I’m sure we all have gaming related New Year’s Resolutions. Two years ago mine was to write a microgame every month (did it!). Last year it was to finish my two big projects (didn’t even come close!). This year has been a wild one, with lots of changes. Some of the biggest for me were getting project management training at my day job, learning all sorts of useful productivity tools, and finding a love for data. We’re all nerds here, data can be cool! Productivity is rad! Planning, awareness, and analysis only drives us to improve problem areas and capitalize on success. In 2018 my New Year’s gaming resolution will be to Be More Productive.

That’s hard to define, sure, and it lacks deliverable goals. So to help me firm up my resolution, maybe I should say that my resolution is to find productivity tools and use them for an entire year to help me prep games, write and produce content, and manage my gaming business. In this article, I’ll go through the tools I’ll be using, and how you can use them too, to increase your own productivity.

The Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique was developed as a time management tool in the 1980’s. In simple terms, it breaks up tasks into 25 minute segments, with 5 minute breaks in between. This segmentation of work allows the brain to focus on a task uninterrupted for 25 minutes, and rewards productivity with short breaks. Used best, these breaks should be spent doing something fundamentally different than the main task, to allow for a reset and to relax the focus.

I’ve already been using the Pomodoro Technique when working on gaming related stuff. I use this site to track my timers. That site not only has a built in 25/5 timer, but it allows you to log what items you completed during working stages. This is a great motivational tool as it lets me see the progress that I’m making on all of my projects. I like to maximize my time by spending the 5 minute break periods getting up and doing house chores while listening to podcasts. This gets me up & moving so I’m not just sitting down for hours, and it helps me catch up on my queue!

The Game Log

This tool comes from James Malloy, of the Stop, Hack, & Roll podcast. He’s assembled a tool to track your game history and identify trends. I’ve used this log in the past and it’s provided some great insight into my gaming habits. The tracker contains some pretty spiffy drop down menus to let you sort your progress by month, game, genre, players, and any tags that you might want to use. The additional sheets allow you to populate a list of games and assign them their core systems or genres, so when you choose “Masks” from the first drop down, it will automatically populate with “PbtA” as the system, etc.image of a spreadsheet logging games with columns for session name, game, system, genre, and notes

If I see that a genre comes up often, I can play towards that as an area that I know I’ll enjoy when looking at other games. Counter to that, if I notice something shows up only once or twice, I might be more willing to seek that out to improve my skills in that area. My desire in 2018 is to log every RPG that I play or run in this log and produce some analysis either monthly, or as a year as a whole.

James Malloy’s Game Tracker

The To-Do list

People often tell me that they’re surprised by how much I get done between managing my website, writing games, and making podcasts. It doesn’t feel like I really do a lot, honestly, but I need to get better at recognizing how many plates I balance in managing Riverhouse Games. One struggle I’ve found is that I have a load of things on my To-Do list, and often get overloaded trying to figure out which one I should work on at any given moment. Do I edit this Game Closet, do I draft up this idea that’s been sitting in my head for a month, how do I balance working on my website and pet projects with making things that I can sell?

Recently I sat down and wrote down every little thing that I wanted to do. Then, I assigned ratings to each item base on things that were important to me. These were things like:

  • How easy is the Thing to do?
  • How urgent is it that I get this done?
  • How much do I, personally, want to do this?
  • And, finally, because I want to get to the point where I can stop worrying about groceries and start worrying about conventions, how profitable is this Thing?

To each of these items I assigned a scale where 1 means the Thing is incredibly difficult, not urgent at all, a necessary evil that I will loathe doing, or completely unprofitable. Weighting each scale came next where personal desire and ease of completion influence my decisions more than urgency or profitability, so Ease and Desire can range from 1-5, profitability can range from 1-3, and Urgency is a 1-2 scale. Multiplying each Action Item’s values gives me an overall Priority rating, which I can sort the entire list by.

Spreadsheet with example To Do items ranked by priority

This may sound like overkill, but knowing which items need doing the most helps to manage the various projects I add to my list. This strategy also, by design, shows me the items that are prioritized to my values, so it will usually show me the things I want to do the most, the things that are the easiest, most likely to put a few dollars in my pocket, or the most urgent. I’ve been using it for a month now and it’s already worked wonders. Please feel free to use it for your own projects, simply make a copy and save it to your own Drive, or download it as an Excel file to use offline. Feel free to also fiddle with the ranking items, maybe you’re not worried about profitability, but you balance a few campaigns and want to make sure you’re keeping up with the ones that require more prep. The trick now is to keep it up in conjunction with the other two items in this article!

To-Do List, Improved

What kind of productivity tools do you use for your games? What Gaming Resolutions do you have planned for 2018?