When you’re a busy game developer, time management becomes a necessity. In any given week I’d like to be implementing new features in Super Space Galaxy, bug-fixing, working with musicians, marketing the game, and plenty else, on top of still having a day job. I even have a taxes thing I’d like to get done for Steam, too!
I’ve read a few time-management books and I’m a big fan of Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy. One of its central insights is that you never really get caught up on everything, no matter how much you work. That’s certainly been my experience as an indie game developer. Brian advises that you instead prioritize just one task that is the most important, and do it first thing in the morning, calling it ‘eating a frog’ after something Mark Twain said.
Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.Mark Twain
I took this idea to heart. When I’m particularly eager to get something done I’ve had a tradition of ‘Brian Tracy Time’ in the morning where I get up an hour earlier, then spend that hour doing a life-changing task that I wouldn’t otherwise do. It’s how I found out about marketing on TikTok.
The world of videogames is rife with metaphors for this sort of thing too. I’ve often found that the monsters in mythology and video games work quite well as symbols for less-immediate threats: vices you have to avoid or difficult tasks you have to do.
Almost every game that includes some kind of combat includes an aspect of which enemy to focus on first. Good players will be expected to pick out the most important threats first, even when they’re surrounded by enemies. While a bad player might just panic and try to deal with everything at once, a good player will hardly feel threatened at all and may be calmly picking off enemies. If you want to be a ‘good player’ at the game of life, I think this is how you must deal with your tasks, too.
Final Fantasy X was the first game I ever got for my Playstation 2 and it teaches this lesson well. Early on, the hero Tidus is being guided through the city of Zanarkand by Auron, an older, experienced warrior, while the city is attacked by the monster known as Sin. The situation is chaotic, with Sin ejecting lesser monsters into the city while Tidus and Auron try to escape.
The game uses this situation as a way to teach you how to select different enemies to attack. To continue, you must target the enemies in your path and ignore the rest. Somehow this moment came back to me when I was struggling to prioritize tasks in real life. I looked up a video of the opening of Final Fantasy X and reminded myself of Auron’s advice.
Don’t bother going after all of them. Cut the ones that matter, and run!Auron, Final Fantasy X
In a strange way, I think this simple tutorial applies to real life as well. A lot of the ‘threats’ you’re facing aren’t actually that real or urgent. When you’re facing a hefty to-do list, it’s easy to panic and do nothing at all, or try to do everything at once. That’s why tuning your sense of threat is so important. Only when you have an accurate grasp of what’s urgent and important can you ‘cut the ones that matter’ and make real progress. (For example, as I write this blog post my washing up still isn’t done!)
If you’ve got some ambitions you want to fulfil, don’t try to do everything at once. Find the task that’s really going to help and stick with that until it’s done! Cut that frog.
Thanks for reading,