How to Manage Your Energy & Stay Productive

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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!

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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.

Final Thoughts

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!

6 Ways to Find Play-Testers for Your New Board Game

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Play-testing is the most important part of board game design. It’s how you turn rough, raw ideas into polished, ready-to-play games. It’s also brutally difficult. Play-testing is a labor of love, and sometimes it’s hard to even find play-testers in the first place!

This is a follow-up on last week’s post, How to Turn Your Ideas Into Reality. In that post, I talk about how to get started with intimidating creative projects. In this post, I’ll set my sights on a very specific question: “how do you find play-testers?”

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Things to Remember Before You Find Play-Testers

Before you ask people to play-test your game, bear in mind the following advice.

First, play-testing is labor. Play-testing is hard work because it requires you to take a complex, intricate system and critique it. Many go a step further by suggesting fixes to problems found in play-testing as well. This kind of thinking is similar to management consulting or systems analysis, both of which are jobs that can command high salaries because of how difficult they are.

Because play-testing is hard, respect your play-testers time and opinions. Write down everything they say and keep a good attitude even if you disagree. Don’t argue, just listen. Remember: they’re doing you a huge favor!

Finally, go in prepared. I’ve written about play-testing before and you may find some of these guides helpful:

1. Ask friends and family

The first people you are likely to ask for help play-testing will be your friends and family. After all, they’re the easiest people to reach out to!

You might scoff at this idea, saying that family and friends are not objective enough to provide good feedback, but don’t be so quick to dismiss it. As I’ve said in an old post, play-testing with family or friends – particularly non-gamers – has benefits:

  1. You play your game with non-gamers.
  2. You play your game with people who understand what you’re trying to say.

This is to say, family and friends may not be able to tell you whether your game is fun, but they can tell you whether your game is confusing. That’s a huge step in the right direction.

2. Find dedicated play-testing groups online

One of the best places to find play-testers is online, particularly Facebook groups. There are large groups of people who absolutely love play-testing, even though it is often hard work. Reaching out to these enthusiasts is often the best way to find play-testers.

Two groups that come to mind are the Tabletop Game Playtesters Guild and Card & Board Game Designers Guild. You may also be able to find a game design or play-testing group local to where you live as well.

3. Visit your local game store

Speaking of local play-testing, once game stores reopen after the conclusion of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may very well find that your local game stores are a great place to play-test board games. I recommend calling in advance to see if this is something that people would be interested in doing there as a courtesy to the store owners.

This is a great option if you want to observe gamers playing your game in-person or in real time.

4. Create a feedback form and online demo, then advertise and offer prizes

Of course, in-person play-testing isn’t always viable. Maybe you work strange hours. Perhaps you live in a really remote area. Or maybe the world is being forced to shelter in place because of a pandemic.

If circumstances require you to, or if you prefer to, you can always play-test board games online. You can make your game testable online by either creating a print-and-play game or a Tabletop Simulator demo.

From there, you can create a feedback form for people to submit their feedback. You can then advertise your print-and-play or Tabletop Simulator demo, offering prizes to people who submit their feedback. It’s expensive, but it’s an effective way to get feedback online.

5. Run online demos or live-stream your game

Perhaps you prefer a more hands-on approach to digital board game play-testing. If that sounds like you, you can live-stream your game. For best results, I recommend creating a Tabletop Simulator demo and working with people who already stream board games. That way you can play-test with gamers and draw a crowd (who sometimes provide good feedback as well).

6. Go to play-testing conventions

While none of us will be going to board game conventions anytime soon, they will return at some point. When they do, keep an eye out for Protospiel conventions. Protospiel conventions allow board game designers to gather in one place and play-test each others’ board games. I went to one in Atlanta and it was a good experience!

Final Thoughts

Play-testing may be tough, but finding play-testers doesn’t have to be. You can run with any of the suggestions above. Give people a good reason to play-test your game and you may be surprised at just how helpful their feedback is!

How to Turn Your Ideas Into Reality

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A couple of weeks ago, I asked the readers of this blog to send in answers to the question “what confuses you most about board game development?” And, wow, did you all deliver! Now I have a three-month backlog of questions to get through!

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The first topic I want to write about comes from a guy identified only as Matt in the comments. In it, he says that his biggest struggle right now is having the confidence to run with his ideas.

This topic is close to my heart, so in this post, I’m going to talk about how to find the confidence to turn your ideas into reality!

