Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Teaching: How to deal with procrastination?

I remember being a student, and going to great lengths to rationalize why I should start my assignment tomorrow. Can't do it right now, I need a solid five-hour block of time and my gaming group starts in three hours. Don't start it early, there's always problems in how the assignment is stated, let some other sucker run into the traps and force the professor to issue errata, and then I won't have to waste my time running into one brick wall after another. I remember how it was.

Of course, life in the game industry is totally different. You don't put off critical tasks, because at best it puts the entire project behind, and at worst it gets you fired. Also you're working on a game that you (hopefully) care about, and any lost time now means one more cool feature that won't be in the game. It's been long enough that I actually forgot that there are people out there that don't start working on a task as soon as it's assigned...

So, I encourage my students to start early on their projects because it will give them time to iterate properly. My professors told me the same thing when I was in college, and I learned to ignore them. Naturally it's come back to haunt me, and now I get emails at 11:45pm on Sunday asking basic questions about the homework that's due Monday in class.

Is there any way I can say this and still be taken seriously? I really am completely serious about this, and it's a necessary skill to survive in the game industry. But every time I talk about the importance of starting early, I can almost hear my 10-years-younger self in class saying back to me, "yeah, right".


Tim said...

I wish I had an answer, though it's probably why I've failed to do much in the way of creative ventures since I graduated from college. I do my absolute best work with a proverbial gun pointed to my head. I would attempt to start something ahead of time, and it wasn't happening. Is it due in 6 hours? It's going to be a masterpiece. I wish I knew why.

I, AM said...

I recognize that this is a really old post, but I just stumbled across the site while researching to start a Middle School level game design class... I've been teaching a few years and one way I get kids to beat apathy and procrastination is to break a project into parts and give each part a deadline.

Maybe you would say at a college level you shouldn't have to spoon feed the students such basic skills. I'd agree, but if they don't already have them it's better that you have an option to adjust your plan than just have them turn in poor quality work.