Not Robot is a hobby company that we built and maintain alongside our full time jobs. Even so, we have huge aspirations for it’s growth and future. We want to accomplish these great things without threatening our careers, our relationships with our friends and family, or our health. This is why we have chosen to commit to a flexible 10 hour work week.
Maintain progress, keep your sanity
So far, we’ve learned that starting a company and completing a project are not easy. We know that in order to succeed in the gaming industry, we must be extremely effective with our time. While working only 10 hours a week has a lot of challenges, we consider it an asset during the founding stage of our company.
What are the benefits of a 10 hour work week?
As soon as your company is founded, there will be many decisions to make and a million different directions you can go. It is important to maintain a consistent direction, and not wander off track. A common problem for gaming start-ups is attempting to make a game so grandiose and feature packed that the team loses motivation once they no longer see an end in sight. The project often stagnates and eventually withers and dies.
With the 10 hour work week, we know that everyone at Not Robot has 500 hours to work each year. If we want to release our first game in 6 months we need to make sure each person has no more than 250 hours of work. This is extremely useful information to keep in mind while choosing features and planning the scope of our games. Knowing that scope creep will affect the project by months (rather than days) keeps us at razor sharp focus on design decisions. You have to be wary of increasing features and trying to make each little aspect entirely perfect, especially with your first project.
If you are like us, you don’t have a lot of experience starting a company. We are learning a lot of the lessons on our own, and you probably are too. So it’s best if the inevitable mistakes we make have a low impact on morale and progress. We have found that by regrouping weekly, we can stay on track and minimize the impact of wrong decisions. We get quick feedback on any problems that exist, and have plenty of time to iterate on solutions without doing unnecessary work.
As development of our game progresses, we get more ideas for awesome features from both ourselves and our players. It is extremely important to have the flexibility to make tweaks that are only going to arise as development progresses. The 10 hour work week gives us flexibility because of the slowed pace of work. We don’t have people barrelling along trying to implement features at a 60 hour per week pace. We have time to rethink decisions and incorporate gamer feedback as our game evolves, without throwing away huge chunks of work. This significantly helps morale, as a larger percentage of everyone’s work is making it into the final game.
With the 10 hour work week, we have plenty of time for sleep, relaxation, and spending time with family and friends. We won’t burn out, and we stay rested and ready to react to changes. Obviously creating a game requires a lot of creativity, and we believe that nothing could hurt our creativity more than being burned out from working too much. Whether we are brainstorming new art concepts, creating systems in code, or iterating on game design, we all benefit from well rested minds.
Having a well rested, calm mind also lends to the ability to background process. Background processing is a term from computing used to describe a process that happens without user interaction. Every day you have to do a bunch of stuff that is mindless and repetitive. One way to reclaim time spent commuting, cooking, or sitting in front of the TV is to have your mind active and engaged in solving problems. While you are physically on auto pilot in your everyday life, your brain can be designing systems, mulling over writing ideas, or even brainstorming.
When working limited hours, it is even more important to avoid common productivity problems. Most importantly: multitasking is impossible (well not for robots, but we obviously wouldn’t know)! We believe this to be true even at a macro scale, where reassigning tasks throughout the week is a drag on both productivity and morale. Stay focused, plan your tasks in an intelligent manner ahead of time, and stick to that plan during the week. Trying to multi-task will negatively impact your productivity.
With a 10 hour work week, this is particularly important at the micro scale as well. An environment free from distraction is a necessity here. Silence your phone, close your browser (or at least all the tabs that are distractions), and try to work somewhere serene. This is why we only consider “productive hours” when tracking our time spent on tasks. Suppose I sat down and worked for 5 hours, but wasted 2 of those hours trying to switch back into work after being distracted. According to our process, I would log that I worked 3 hours on the task. It is great motivation to make improvements when we consider that those 2 hours could have been used with friends and family instead of spent wasting time with common distractions.
Our goal is to eventually shift NotRobot from a hobby to a career, but there are still countless lessons we want to learn before that’s a possibility. The 10 hour work week allows us to learn from our successes and mistakes, yet does not invade on our day jobs, our families, or our health. Once we’ve built up enough of a knowledge base, we’ll be ready to flip the switch over to a 40hr week, bringing all of the lessons we’ve already learned with us.