Your Productivity Tips

Last week, I asked people to send me their productivity tips – and this week, I’ve received a few that I want to share with you.

Christian emphasizes that the trick is to make yourself start:

I work as a programmer for a military contractor. I deal with programming or thinking about programming 40 hrs a week. When i get home, usually the last thing to ever pass my mind is to work on something programming related for myself. However, I have found that if i make myself sit down for 30 min and just work on something, be it a login page, some templates, or just about anything that has something visual to show, i can usually stick it out for a few hours and end up getting so much more accomplished. The trick is to sit down and make yourself start.

Nick practically wrote me an entire blog post on what he does to stay productive:

I currently work self-employed at home as a webmaster so staying productive, avoiding distractions, is key for me. Here are a few things I’ve always done to stay productive;

Usually, if I don’t feel like doing a project (let’s use a browser game as an example), I’ll think of the least difficult, quickest change I can make to the project to further improve it towards my goal. Spelling errors, a line break, emboldening something, slight change in combat formula, anything tiny that’ll take 5 minutes at the most. This might be just me, but when I open up the project, even if I’m ‘intending’ to do just 5 minutes of work, 99% of the time, once I’m done, I’ll find myself in the mood to do even more. Perhaps it’s because I see it as a win-win situation; if it puts me in the mood, I’ll do more, but if not, I’ll still have improved the project in some way.

Another thing I do that helps my productivity is to take it in small, tiny steps; not worrying about the bigger picture. I’ll have an idea of what I want the outcome to be, but when I take out a notepad, I just list the absolute basics. I put the game development into ’rounds’, and at the end of each round, the game must be in a somewhat playable and stable state as a rule. First round for a game = registration page, login page, very simple ability to fight (perhaps a random number generated for both you and the opponent, no stats). Consider your game ‘completed’. Now you just upgrade it, open up a new page on your notepad, and start designing the game all over again; next round, you add stats/leveling/rewards, zones. Game ‘completed’, everything stable. Next round, add monster lists, combat modifiers, ability to attack other players, equipment, etc, and repeat adding rounds until you end up with the finished version you originally envisioned.

Obviously if you want something basic my previous technique won’t apply, but if you’re aiming for something more ambitious, it definetly helps. If you try to add (and list) everything all at once, the project just seems daunting, and sooner or later you’ll start putting it off. The best part is, even if you decide to stop working on the project, you’ll have completed every feature up until that point, and can easily re-use the code in other projects or if you continue at a later date. No wasted development time.

Last of all, unless you need to upload frequently, disconnect your internet. You can still work and test on the game offline if you’ve set up PHP and Apache on your system. Chatting with friends, YouTube, onling gaming have always been the doom of my projects, so I just disconnect my internet. Self discipline is key to any project, rewarding yourself for completed work, such as giving yourself an hour online before getting back to work not only gives you a break, but pushes you to achieve the goals you give yourself. Not only that, but you start to feel guilty whenever you do your ‘forbidden’ activities without having earned them. ;)

It seems to me that the overarching statement coming from both Nick and Christian is a simple one: just do something. Both of them seem to emphasize that no matter how small, the trick is to just start, at which point you’ll usually get into the mood to work on your project more. That also tends to be the approach that I follow, and I can’t fault them for it – it’s worked great for me so far.

Do you have any other productivity tips, or a secret method that keeps you productive? Send an e-mail to with your tips!

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Luke is the primary editor of Building Browsergames, and has written a large portion of the articles that you read here. He generally has no idea what to say when asked to write about himself in the third person.

Friday, August 15th, 2008 motivation, productivity
  • I've heard some programmers suggest intentionally leaving a last step unfinished before closing up for the night, so they have something easy to tackle when they pick the project back up. As you covered, once you start something, it's a lot easier to continue.

  • Sunchaser

    Very good post, this blog is getting better and more interesting every time i look at it.

    I do also like Nick, when i have to do a big or complex feature and I don' feel like, i do something little and fast rewarding, like beautifying layout or graphic; Then usuallyit happens i start to do more.

    Listening to music also helps me (with jazz i get very creative!)

  • tmcaffeine

    GREAT post.

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Building Browsergames is a blog about browsergames(also known as PBBG's). It's geared towards the beginner to intermediate developer who has an interest in building their own browsergame.


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