra 15-30 minutes of sleep. Alas, I’m awake and am ready to work when I should be every single day, and I feel better for it as a result.

Quick tip: Eat a good breakfast before work as well. I usually eat an energy bar – it’s quick, full of the ‘good stuff’ I’ll need to keep me productive until lunch, and tastes pretty good as well. Make your coffee while you eat your breakfast, grab a cup when you finish eating, and go to work!

 

Maximize Your Workstation’s Effectiveness

When you want to get the most out of the morning, you need to keep your focus on your work and only your work. This is easier said than done – especially when we have more distractions around us than ever before. One minute my iPad notifications are alterting me, the next I’m being alerted that I have an email, and other minute I’m feeling the need to check out Reddit for the morning. So how do you focus solely on work?

For starters, I silence my iPad every morning. As for my smartphone, I don’t want to turn it off in the event that my wife calls for one reason or another, so I place it on silent as well. In addition, I have turned off notifications for the Twitter, Google Hangouts, and  Facebook apps, and with these two apps turned off, you would be amazed as to how quiet my smartphone is every morning.

How do I curb my desire to check out timekilling sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit? By installing a Chrome extension known as StayFocusd. The beauty of StayFocusd is you can place limits on how much time per day you spend on certain websites. Once you go over the time limit, you cannot access the website for the rest of the day. For me, I give myself around 10 minutes of time on Facebook per day as well as on Reddit, and if I want to browse these sites after work? I can do so via the apps on my tablet or smartphone.

And put on non-distracting music to work to. I hate working in silence, yet some music is impossible for me to work with. Opening Pandora and opening my movie soundtrack radio station works wonders for how focused I remain during the day.

 

Have a Plan

Create a set of goals that you want to accomplish throughout the day. For me, I always detail everything I need to accomplish for the day on a dry-erase board, and by noon, I want to have half of the tasks completed. Being able to look at your tasks written down is a great way to stay focused, and constantly acts as a reminder as to what you need to accomplish for the day. It’s such a simple task, yet I’m amazed as to how well it helps me to stay focused.

If you ever find yourself confused as to what you need to do next to accomplish your goals for the day, simply asking yourself, “what needs to be done to accomplish my current goal,” works wonders. From there, you will discover exactly what you need to do to continue pressing forward. Whether you need to make a phone call, email someone, or simply talk to yourself in the mirror about how to accomplish a certain goal, do it and keep the day productive.

 

Outsourcing

If you are finding no matter how many hours in the day you give yourself to be productive you are unable to finish of your work on time, then you need to consider outsourcing. Sites such as Elance, Odesk, Freelancer.com, and Guru.com all give you the luxury of outsourcing your work to freelancers the world over that are more than qualified to tackle nearly any task that you may have. Are you spending too much time programming? Hire a freelancer. Spending too much time with animations? You can hire someone. Whether you need a virtual assistant, project manager, a team leader, a writer, an artist, a musician – basically, any skill you need outsourced, you can do so on one of these sites.

And the beauty of doing this? You are going to find that you have more than enough time to tackle those projects that you want to focus on more. That’s really what outsourcing is all about: freeing up your time so you can give your important tasks the attention they deserve, all the while having enough free time to essentially have a life.

 

Take Breaks Often

Take a short break every hour to hour and a half. It’s impossible to stay productive and churn out the best work possible from 8am to 5pm, and by taking breaks, you will be able to clear your mind and return to your tasks with a set of fresh eyes. It sounds simple, but it works.

Sometimes, I do a few crunches, push-ups, or jumping jacks to get my body active and my mind off of work for a few minutes. Other times, I close my eyes for 10 minutes and let me brain rest. Other times, I’ll read part of a comic for 5-10 minutes. Anything you can do to free your mind up and let is exhale is beneficial.

 

Take Care of Yourself

Find time in the day to exercise for at least 30 minutes to an hour. You don’t have to join a gym or anything – instead, find a few exercise videos on YouTube and exercise in your office. Many people swear by exercising in the morning to wake themselves up, and you may as well. In short, just be active, and you’ll find that being productive is a lot easier.

Moreover, eat better. It’s very easy to talk yourself into eating something fast and terrible for you because you have a deadline to meet. Don’t fall into that trap. There are plenty of healthy, fast meals that you can eat for breakfast and lunch (or dinner if you work during the evenings). If you want professional advice for eating correctly, speak to a local dietitian, as they will point you in the right direction.

Taking care of yourself may not seem as if it is related to staying productive, but believe me, when you eat healthy and remain active day-to-day, you will be amazed at how productive you can be throughout the week. Your body feels great, your mind is clear, and you just feel like a million bucks.

 

While these tips will benefit you as an indie developer, they work well for those that work from home as well. If you have any tips for remaining productive, feel free to comment below and share them with everyone. Who knows: you may help somebody become more productive by doing so!

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