Developing a game means that you’re often spinning multiple plates in the air at the same time. Whether you’re developing a new feature, QA Testing, making sure you’re active on your socials, coordinating with freelancers, balancing your budgets, or even liaising with your marketing team, there’s always something more to do.
Don’t Panic! In this blog we’ll go through three of our favourite organisational tools to help you keep on top of your workload.
Kanban boards are To Do Lists on steroids! If you’re not familiar, chances are you’ve already seen or used one without knowing (especially if you’ve used software like JIRA or Asana).
At its simplest, a Kanban board consists of three columns titled: ‘To Do’, ‘Doing’, and ‘Done’. To use the board, simply break down your projects into small, achievable tasks and pop them into the ‘To Do’ column on the board, with the most urgent tasks at the top and going down vertically in priority order. Then move each task into the ‘Doing’ column as you start and over to the ‘Done’ column once it’s (you’ve guessed it) done!
A digital board (like Trello’s free version) can be very handy but some software developers prefer a physical version, using a whiteboard as a base and different coloured post-it notes to denote different types of tasks. While a digital board will allow you to share your tasks with anyone anywhere in the world and keep it with you on the go, a physical board can be a great tool for making sure your team can quickly see the state and progress of work at any given time.
There are loads of different ways to customise your Kanban board to suit your working style: Adding columns like ‘Blocked’ or ‘Testing’, limiting how many tasks can be in ‘Doing’ at once to increase focus, adding conditions for what makes a task ‘Done’, and many more. Depending on whether you’re a solo dev, running a remote team or working all together in the same place, Kanban boards can be adapted to help you see at a glance where your workload is!
The Pomodoro Technique is a form of Time Boxing (dividing up your work time into ‘boxes’) where you focus intensely in 25 minute bursts with 5 minute breaks between them. Each 25 minute burst is called a ‘Pomodoro’, named for the inventor of the technique’s tomato-shaped timer, and after every 4 Pomodoros you should take a longer (15-30 minute) break to make sure you don’t burn out.
Designed in the 80s by Francesco Cirillo, an overwhelmed Italian university student, the technique is designed to make it easy to tackle a large workload by inducing a flow state during the Pomodoros where distraction is minimised and productivity rewarded. Here’s how you do it:
- Get your to-do list together: Make sure you’ve broken down each task so that no one task will take more than 4 Pomodoros to complete. Also, make sure to combine small tasks together so that no one task takes less than a Pomodoro to complete.
- Get your timer: It doesn’t have to be tomato-shaped but it’s a good idea to get one that makes a loud or unignorable sound so that you don’t miss it. Making a quick list of the Pomodoros you plan to complete today is a good way to also keep track of when you need to take a break later so you don’t forget!
- Ensure you’ll be undisturbed: The Pomodoro Technique only works if you’re not going to be interrupted during a Pomodoro so make sure you aren’t expecting any calls or urgent messages/emails before you start. Set yourself to ‘Do Not Disturb’ or snooze your notifications if you need to.
- Go Pomodoro! Set your timer for 25 minutes and focus entirely on 1 task until the timer rings. Don’t look at your phone, check your emails or allow yourself to get distracted by other tasks. The key to the technique is keeping a laser focus during these short bursts.
- 5 minute rest: Once the timer goes off, tick off one Pomodoro and record how much you got done. This is great for later reflection on your productivity and will give you a good idea of how long future tasks will take when using the Pomodoro Technique.
- Repeat: Keep going for 3 more cycles and then make sure you take a longer break to refresh, check messages and let yourself recover from such intense focus.
While it’s not for everyone, the Pomodoro Technique can help you keep your work on track by splitting an overwhelming project into small and achievable parcels of time, by shutting out the distractions that are part and parcel of living in the digital world, and by helping you understand more precisely where your time is going every day.
Although there may be times when you’re working totally solo on your project, there might be other times where you’re trying to coordinate your own and a team’s work. This can quickly become a nightmare of colliding deadlines and blockers, especially when you’re located all over the world.
As a fully remote team ourselves, we know that the key to good team organisation is good team communication. That’s why we get together every day without fail for our Standup.
A Standup is a short team meeting, typically held at the same time every day at the beginning of the team’s working day. Unlike a regular team meeting, which might have a changing agenda depending on what needs discussing, a Standup follows the same pattern every time and has a singular purpose: Keeping the Team on Track. Anything that doesn’t serve that purpose should be split out into another meeting.
Traditionally, Standups should last no longer than 15 minutes. In fact, the name ‘Standup’ comes from the practice of having the meeting literally standing up so that no one would be tempted to waffle on and extend the meeting unnecessarily. Your mileage may vary as you may have a bigger team or require slightly longer discussion to ensure everyone’s on track, but you should keep your Standups as short as possible to avoid meeting bloat.
A good technique of ensuring that your Standup is as useful as possible is for everyone to answer the same three questions every time:
- What did I do yesterday?
- What will I do today?
- What help do I need?
These are based on the questions recommended by Agile Scrum Project management but you should tailor them to suit your team’s needs when synching up. To help our team balance their workload, for example, we also add the question ‘What help can I offer?’.
We hope these tools have helped you or given you some ideas on how to get on top of a busy and complex workload. Remember, if you need help with the marketing side, you can always reach us at email@example.com