Saturday, January 12, 2008

Happy birthday to me :P

I am so off from real life that I almost forgot that today is my birthday. Yesterday I was in the army camp when a friend called me and reminded me about this fact. Fortunatelly I am lucky enough to be outside the army camp this particular day even though it really doesn't matter me so much. It's just like any other day.

What I like is that my birthday is very close to the beginning of the new year. I like making resolutions about the year that past and plans about the future. Funny enough, I've just searched on my past posts on this blog and discovered that I have posted a single post every 12th of January, talking about new year resolutions and similar matters.

Hmm, as I see from the posts it's in my 26th birthday that I also opened this blog after having some beers with friends (I have just remembered the occasion and the people who came to celebrate with me at the local bar :). I see now that at 2007 I won the lucky piece from the new year cake which is funny because it has happened again at 2008 (This time though I was inside the army camp for new year's and my brother told me in the phone that I won the coin again :).

I already know what I was wishing for the year that past without reading the whole post. I was planning to finish with the army and work for the job at Dot Red Games in Edinbourgh from September but it totally didn't ended like this. I am not dissatisfied by that since it was my choice to take a 6 months break from the army, also we had some delays in finding funds or a publisher (which are not fully resolved yet) so it wasn't sure if I could start working full time at Edinbourgh soon.

Fortunatelly in maybe 2 weeks or more I am almost finished with the army. I think that in the beginning of February I will be totally free and the plans are a bit different now. Maybe I won't make it to Edinbourgh but living in another place in Greece alone (not entirely independent but who cares :P). But I am sure that I will have a happier life in 2008 in many aspects. More about this later..

2008 and Demoscene? Doing something useless inside 2008 is a must for me, especially preparing the ground for my world domination (which is just a silly joke of doing a spectacularly good demo that will rock the scene, will this ever happen from my side? :P). However, I decided (and this time for real) that I'll try to avoid being sucked by the demoscene this year, which only means to take the scene too seriously and be 100% dedicated to it. In fact, if I could organize my time this way so that I only code for the scene when I feel, I think I would have the same (if not more) productivity as sitting in front of my computer for 10 hours, during the 8 whinning about the scene at Pouet and the rest playing games because I can't be motivated to code. I have understood that 1) I can't take it anymore trying to be productive without my will, 2) Bearing false motives on demomaking, 3) Only being productive once a week while ranting every day about demos, 4) And at the end loosing all that time under frustration while I could use the time well to do other things,. or just relax!

This surely doesn't mean that 1) the scene is evil, computers are evil, I should get a life. It doesn't mean that shit, no I am not converted and never will:). It also doesn't mean that 2) you won't see much scene releases from me. In fact, what it does mean is that I plan to organize my time better and when I see that it can't go further trying to push myself coding, I will cut the crap and just do something else. Or even forget about the scene for a while. The most true fact is that from the huge amount of time you will find me in front of my computer, only less than 5% was used productively to produce the demos I have made so far. Several of the rest are used to actually try to push myself to code and in my frustration to log in the net or play games. Of course I could play games/login the net just for fun, but here it does happen because I am frustrated by not being able to code and as a reaction from myself against opressive work. So, if I can handle this appropriately I can increase the percentage of productivity versus scene laziness, also leaving me time for doing other things. And it might be better for my psychology thus producing more and better demos but I shouldn't concentrate on the sole idea or else it will have the negative effect, frustration for not producing, etc. So I should expect that producing demos this year is not my priority but "wasting time" on doing something creative in my computer is ok without a resolution or plan..

I only promise nothing to myself to not be frustrated. I'll have a go in other sides of my life in the case I am not productive in the scene. Some say that 2008 will be the year that Optimus will find a girlfriend :)


James said...

Happy Birthday Michael. It's your lucky year!

Någon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Någon said...

Happy Birthday!

I only wanted to tell you that you are not alone with your productivity problems. I am struggling with this too and most people around me seem to have the same problem, though they usually won't admit this until they can clearly see that you have it too. This makes them feel safe and less embarassed with this.

I agree with you that it is a matter of strong will. Without it you will never do anything because in the short term it seems easier and more pleasant to play some game, surf the net or do some other mindless activity. I say mindless because even if the activity itself can be productive (e.g. by playing strategy games you can improve your thinking and planning skills) I tend to do it in the easiest possible way and bail out as soon as it requires any greater effort. If I really want to gain something by doing such thing and get some satisfaction, I must actually concentrate and put much effort into it which makes it just like any other work. What I want to say is that you probably think that you are making a break and resting while doing this, but it's not true. If you really want to rest, go for a walk or go to sleep. Any pleasant and worthwile activity such as playing games actually requires some work to receive some satisfaction from it. By doing it to rest a little and not putting effort in it you're missing a lot because you neither really rest nor gain anything by doing this (I usually feel tired after such 'resting' and this repels me from working even more).

