Give Me a Sign

This week I had a counter-intuitive realization. I need to work harder on boring stuff in order to stay motivated. Boring stuff?! “Ew–gross,” you might say. Granted, I already do a lot of things in life that people consider boring (I was an accounting major after-all). But this time, what I mean is that I need to do more boring stuff related to the logistics of our team’s operations. More specifically, I realized that I need to spend more time detailing our team’s business plan.

A couple key conversation points led to this realization. First, Wu-Gene asked Austin and I what our target release date is for the game and we both gave different answers. Now, this may not be as bad a sign as it is in other lines of business. After all, all indie release target dates get pushed back like 7 times anyway right? Nonetheless, I feel strongly that we need a release date goal that we can all get behind – if for no other reason than to make sure we all have the same expectations. However, beyond the release date incident, I found myself feeling overwhelmed again this week. I always feel overwhelmed — but especially this week.

I think I’m getting to a certain emotional point that I suspect most people experience when undertaking a cool yet difficult project. It’s the point where your first wave of energy has been depleted. You still think the project is awesome in principle, but you need to look within yourself to find the motivation to push through this “dry period.” On the bright side, I’m still excited about the work itself. I still enjoy writing blog posts and learning about the indie game industry. What I realized though, as I talked to Austin after our last meeting, is that I need a sign – a small sign of progress. I do see progress every week, especially in Austin’s script writing efforts. However, I want to see more progress on an overall strategic level. I want to see that on the whole, our project is progressing as a business.

Somewhat counterintuitively, I think that in order to see this strategic process, I need to see more small incremental signs of progress. Not only do I need to have a more clear vision for the completion of our game, but also I need to have week by week production goals set out for our team. We had this at the start, but we’ve gotten away from it as we’ve reached more nebulous parts of this project. The thing is, at the start, the first things we had to do were very obvious, discrete steps. Open a Bitbucket account. Paint these 10 placeholder art assets. Write a blog post. But now, it’s much harder to define our goals. How do you decide if you’ve adequately increased your market engagement for the week?

I need to break this down into little, quantifiable goals. This all sounds very corporate, but occasionally corporate things are useful. This detailed planning would definitely help with my organization – the fact that I’m finishing this post a day late is evidence enough that I could use at least a bit of help in that department. Or, at the very least, I can factor passing out while working on blog posts into the overall production schedule.

Joking aside, creating a plan to the level of detail that I’m aiming for is going to be difficult. I’m even thinking of using one of corporate America’s most terrifying tools – a Gantt Chart. If you don’t know what that is, consider yourself lucky. But, in the end I’m confident that it will be worth it. For one, if there’s a concrete plan, it’s much harder for me to let myself off the hook. If I fail to do something I said I would do, it will be there on the paper or in the spreadsheet staring back at me and haunting my dreams.

But, on a more positive note, if I have a better plan, once I accomplish something on that plan, then no matter how overwhelmed I feel, I will have little signs of progress. I can point to that plan and say “I made 10 widgets today damnit! I will not be deterred!”

I know — perhaps not the sexiest motivational speech in history, but it’s just what I need right now.

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