I want to take a break from talking about board game development today. Instead, I’m going to talk about how you can manage your energy and stay very productive over a long period of time. After all, this is one of the most important qualities you can have when in the middle of a long haul board game project!
Through most of 2019, I worked a minimum of 70 hours per week. I often broke 80 hours per week, too. Thankfully, the coronavirus quarantine has given me a much-needed opportunity to return to a healthy work schedule. I certainly cannot vouch for a 70-hour workweek lifestyle, because I think productivity peaks around 55, and possibly lower.
Without getting into too much gritty detail, I had no choice. Life forced my hand and I had to get productive. I was working a day job, running a business, and taking care of a seriously injured loved one. Working this much is not aspirational or glamorous and it should not be exalted as a moral value. It is something to be survived.
In this time, I picked up a bunch of tricks on being productive. These tips helped me not only survive the do-or-die desperation of 2019 but also build the Pangea Marketing Agency and launch Tasty Humans.
I hope that sharing them with you helps you achieve your dreams as well! Failing that, I hope this knowledge at least helps you survive a tough time.
Step 1: Know the basic types of productive energy.
Not all productive energy is the same. You can be mentally or emotionally fried, but physically well enough to run eight miles. Alternatively, you can be mentally on top of your game, but too tired or sore to move across the room. You can have tremendous patience for listening to your friends’ woes while not being able to do your homework.
Now you may say to yourself, “what does it matter what I’m in the mood for? What has to be done has to be done. Get over it and just do it!”
Sometimes that’s right. If you have no control over your schedule, maybe that’s even the right attitude. But if you do have control over your schedule to some degree, I think a better way to look at it is to divide your productive energy into four basic categories:
1. Creative energy
Perhaps the most hallowed of all, creative energy is what gives you the ability to write with ease or draw or paint. You have creative energy when you feel inspired and you can easily get into the fabled flow state.
2. Analytical energy
Analytical energy gives you the ability to edit your work, be it through play-testing a game, proofreading a post, or finding ways to improve your business. When you feel this energy, it might be hard to create because of the naysaying voice in your head. Yet that same naysaying feeling is great for when you need to take a realistic look at your work and find ways to objectively evaluate it and find ways to do better.
3. Social energy
Sometimes, you feel like spending time with others. At other times, you don’t. It’s said that introverts tend to feel social energy less and extraverts more. Perhaps this is the case, although the labels of introvert and extravert are, by their nature, imprecise and subjective.
It’s not good to be holed up in your office all day (unless you’re hiding from coronavirus). Sometimes you feel like collaborating with others, having conversations, and sharing ideas. Even if you can’t go out, you can use your social energy through video calls, phone calls, and chat rooms.
4. Administrative energy
Finally, sometimes you feel like doing the dishes, organizing your desk, answering emails, and responding to voicemails. Every person in modern society has chores to do, and sometimes doing chores is the only way you can satisfy your urge to do…something. If you feel this energy coming on, roll with it!
Step 2: Adapt your work to manage your energy.
After identifying the different kinds of energy, the logical next step is to apply that knowledge for some purpose. In a perfect world, you would be able to completely rearrange your day whenever you feel “in the mood” to create, analyze, socialize, or do chores.
In the real world, we don’t quite have that privilege. Some work has to be done at a certain time no matter what. Certain quotas have to be met, taxes filed, and people spoken to. I get that.
Yet as much as you possibly can, if you want to get the absolute most productivity out of yourself, work with your energy. If you feel creative, block off time and start creating. If all you want to do is go out, find a way to socialize and plan to complete your other work at a different time. (Just be careful not to succumb totally to procrastination.)
Step 3: Find patterns and rearrange your schedule
Here is where the real magic happens. With a good understanding of the types of energy, you can begin to adapt your schedule to your natural energy cycles. You’ll notice patterns emerge over time.
I’m most creative in the morning with a resurgence after lunch. I complete analytical work in the late morning slump and administrative work in the afternoon slump. I either socialize or exercise in between to keep myself from getting too in my head.
Your patterns will be different, and this is only natural. Taking the time to observe your own behavior so that you can arrange your schedule around it is going to be one of the best things you’ll ever do. Every day, you’ll feel much more like you going with the grain instead of against it. This makes 40-hour workweeks enjoyable and 70-hour workweeks tolerable.
A little self-awareness goes a long way. You’re capable of doing more than you probably give yourself credit for. One of the best ways to meet your potential is to simply make the best use of the natural energy you feel on a day-to-day basis. It’ll make your life easier and happier 🙂
If you have any productivity tips for other readers of this blog, leave them in the comments below!