Not every day we are at our best, but stopping production and taking a break is not always an option. Today I'll walk you through my thought processes when planning work depending on my current state of mind.
I started working in the entertainment industry when I was only 18. Back then, I lacked many basic skills that no one taught me before but were critical for my success.
Turning 19 meant changing jobs, as that’s when I started my working in the AAA games industry. This change came with a great number of insecurities based on my inexperience.
As you can imagine, being so young meant I had no university degree or any particular training other than a games development course, where the personal aspect of the job isn’t necessarily covered completely.
When I got my first job in the industry, I faced reality. Developing games is only about 65% of the daily job, and in order to be successful and not burn myself out, I had to learn the other 35%.
If you are a self-taught artist like me and want to make it into the industry with a happy work-life balance, this article will give you a good base to start.
I highly doubt these points are covered in a full 5-year university degree anyways. If it is, it must not be made in a way that achieves the goals necessary for us to be successful, as some of my peers who attended university struggled with the same issues I did.
For this article to make more sense, I'll divide the analysis into two, mental and skills, and at the end, we will use the gathered evaluation to plan our work.
.01 - Mental Analysis.
This first assessment gives you the ability to detect your current mood, anxiety levels, insecurities, etc., and allows an assessment of how your work should be tackled today.
Every day I forced myself to work on something that didn’t motivate me because of my current mental state was a step forward to being burnt out and doing a mediocre job.
The question to answer here would be in the lines of a “How fit am I feeling today?”
We have to accept that sometimes the answer is “Not so well.”
If I can determine how I feel, I’m able to pressure myself to complete a task or take it easy and complete lesser steps that don’t require my whole attention.
I would love to give you the key to how you can do this, but I’m not in everyone else’s mind. A good starting point would be to spend ten minutes every morning and end of the day to ask yourself how you are feeling and act accordingly.
.02 - Skills Analysis.
During my career, I’ve encountered numerous artists who promise results and end up delivering dust.
An objective understanding of our skills gives us a tool to determine our performance under the best and worst circumstances to understand how long a task would take to complete and what steps we need to follow to finish it.
With this assessment, I plan my work accordingly and ensure I don’t underdeliver or put a huge amount of pressure on myself to finish a piece fast because I made a promise based on wrong facts.
This requires a deep understanding of one’s capabilities and a meticulous analysis of the work we will deliver. Rushing an estimate is the worst thing you can do. Always play safe and plan for mistakes and unplanned events.
.03 - Organize your Work Accordingly.
Now that we understand our current mental state and working capabilities under the best circumstances, it is time to calculate the best possible outcome for our current situation.
The faster and more precise I am, the better my results are without depending on my mental state. This is never a perfect equation, so you will always lose performance when tired, for example.
This is why your planning stages require you to find less challenging tasks, like reference or texture gathering for the days you can’t give your hundred percent, and more difficult and intense ones for the days you wake up with the intent of eating the world.
As an example, here’s how I plan my pieces, based on my known performance during these stages or how comfortable I am with them.
- Initial Reference Gathering – Relaxed.
- High Poly – Intense.
- Low Poly – Medium.
- UVs – Relaxed.
- Texture Gathering – Relaxed.
- Material Creation – Medium.
- Alpha Making – Relaxed.
- Texturing – Medium.
- Polishing – Relaxed.
In my schedule, I’ll prioritize the “intense” tasks and leave the “medium” and “relaxed” for the days I feel less productive.
Some stages don’t allow shuffling, like high poly and low poly. Still, texture gathering and alpha creation can, to a certain extent, be swapped or even made without depending on previous stages to allow for a more relaxing working day.
To further exemplify, if I wake up with a headache, and working is completely necessary, I'll analyze my performance during the first 10-20 minutes of the day and change my task to a "medium" or "relaxed" task to avoid sacrificing quality and forcing myself to work under conditions that aren't optimal. If I can't do that, I'll make sure I take regular breaks and don't put pressure on myself, as I understand a bad day can happen and the true requirement is to feel better to come back stronger.
I’ll also make sure I use those more relaxing days to take care of my mental health and do the things I enjoy the most, like eating out or watching a movie. The hard truth is, sometimes we can't take a break, so it’s important to grant ourselves some pleasures when work doesn't allow for this flexibility.
I hope this article has been helpful, and as always, let me know your thoughts!