Just to give you some additional context before you read, here’s my origin story, my biggest failure, and how things wound up going two years after that. I encourage you to read these three articles that so you know where I started too!

Turning Your Ideas into Reality (By Starting Badly)

Creating something new is scary. That’s true whether you’re making a board game or book, recording a video or podcast, starting a new job, entering into a new relationship, buying a new home…

You get the idea. Any change to the status quo is frightening. But for some reason, starting creative work is notoriously hard. Procrastination is a huge problem for authors, musicians, and game developers alike.

So why is this mental hurdle so formidable? From whence does this procrastination arise? To me, it’s a simple answer: fear. People procrastinate because they’re afraid. We’ll get into why people are afraid to create in a moment.

If you’re afraid to create, treat it like a cold swimming pool. Just jump in. Create something badly.

Hold yourself to no standards and just start writing or drawing. Picasso’s first painting was probably crap, too, so you have nothing to fear by screwing up. Not trying is infinitely worse.

Why Turning Your Ideas Into Reality Looks Scary (But Isn’t)

Creating something new is a little rebellious at its core. In a way, you’re saying that nothing that exists currently is what you want, and you must make something on your own.

Believe it or not, though, the creative impulse, rooted as it is in rebellion, is one of the noblest instincts in human nature. It’s how we created automobiles and the Great Wave off Kanagawa. It’s how we eradicated polio and how we’re going to do the same to COVID-19 on some sunny day in the future.

Our society glorifies creators. It makes them out to be deities when in reality, they are flawed men and women who follow their noble impulses and take advantage of the resources provided to them. To imagine yourself among them, even in some small way – such as creating a board game, novel, or film – well, it feels bold. Like you don’t belong.

That’s impostor syndrome. It’s basically a psychological pattern where you doubt your accomplishments. Left unchecked, impostor syndrome will leave you in perpetual fear of judgment, an obsession with your perceived inadequacy, and the specter of the possibility of being exposed as a hack.

Tom Hanks has it. Michelle Obama has it. Lord knows I’ve had it. It comes with creativity and boldness.

The only thing you can do is recognize your fears for what they are, and keep creating. If that means setting quotas for yourself to meet every week, do that. If it means you set an alarm for 6 am and make your board game until you have to go to work, then you do that.

To turn your ideas into reality is to run a marathon, not a sprint. It will take time, and persistence is key.

Inspiring Others to Turn Your Ideas Into Reality

Getting started is the hard part. It gets easier with time. However, it will take a long time to inspire others to help you turn your ideas into reality. I’m not going to sugarcoat it or pretend that this isn’t the case.

Before you ask others for help, see how far you can get without help. It’s not a good idea to try to turn a board game into a complete consumer product alone. It is, on the other hand, a good idea to learn as much as you can before you reach out to others.

The thing to remember when networking or asking for favors is that you ultimately want to be valuable in the relationship. That’s why it’s so important to keep creating on your own time, learn new skills, and experiment on your own. This gives you a chance to build up useful skills that you can use to serve others.

Once you do this, then you can think about inspiring others to turn your ideas into reality. But remember: it’s not about you, it’s about them.

Dale Carnegie spelled it out nice and easy for us in his super-famous 1936 book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Here are a few golden bits of advice to remember straight from the book:

  1. Give honest and sincere appreciation.
  2. Become genuinely interested in other people.
  3. Be a good listener.
  4. Talk in terms of the other person’s interest.
  5. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.
Applying this Advice to Play-Testing

Now circling back to what Matt had asked about finding playtesters, here’s how you might apply these principles. You can find people who absolutely love play-testing games by searching online. That is, give people a chance to critique the game because they enjoy doing so. (There are a lot of people like this.)

Alternatively, you run a giveaway for a board game bundle. People who play-test your game get a chance to win. That way, you may get a more general audience.

Lastly, you may choose to find a group of people who mutually agree to play-test each others board games, such as a Protospiel.

In all of these scenarios, people have a good reason to help you turn your ideas into reality!

Final Thoughts

I know it’s scary to create your first game. Believe me, I’ve been there. Start now, start badly, and keep going. You’ll get better with time and persistence, believe me!

Over time, you would develop a skillset that will be helpful to others. When it’s time to reach out to inspire others to help you turn your ideas into reality, you’ll be in a much better position to do so. After all, you’ll be able to give them compelling reasons to support you (by supporting them)!

Good luck, Matt, and good luck to anyone else who is reading this post. I believe in you!