List your accomplishments. Make a realistic plan. Get enough sleep.

I’m currently in a pretty good groove working on Sol Trader’s development. Due to other work commitments I can only manage 2-3 days a week on it at the moment, but my productivity is pretty much at an all time high.

One of the things that’s helped me is reading a great article on how to motivate ourselves as indie game developers. One of the most helpful tips was to keep a list of all our accomplishments week by week, and to plan the week ahead. It sounds simple, but it’s already made a big difference to my work. Here’s how I do it.

List accomplishments from last week

On Monday morning I record a list of what I’ve done using Notes on my Mac. I trawl through todo list items, Github commits and my marketing plan. Here’s Sol Trader’s from last week:

## Time last week

1 full day plus 4 evenings

## Last week - code:

* Switched the renderer coordinate system around
* Added planet rendering
* Refactored rendering out of platform into game code
* Added normal maps and sun angle
* Show the correct planet on the background
* Fill essential vacancies
* Started work on entity sheet pane - loads of refactoring on it
* Refactored all relationships to separate component
* Custom rendering of ship images on GUI
* Auto-reload shaders on Cmd-R
* Tweaked the bloom code loads
* Introduced higher resolution planets
* Moved premultiply of alpha out to script on game start
* Fixed last seen location for friends
* Started ship hiring components

## Last week - marketing:

* Live stream
* Montage: focus
* Weekly promotional thread on /r/indiegaming
* Blog post on bloom
* Facebook ad on new main menu screenshot

This was enormously motivating for me: despite only giving half a week to the game I got a huge amount of development done! It’s worth really celebrating this achievement.

Plan the upcoming week

I then work out how much time I have to work on the game next week. Then I make a realistic list on the goals I want to achieve in the week, with loose estimates, based on the amount of time I have. Here my list for this week - as I have about 3.5 days, I’ve given myself 2.5 days of goals for the week, plus a stretch goal.

## Time this week

3 days plus 1 evening

## Next week goals

[X] finish relational currency work: 0.5d
[ ] Banks and borrowing money: first pass - 1d
[ ] Ability to hire ships: first pass - 0.5d
[X] Marketing: livestream - 0.25d
[X] Marketing: Montage: quote on motivation
[X] Marketing: Weekly promotional thread on /r/indiegaming
[ ] Marketing: Blog post: how I plan my week - 0.25d
[ ] Marketing: Friday Newsletter with a roundup of latest work - 0.25d

## Stretch goal:

Launching a ship - basics of space back in - 1d

It’s very important to pace ourselves here. We should not plan more work that we can realistically do. If we easily achieved last week’s goals, then we should plan a little more: if we didn’t achieve them, then we should ask ourselves why and do a thorough review. Also, we need to make sure we get enough sleep. I definitely need 7-8 hours a day - otherwise when I work on my game I end up subtracting value rather than adding it, and short-changing my family and other commitments.

This week, I’m already ahead of myself. I’ve almost finished adding in banks and borrowing money (the final thing I need to add is handling a loan default, which I’ll do this morning) and I should get ship hiring in today as well. The quote on motivation was popular on Facebook, which is encouraging, and the live stream went well. That leaves most of a day to get the newsletter and the ship launching code back in, which is my stretch goal.


Sometimes indie development can feel rather like moving the game from 46.001% to 46.002% completed each day. Without a clear measurement of progress, it can be a real struggle. I’ve found this process of review and planning enormously helpful. What methods do you use in order to stay motivated?