Finding A Balance

Making Time For Your Priorities

- Design Discussion #6 -

Hello my wonderful readers! After a long and necessary (more on that later) summer break, I’m back to chasing the dream. For the past three months I have barely worked on any game design, conducted any playtests, or written any blog posts… which, to a certain extent, is a shame. Going into the summer, I fully intended on being a bit more productive with my game design and blog, and to not have gotten much done was initially pretty upsetting to me. What I didn’t realize, however, was that taking a break from game design was necessary.

Summer Break... I Got Married!

For those of you who don’t know me personally, you may not know that this past July I got married to my lovely wife and high school sweetheart, Jennifer Esquibel, whom I have known and happily been with for a little more than 3 years. As you can imagine, planning a wedding is both incredibly stressful and time-consuming. Combine that with a part-time job and the need to spend time with family and friends I hadn’t seen much in the past year, and you have the perfect recipe for a wonderful, yet still incredibly hectic, incredibly busy and incredibly stressful summer.

So, how do I move forward now that the summer is over? After all, it’s not like the school year is that much easier. I still have plenty of responsibilities including homework, studying for exams, making time for my wife, writing and mailing thank you notes to wedding guests (I promise, they’re getting done!), doing housework like dishes, laundry, etc… Even without a job right now, I still feel pretty overwhelmed by life in general. So, what do you do when you feel like your schedule is full, but you really want to add something to it?

You do the same thing that you've been doing all summer; you focus in on what matters most to you, and you let the less important things go. I only had so much time available, and with how much of that time was already taken up, I simply did not have the time or energy to be writing blog posts, running playtests or working on game design in general. I got extremely frustrated with myself because I really wanted to have the time for game design and blogging this summer. This has become one of my biggest passions, and when I first got started, and as things started to pick up, I was incredibly excited about the things to come.... And then it all had to stop.

What it's taken me a long while to realize, though, is that stopping and taking a break was 100% necessary, and while it felt like I had no control over the situation, the truth of the matter was that I chose to not have the time for those things.

Working Time vs. Relaxing Time

We have two types of time, "working time" and "relaxing time," and a big part of life is about balancing how we divide our time between work and fun. While we can choose how much total time to spend working or relaxing, if we spend too much time working and not enough time relaxing, life will overwhelm us (and vice-versa). This summer, my "work time" was filled with planning my wedding and working a part-time job. As you can imagine, both of these things took up an enormous amount of time. So much so that, if I had added blog writing and game design to my work time, I wouldn't have had enough relaxing time, which I really needed to spend time with family and friends and just relax.

But, the summer has officially come to a close and school is now back in full swing. So, going forward, what will fill up my work time, and will I have enough leftover to run my blog and continue my game design work? Maintaining a healthy marriage (yes, this is work) and keeping up with school are the most important things in my work time right now. But here's the handy thing about my situation, I received a lot of scholarship money to go to school... and my schedule allows me to only go to school 2 days a week (which is absolutely ridiculous but to be fair those two days are incredibly full). Because of this scheduling, and because I do not HAVE to work a part-time job (I may still, if possible), I've decided that I do have enough of my work time left to get back to game design and blogging... but only if I actually MAKE that work time happen.

Making Work Time Happen

You see, my biggest issue (and the issue of a lot of people) is that I often allow my relaxing time to overcome my working time and then my life gets out of balance. Over the past month of planning and preparing to get back into game design and blogging, I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to make sure that my working time actually happens and is productive, and that I make sure to not allow my relaxing time to interfere with my working time. In doing so, I've noticed a few things that have definitely helped in both my productivity and in maintaining the balance between working and relaxing that I thought I'd share:

1) Turn Off The TV

Are you serious about what you are doing? Keeping your working time and relaxing time separate from one another will make your working time far more productive. How many hours a day do you spend watching television? Or Netflix, Youtube, Hulu or whatever it is you watch? Don't get me wrong, I like binge watching The Office and Friends as much as the next guy does, but television is one of the easiest ways that we (often accidentally) let our relaxing time get out of control and distract us from focusing on the work that we need to get done.

2) Put Your Phone AWAY

The point of this tip is pretty much the same as the last one. Phones are wonderful tools in the right context, but they can also be incredibly distracting if we aren't careful. When you decide that it is time to work (regardless of what it is you are working on), commit to it and don't look back. Don't just put it in your pocket, put that phone in a totally different room. Push away unnecessary distractions and temptations, and you'll be able to better focus on the task at hand.

3) Work on Paper (If Possible)

I am an avid user of technology when it comes to the things that I work on (I do write an online blog, after all). I fully understand how necessary technology is in today's modern world, but there's still something to be said about working on paper. One of the big reasons that board games have made a comeback is because, unlike video games, they are an incredibly tactile experience and a good getaway from our increasingly digital world that we all desperately need. Trust me on this one. If what you're working on can be done on paper, get away from technology and do it on paper.

4) Work at A Desk

For whatever reason, sitting at an actual desk just makes you more focused. Slouching on the couch is for your relaxing time. Sitting at a desk is for your working time. Sitting at a desk is a way to re-affirm to yourself that this is not your relaxing time, this is your working time, and that's what you are going to focus on. If, like me, you find yourself easily distracted or struggle focusing on your work (especially work you really don't want to do, but you know that you need to do), sitting at a desk will help keep your relaxing time out of your working time.

5) Make A REALISTIC Schedule

The best way to keep your work productive and efficient is to plan on doing it that way. I'm sure you've heard this before plenty of times in your life, so I'm just going to keep it simple and say it once: Make a schedule for your working time and stick to it. One thing I think is important to note about making a schedule, though, is to make sure that your schedule is realistic. You know you better than anybody else does. If you find yourself motivated to schedule time for a passion project, you need to recognize that if you are used to spending 5 hours a day watching Netflix, it's totally unrealistic to expect that you are going to suddenly spend 3 of those hours doing something different just because you scheduled it that way. Start your schedule with realistic goals and then go from there.

It Takes Some Effort

And... I'm a work in progress. So, bear with me. My life isn't perfectly in balance and sometimes I slack off. But this summer I learned a lot about the difficulty of managing what time that you have, and I'm ready to use that knowledge to continue pursuing this passion and give it my all. Cameron Art Games is back in business with lots of great content and design discussions planned for the coming weeks. Not only that, but I've got some extra fun content planned for Instagram and I may even potentially start a Twitter account to share even more of my fun game design thoughts and tidbits. So feel free to get excited, because I sure I am!

Wrap-Up Question:

Do you have any passion projects that you are working on?

How do you find a balance between working time and relaxing time? Let me know in the comments below!

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