The Board Game Design Course

Where great games begin

Game Design

Can’t find the time to work on your game? Here’s what to do. – part 2

Last week I discussed the #1 problem I hear new game designers and aspiring game designers talk about – finding time to work on their game.

I went to the heart of the problem, which is not so much not having the time, but not prioritizing board game design over other activities, of which there are many to choose from.

Yes, there are exceptions to the rule. If you’re a single parent of 5 kids holding down 3 jobs, then you probably don’t have a whole lot of free time. Then again, you’re probably not looking for a hobby like game design to do in your spare time. That’s not most of us though.

Now, if you’re serious about wanting to make your game and are willing to cut back on social media, TV and movies, other hobbies, or whatever is taking up your time, to really focus on making your game, let’s talk about some other methods that can help you make the most of your time.

Just getting started is the hardest part

 One of the toughest things when it comes to creating is to just get started working on something.

It’s that initial step that is often the biggest hurdle. You’ll find that it’s not so bad once you get started.

Whether it’s cleaning a room, going to the gym, sitting down to write, or working on your board game, once you start an activity, you can really focus and get right into the task at hand.

The problem is when you’re only thinking about it and your brain comes up with all sorts of objections.

It’s too hard.

I’m no good at it.

Something else is much more fun.

You need to push through these objections and start working on your game. This will allow you to quickly get into the process, and time will fly.

Here’s something you can try if you’re really having trouble getting started: tell yourself that you’ll just work on your game for five minutes.

Surely, you can do this (or just about any task) for five minutes. What you’ll usually find is that you start getting immersed in what you’re doing. Soon, an hour will have passed and you’ll often continue working away on this.

Just start pushing around cubes and meeples, or playing cards, and your game will suddenly become the most interesting thing around you.

You’ll have one idea after another.

Then you’ll want to see where these ideas lead…


It can be tough to focus intently on one thing sometimes.





Something else that’s more fun.

There is no shortage of distractions in our lives.

So how do you focus on the task at hand?

One way is to simply shut off all notifications, turn your phone off, close browser windows, and tell others around you that you’ll be working for the next hour (or however long) and to please not disturb you. It really helps to have a supportive partner and family when it comes to carving out this time to work on your game.

Then, get to work (it’s fun work, but still work!).

If you get distracted by other ideas or things you remember you have to do, make sure to have a notepad handy so that you can jot down a note to come back to afterwards, then focus back on your game.

Fight fire with fire (or… fight technology with technology)

Quite often it is the technology meant to enhance our lives and make things easier that actually makes it harder to get things done.

Even though we’re working on tabletop games, we do still rely on technology.

Whether you’re creating and updating cards, doing research, or writing rules, we do sometimes need to be sitting in front of a computer to get work done. This is where it is easiest to get distracted.

As I mentioned, you can turn off notifications, shut things down that you don’t need, and close browser windows that are not being used. However, sometimes it’s not that easy or we forget or we aren’t disciplined enough to do this on our own.

That’s where apps like Rescue Time can help. The basic free version will help you to understand where you are spending (and in some cases wasting) your time.

This might be enough for some people, but for others, the paid premium version can do a lot more. You can set alerts, track time away from the computer, and even block distracting websites, which can be very helpful when you’re trying to get things done.

Rescue Time is just one solution. There are other apps that you can try as well.

While I haven’t had to resort to Rescue Time yet (although I’m seriously considering trialling the free version), I’ve heard good things from other people. If I find my productivity slipping and that I’m getting distracted, which could easily happen the longer I continue to work from home, I will definitely give this or another app a try.

Make good use of your downtime

Do you have a long commute to and from work?

If you’re just sitting there on a bus or train, why not jot down some game ideas, write up rules, or do something else to move your game forward?

Do you have any co-workers who are into games?

You could start a board game lunch group. It doesn’t have to be every day (although it could!). Even one day a week will give everyone something to look forward to.

Then, once you’ve established the event, ask others if they’d be willing to try out your game.

I got in so many playtests with co-workers who loved seeing what I was working on, as well as the progression of my games.

This is one thing I miss now that I’m designing games full-time and working from home. So, take advantage of this opportunity if you can!

I’m not suggesting you pack gaming and game design into every minute of every day. We all need to take time for family, to rest, and to vacation and travel.

But there may be some time wasted on something that’s not all that important. These are the opportunities to work on your game.

What apps or techniques do you use to focus on game design or other tasks?

Tags: , , , , , , , ,


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    We have an eight month old boy and I take him out for a walk on most days. We spend an hour, hour and a half in the park and I use that time to think about my designs.

    Get those opportunities in while you can, Balint! Once he’s walking all eyes will be on him. 🙂

    I have learned over the years, that whether it’s a boardgame or video game, somethings can’t be rushed. As long as I manage a few minutes to a whole day, I’m getting things done. Not having a deadline also helps. I am converting one of my video games, Sumoo Warrior, into a boardgame.

    I agree that you can’t rush a game. It takes time and you can sometimes end up beating your head against a wall with now results.

    However, I personally like deadlines and they push me to get things done. If I know I’ll be attending a convention, playtest event or meeting with a co-designer, I want to have everything complete that is needed for that time.

    If you’re just doing this on the side for fun though, I can understand how a more relaxed approach may keep the stress down and make this more enjoyable in some ways.