Looking for spare time between the couch cushions

Looking for spare time between the couch cushions


I’m not sure Project Zeds will ever get finished. I hope it will. I mean all of this would be pretty useless if it doesn’t, but I don’t know that it ever will. As an amateur game developer this is one of the scariest aspects of working on this game, and its the main reason right now that I’m not actively pursuing help on this project. I’d need people who are willing to devote massive amounts of time and resources to it and I can’t in good faith ask that of a project that I can’t promise will succeed. At least not yet.

I however can ask anything I want of myself and not need to promise anything.  Long hours? check. Lack of sleep? check. Zero pay? Massive workload? check and double-check. It’s not so bad though. I love the work. I’d kill to be able to work the way I do for this project as a full-time position, but until then this will have to suffice.

The big problem is that I do have a full-time position, on top of that I have other obligations and responsibilities that keep me occupied and busy. My week gets a little crazy when viewed from outside. So where do you find time to work on a project this massive?  To start let me show you what is currently occupying my time.

Things that take up my time (A.K.A My life)

  1. Job – First off I’m employed full-time as a software developer. That means right off the bat there is 40 hour s deducted from my available time each week. I’m blessed in that I don’t have a job the requires mandatory overtime of 80 hour work weeks. This project would be dead in the water if I did.
  2. Sleep – After work comes sleep. It seems like such a waste that nearly 1/3rd of our lives is spent in an unconscious state but unfortunately as a human being there is only so much that I can do about that. Ideally I try to get about 8 hours a night, but in practice I average between 6 and 7.
  3. Gym/Exercise – After sleep comes gym. I’ve been an active member of my local gym for a few years now.  While this may seem like time taken a way from development I can’t stress enough how much more effective going to the gym makes me.  Maybe it’s just me but after 8 hours a day working as a developer nothing clears my brain like being able to just cash out all of my built up physical energy.  I’ve always been really antsy and just this side of ADHD and without the hours I spend each week at the gym I would have no hope of being able to concentrate long enough to write this game.  On a normal week deduct about 6 hours including travel.
  4. Friends and Family – After gym comes the things that are a little harder to pin down to specific amounts of time, such as relationships, friends and family. I only put this so far down the list because it’s hard to quantify. Truth be told it should be somewhere near the top. I’ve got a girlfriend who I have been dating for over two years now. I love spending time with her and she loves spending time with me.  Friends and family require time in unexpected time slots. things pop up at times you thought you’d be able to dedicate to something else and holidays and once a year events seemingly occur every other week. But that’s just the way that life is.
  5. House Work – On top of all of that I within the past year purchased my first house. I love the house but it requires time too. Between installing a washing machine and dryer to painting rooms, to fixing electrical issues to just general cleaning and pet maintenance (read really big fish tank) houses suck up time as well.

So where do I get the time to work on Project Zeds?

Wherever I can. I’ve learned a few ways to maximize the amount of time I have for game development and make the little time I have count. I can’t guarantee they will work for everyone but they work for me.

  1. Assign weekly development hours –   I have two nights a week that are my dev nights. Two nights where from the minute I get off of work until the minute I pass out nothing is on my plate except Zeds. Generally I get off work around 5:30 and pass out somewhere between 1:30 and 3:30 AM depending on how successful I am or how tired I am that night.  That alone buys me between 16 -20 hours a week. While I know extended sessions like that aren’t useful for some people they seem to work wonders for me. I schedule everything around these sessions. Gym does not happen on dev nights. I never go out on dev nights. Even my wonderful girlfriend knows I am completely unavailable on dev nights and is willing to let me work.  Although I will admit she has a desk in my at-home office so that even though I’m busy she can still keep me company.
  2. Make use of all the time you have – There is no time slot that is too small to work on the project. Things like lunch hours, time right before bed,  or downtime between projects are great for quick learning sessions. I keep a list of tutorials on youtube that I have not had a chance to watch all the way through. I hit up development blogs daily whenever I can and try to learn all that I can in the cracks of the day between other things. And in cases where your brain is absolutely full and you can’t really work on your game, those spaces work great for writing in your development blog, or adding to design documentation, which brings me to …
  3. Have a plan of attack for the time you have – I keep trello even though I don’t work with any other developers just to so that I can keep track of what needs to be done. Before I ever even sit down to work I know what I will be working on that night. Every thing is planned ahead so that none of the precious little time I actually have is wasted.
  4. Keep a development blog – Just like the exercise this one seems counter intuitive. It’s more time spent not working on your project, but I have found it to be more than useful. First of all, it prevents you from going down the wrong road. Being an only developer means that sometimes your development gets a little myopic and you really need a second set of eyes sometimes to prevent you from doing something stupid. Multiple times this has been the case with this development blog. People have been kind enough to let me know when I’m doing it wrong which has saved so much time.  Often I’ll be afraid to share something specifically because i don’t want to look like an idiot, but I’ve come to the conclusion that its better to share and look like an idiot than to continue doing it wrong. The dev blog also allows me to set small goals, because they will be something to write about. I don’t have any supervisor or boss to present my work to so it’s nice to put it out here once a week.  The once a week goal allows me to figure out how much I can get done before the next post to so that I can try to write about it. It keeps me disciplined.
  5. Be content with small steps – Patience is necessary. I can only do so much by myself. I know that I’ll be a much more effective developer if I don’t get frustrated by how long it takes me to get things done.

That’s all I have for now. If anyone else has advice feel free to comment here or on the inevitable Reddit post linking here.

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