It is difficult to work on a project. Whether it is personal, school or a job, you constantly have to move forward and produce something that gets you closer to the finished product.
One of the most common problems is lack of focus. Not in the vision of the environment or a map but lack of focus in working on the project itself. Sitting down and putting in the time, every day.
This has been one of my problems. Lack of working focus. I wanted to be good at everything; 3d modeling, character design, concept art, animation, rigging, level design, texturing, environment art. I could keep going. There is a phrase for that. Jack of all trades and a master of none. It means that I wasn't great at anything. Just good, decent or incompetent at a lot of things. It also means I rarely got anything finished.
Over the last few months I have been focusing more and more on environment and level design. It's what I love doing.
I'm going to share with you a practical technique that I've used when working on my senior thesis and personal projects.
I learned this technique from Eben Pagan and its called 60-60-30.
WHAT IS 60-60-30 RULE
60-60-30 stands for time; time chunks. 60 minutes, 60 minutes and 30 minutes.
You work for 60 minute, twice and then you take a break for 30 minutes.
Let's break this down even further. Break 60 minutes into 50-10. You work on a single, highly focused activity for 50 minutes then you take a 10 minute rest.
Work for 50 minutes. Rest for 10 minutes. Repeat it again for the second time. Then take a break for 30 minutes.
MOST IMPORTANT PART
I want to emphasize that for 50 minutes, you only work on a single activity, highly focused and without any distractions and absolutely no multi-tasking.
You want to work on the highest output activity that will bring you closer to finishing your map or a environment design set. The key is single activity and focus.
Get a timer: I do all of my work with a timer. Setting the timer for 50 minutes allows me to tune everything out and focus on what I am doing. I know once the timer goes off I can take a break. Stop looking at the clock. Every time you distract yourself from your work, it takes energy away from your project. Time gives me the freedom to focus and work.
50 minutes: Focus on a single activity. No distractions. No multi-tasking, no checking emails, no surfing the web. What I mean by multi-tasking is working on two or more non-related projects or activities at the same time.
10 minutes: Use this time to completely unplug from what you are doing. Step away from the computer and go grab a snack, drink some water or tea. Just relax for 10 minutes and don't work. Rest. Set the timer for 10 minutes.
30 minutes: 30 minute break is usually used for meals or snacks. Every time you work and exert willpower, it depletes your glucose levels. This is why after a an hour or two you become less focused, more distracted and agitated, especially if it is a very difficult task. When you work in 60-60-30 chunks and take breaks, it allows you to fuel your body and renew yourself. I eat 5-6 small meals through the day. Usually every 3-4 hours and I try to do my best to eat healthy, whole foods.
This is very important. To function properly you can't starve yourself and expect to operate at an optimal level. So during this 30 minute break, completely disconnect from you work. Eat a meal. Relax and renew your mind and your body.
It has become a mantra for me over last few weeks. This helps me to stay highly focused, get more done without burning myself out.
Also being focused and working on one thing at a time is very liberating. At the end of the day I can look back and see actual progress I made on my work.
I get more done in just one session of 60-60-30, then I did when I tried to cram 3-5 hours of working.
UPDATE (Jan. 07, 2014):
I wanted to drop in an update to this blog post. I continue to use this method 4 years later. I often modify this to fit my energy levels to avoid burning out or hitting the wall.
I've modified this to various chunks of 45-30-15, 30-30-15 or 15-15-5.
Take the 60-60-30 and modify it to fit your current focus levels, discipline and project.