Motivation, Inspiration and Focus
This page is intended as a quick guide & overview to topics, such as: motivation, inspiration & focus. It is however far from perfect, so take what's written here with a pinch of salt...
Trying to focus on the task at hand can often be quite hard & daunting; especially when you aren't in the right frame of mind. It's easy to fall into a routine of sitting around doing nothing, or vegetating in front of the TV, & once you numb your mind & your body starts to relax, it's very hard to break away & begin working on something productive. Long lunch breaks - or long breaks, in general - are real focus killers, as you have given your body & mind time to relax, which makes it all the harder to resume working on something productive again. Large dinners, may also leave you feeling tired & sap the energy & enthusiasm straight out of you, so it's better to eat light or just snack small portions in general, while you are working.
Phones, social media, IM chat windows, & the internet in general is a large focus killer, because it's a hard habit to break when you are constantly checking your phone, emails, facebook, or replying to chat messages, etc. Unplug!
|I've found out from experience that I'm often more productive when I disable my wifi connection or it goes off for whatever reason. As a quick example: a few years back when I was actively producing music, I hardly ever managed to finish a song, as I found it easy to be distracted by one thing, or another. One particular week my internet got disconnected for about a week or so, & in that time I managed to produce & finish 3 whole songs; even though they weren't particularly that good, it still felt great to finally finish something.
Another focus killer is: having too much on ones plate. By this I mean, it's never a good idea to have too many things on the go at the same time, as you will find it really hard to concentrate, especially if you aren't sure about which task you should be attacking first.
What I've written probably only covers a small portion of focus related issues, but instead of talking about others, I figured I would tell you about a method that will & should help you focus a little better. The method is called...
The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is actually relatively straight forward, & all you need is a timer. It could be an egg-timer, a digital timer, a watch with a timer function or even an app on your phone or computer.
What you need to do is create a task list somewhere; a GDD or online task service, such as Asana. Mindmap applications, such as yEd, MindMaple, or articy:draft are great for quickly getting down ideas; or you could even go down the more traditional route, & just use pen & paper...
Once you have your timer & your task list in hand, you should decide how long you want to work on the current task for (in time chunks). A chunk of time could be anything you like, from say 1 minute to 60 minutes. Ideally a time chunk should last for approximately 25 to 50 minutes.
Once you have decided on the amount of time, you should set the timer going & get cracking until the timer stops, rings; or whatever it happens to do. You should then take a short break for about 5-10 minutes. Use this time to freshen up, take a walk, get a drink, stretch, or grab a bite to eat. Ideally you should spend this time away from your work area (if possible).
|Quick note: if you finish your current task before the timer ends, stop the timer, jot down how long you have worked for, then take a short break or quit for the day if you have no more tasks left to do; or you just can't be arsed to do anymore work & would rather sit down & vegetate in front of the tv or play some pew! pew! games - no judgement, eh!
Once the break is up, either set the timer going again, or quit for the day if you've had enough. With this method, you should soon start to build up focus & productivity.
|I'm sure most of you will have heard the phrase: "Every little helps...", mentioned, at some point or other. Well this phrase is also true in regards to creativity, productivity, focus & motivation. 10 seconds spent working on your project is still better than 10 seconds not spent working on your project. With this in mind, it might only take you your entire lifetime to finish the project, but hey at least it will be finished at some point, no?
Anything, & I do mean anything should & could be used as inspiration. A loose thought that pops into your head. A conversation you had with your friends, your family, or just something you overheard. Something you saw, heard, read or was told about. A favorite book, movie, TV show or song. A life experience. Hell! it could even be a mish-mash of all the things that I just mentioned.
|Remember that stealing isn't exactly stealing, if you don't blatantly copy everything word for word, or line for line. It's all in the details. Almost everything in this day & age is based on something else, regardless of how original the creators claim it to be. This method of inspiration should really be called borrowing, as that's just what it is.
Motivation is one of the biggest issues, when it comes to getting those creative juices flowing. It's also directly related to focus, as focus & motivation go hand in hand, when it comes to getting things done. Here are some of the common motivation killers...
|Lack of interest in project
|Feeling tied down? It's not your project & you don't really believe in it, nor do you care much for the idea behind it, then how can you possibly feel motivated to work on it?
|There's no real solution to this issue. If you aren't happy & you aren't bound by contract or money, feel free to look for work, or a new project elsewhere.
|Upfront Money is often a good incentive, so are gifts, then again, so is a monthly / weekly salary. Promises however are cheap & there's no guarantee that the project will be successful, let alone reach the release stage.
|Try to stay away from projects that promise royalties / profits of sales after the games release, unless the development group has a good track record of actually getting their projects to the release stage.The only real reason to work on projects for free or for profit shares, is if you are just after the experience or to bulk up your portfolio. Please note, that it's always a good idea to try & get any agreements made in writing, with a signature & the date of signing.
|Long distance work relationships
|Long distance relationships are often doomed to fail before they begin. Why? Because it's really hard to keep long distance team members focused & motivated on the task at hand, when you aren't looking over their shoulder, whispering encouragement or cracking the whip.
|Try to find & form a team of like minded individuals close to where you live. If you can work together in the same place, all the better, if not then at least you can probably meet up weekly or monthly at a bar or restaurant or something to discuss things. It's often easier to explain & discuss things in person than over the phone or via text.
|Lack of proper planning
|Don't have a game design document? Don't have a task list? Don't worry, I'm sure you can brainstorm, plan & direct everything on the spot!
|Game design documents (aka god damn documents) are for jotting down ideas & providing an overview of tasks & goals for your project, which can be useful for keeping your team organized & on task. Management applications like: articy:draft or Asana are really great for keeping your team on task & focused. Whiteboards, clearboards & blackboards are really useful too. Without planning, your project is likely to fall apart & fail, because a messy working environment, is just that; messy.
|Bored of your current task?
|Sometimes tasks can become quite repetitive & cumbersome, which can quickly begin draining away your motivation.
|Well, this is an easy solution. As long as it's not vitally important that you have to finish the current task all in one go, then you should consider switching over to another task for a while. Switching around often helps increase motivation, as it prevents your brain from going numb out of sheer boredom. Besides, you can always go back to each task, as & when it suits you.
|This isn't really a positive or negative comment on motivation; more of an afterthought, in that: I believe that episodic content games over feature length games are great motivation boosters. So what if you piss off the fans a little, by making them wait for each episode... The reason I'm saying this, is because it's much faster to plan & work on an episode / chapter of a game than a feature length game. Also you get to develop, publish & release something much sooner, which generates interest & feedback which can be useful information when it comes to deciding whether or not something should be overhauled or improved upon for future episodes. Finishing things, feels great!