A Case for Multi-Tasking (aka Creative Rollover)
Let me know how this sounds, because I know the studies on focusing and multi-tasking. The common logic is that you go with one topic and stick with it. That’s a simplified version, and it makes sense. But there’s room for some experimentation. What I’m thinking about is the sort of balance people do naturally, but with a more productive intention. So I don’t see it as multi-tasking, but more like a change of pace in order to keep the system humming. I’ll call it Creative Rollover until I come up with a better term.
While working on large and small projects in the game industry, I noticed that it’s almost impossible to stay hyper focused on one narrow slice for too long. After a few days or several days, attention needs to be turned to something else. If that doesn’t happen, then people are just spinning their wheels without making significant movement forward. If they don’t get a mental change of pace, then their productivity falls off and they start to wander.
So what if we could keep ourselves engaged by jumping to different aspects of a project? That sounds more productive than going into a complete state of disconnect. Completely shutting down means that you have to take significant energy to re-engage and do a cold boot all over again.
What I’ve done is started cutting off unnecessary feelings of fatigue by jumping from one creative/productive mind to another. This way, I can get into modes faster and get more net work done.
What tends to happen with me is that I get bored out mentally doing one thing over and over again without getting any new perspective. With different projects, I can relax one mind while the other one takes over. Maybe it’s like cooking a complete meal.
Take games for example, after a few of plowing into the animation system, we’d go work on the combat system, then on to the pathfinding system, then on to the character backstories, etc. Rolling from one creative focus to another was the only way the large picture could be effectively realized. In fact, we got large gains when we pulled people out of their caves to get a little involved with what was going on with other parts of the project.
One reason I think this this worked was because creative rollover avoided the problem of people running out of fuel during a given task. When that happened, they became completely disengaged. When that happened everyone got thrown off. Another reason is that we let the environment adjust to the changes.
I’ve been playing around with this type of development for a couple months now, and I think I’ve found a way to cook up a marvelous meal of creativity.
I’ll explore this more later. And I need a better name than Creative Rollover.
Any thoughts? Let me know in the comments.