It's not writer's block. It's a different kind of blocked, one that's considerably harder to unblock.
Efficiency and Effectiveness
When measuring (or estimating) the output of a team, it's sometimes convenient to look at two different axes:
- Efficiency - How much work/effort/resources are expended to produce a given amount of output.
- Effectiveness - How much output is produced in a given amount of calendar time.
Our natural instinct is to try and optimize efficiency, trying to reduce the cost. Or alternatively, increasing output for the same amount of fixed cost.
I'm not sure this is the best strategy when it comes to video games. The market moves so fast, I think it makes more sense to push for more effectiveness - maximizing the output per unit of calender time, while staying within our cost constraints.
I find that at different times of the day, I'm better at certain types of tasks. Sometimes more analytical, other times more integrative. Sometimes more strategic. Some times of the day are better suited to striking new ground, and others are better for polishing and evaluating existing work.
With this in mind, I keep a number of different lists, each based around a type of work. For example, when I have all the microphones and speakers setup to do audio work, I want to get as much done as possible (efficiency), but I also want to make progress on my current goals (effectiveness).
Keeping these in balance is essential, and I allocate up to 20% of my time just in planning and co-ordination to ensure that I'm working on the right things at the right time.
But the problem I'm facing right now is a shortage of time. I'm currently in the process of moving home from one continent to another, so I'm averaging maybe 10-30 minutes per day for productive work. Compounding this, most of my equipment is in transit and won't be available until late August.
Sharpening the Tools
So what do you work on, when you can't make progress on your goal?
You sharpen your tools – get the latest versions of your software, defrag the hard drive, verify your backup procedures are working. All the things you won't have time to do later.
I know a lot of my friends out there in corporate land are currently caught between changing requirements, and now is your opportunity to do the same thing too. Sure you could sit around and play video games all day, but maybe now is the time to finally learn python? Or figure out rigging? Or fix the ergonomics on your monitor, keyboard and chair?
How do you remain effective, even when you can't be efficient?