I have been trying to fix my problem with procrastination for a long time and by analyzing my mistakes I came to some conclusions that you may find useful.

The three most important things about managing your time are the regularity, concentration and the ability to unconditionally stop at any time.

Regularity: it is not important how little work you have accomplished as long as you do it regularly everyday and make any progress at all. It's better to work on a project an hour a day than to try to work 10 hours straight without resting. Most non-trivial projects cannot be finished in one day. In many cases it will take days, weeks, or event moths. By splitting your work into tiny pieces you are accepting this fact and not alluding yourself that you can finish it faster. If you can you will succeed anyway. When feeling overloaded with work you will most likely flee and go back to playing games. The only way to prevent this is to make your goals more achievable by splitting them into pieces and not requiring too much from yourself. All satisfaction disappears when you realize that you are just trying to make up for the lost time rather than make progress.
If you have many different tasks to do, don't try to do them in sequence. It is much better to do a little piece of each one. This way you won't have to put off the others when you fail to do one of them on time.

Ability to stop: this one may actually be related to AS: I feel very uncomfortable when I have to stop the task in the middle of it and start doing something else. This way I often spend the whole day on one thing and put off the other tasks and not even finish that first one. I came to conclusion that I have to learn to stop immediately. If you did not finish your task but only wasted your time, don't try to finish it at all costs. Unless consequences would be really substantial and irreversible, this is really not worth it. You can't work regularly if you can't stop doing one thing and shift your attention to another one. Stop even if you did nothing and start again tomorrow. You also get more time to think about it.

Concentration: you cannot work efficiently if you are trying to do more than one thing at a time. I find it most comfortable to cut off from all sources of excessive information (people, net, even my own thoughts). If you have some brilliant idea and can't let yourself forget it, just write it down. Always have a place when you can write such things and take care of them later.
It won't work if you are worried by some overdue work, so before starting work you must make a plan - decide what you have to and when to do it so that you have time specifically allocated for each task. If you don't have time for some task, just put it off - probably you would fail to do it anyway. It's best to do this planning everyday before starting your work.

All of this won't work if you don't use your will to stop yourself from procrastination. I think that the easiest way is to make regular breaks and go away from the computer e.g. every half an hour. This way you have time to think about what you're doing and make up your mind to stop.

This may or may not work for you. These are just my personal insights, based on my own behaviour and things I read througout the time (most importantly: GTD, but from what I see around me, this may be applicable to other people too. Unfortunately I have never succeded to improve my behaviour just after reading some good advice. I had to fail many times and find the good way by analyzing my own mistakes. I don't know what really works but rather what doesn't work. I am trying to follow this rules myself but with mixed results because the last missing piece in this puzzle is the strong will. I think the hardest part is to start and absorb these rules as your everyday habits. Then it should be easier.

EDIT: hmm... seems that this blog lacks functionality to edit comments...

Optimus said...

Hey! Thanks for opening this discussion. I am interested in a thorough examination of productivity problems and how to avoid them, I think I haven't discussed in such detail with anyone about this matter before.

What happens with me is that I have already thought about the three cases you mentioned but still didn't put a serious effort according to any of them because it's hard to change my habits. Maybe it's what you say about procrastination. I have to change my daily habits.

What I was thinking lately is changing activities frequently so that my habits change too. It would be good to invent more activities. I think I already wrote something there, that I don't want to be concentrated too much in one think and neither manage to finish it, nor any other left activities. It wouldn't be bad to concentrate in one thing if it would mean more productivity but here it doesn't and it also dissatsfies me that I loose any mood for anything. Ok,. I think it has to do both with regularity and especially ability to stop that is mentioned here.

In few words I should change my habits. And if it doesn't work I should stop for a while in order to think instead of following my regular old habits. Ok, this will be a tough one but I know I can do it someday..

p.s. Now I am going to read your edited post that just popped in.

Någon said...

I just fixed two typos... I wanted to edit it but I couldn't find any way do it. Sorry if you had to reread whole thing only to find this out. I should have written this at the start of the new post.

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