Here’s my take on Chris Deleon’s audiobook ‘Self Command’. The methodologies within have dramatically improved my game development workflow, and time management skills.
Disclosures: I’m not affiliated with Chris Deleon or his company Hometeamgamedev and this post contains strictly my opinion of the content of this audiobook version of Self Command – as this is what I used. I was not sponsored or compensated to post this review.
Why Audiobooks Rock!
I don’t think it’s groundbreaking to say books are a great resource. However they are just a lot harder to fit into modern daily life. Whenever I pick up a new book, I keep finding myself barely being able to get through the opening chapters. Something comes up and I have to put the book down. I inevitably end cleaning it away off my desk and onto the bookshelf with a bookmark in it. I always mean to return to it eventually, likely after I finish with whatever made me put it down. That day seldom seems to come, and I find that the old adage of ‘out of sight is out of mind’ holds true. Even books that I had every intention of getting around to reading at some point get this treatment. I’ve become a huge fan of audiobooks because they are a lot harder to put away. I use my phone to listen, so accessing the audiobook is just a click away. Work from home is still in full force at my job, so the past year I’ve dramatically increased my walking. I’ve been using “found” time from not having to commute everyday for my job to get these extra steps in. At the same time, I’m able to step up my “reading” game with audiobooks. This has been a great way for me to increase my physical activity and also get through my backlog. It gives me the chance to stretch my legs, and work on the ever important posture. I also enjoy being able to give myself a break from staring at a computer screen for the entire day. For me, sometimes the best way I have found to tackle a problem is to take a short break. Letting your mind work in the problem in the background gives new insight when you return to work.
How I Went Through This Material
I have been searching for audiobooks that can help me improve my time management skills for indie development. This search has turned up a number of great products and books, and eventually lead me to Self Command. The content does come with a transcript and text version, which some people may prefer. The audio material that I used has great recording quality as well as a consistent volume throughout. The material was available in both a single file that contained the entire audiobook, and a section broken down by chapter (which personally worked better for me to keep my place on my Android device). Since I am juggling indie development, continuing education with an MBA, and my full time day job, I find audiobooks provide me an opportunity to multitask effectively. As I get older I have been trying to improve and maintain my level fitness, so I have set that as a non negotiable priority – but that doesn’t mean that I can’t take it a step further and work through some of ‘to read’ backlog.
Immediate Impressions and Takeaways of the Self Command Audiobook
This audiobook contained actionable methods and advice that I was able to apply immediately to multiple aspects of my life. I have taken a number of different productivity courses at this point. Generally though, I find that they always contain a new complicated system or process that needs to be set up. Frankly, these end up taking up so much time that it becomes a job. Therefore I often find myself nearly immediately dropping them. I can’t find the time to implement lengthy systems that are supposed help me regain time in the first place. Self Command offered concise solutions that I could immediately implement without having to spend time that I didn’t have. I didn’t find that there were convoluted practices that may or may not actually produce results. For me, when time is of the essence, iterating fast and implementing simple solutions that yield quantifiable results is critical.
I found that the whiteboard or ‘pen and notebook’ system that Chris Deleon explained as one of the most valuable tools in this audiobook. While I won’t go into detail on all of the specifics, that’s what the audiobook is for, I found that approach worked for me. I can say that this simple method distills a lot of best practices into a well thought out and researched framework. The principles discussed a system for determining what task needs to be done now, and focusing on how to exclusively work on that task. Self Command presented the material in a ‘so easy that anyone can do it’ way that is easily incorporated into your daily workflow, and the fast cycle time allowed me to quickly notice an impact. A method that gives ‘artifacts’ or quantifiable data on output without being intrusive on a busy routine is invaluable. The details of this method are explained clearly in the audiobook. The pacing was also extremely approachable throughout the chapters. Information is given to the listener in a structured format, and never was overwhelming. There were useful anecdotes and research tastefully sprinkled throughout the audiobook. This brought additional impact to the material in a way that didn’t distract from the core material.
Tough Truths About Distractions and Their Impact on Productivity
While I was fully anticipating learning new methods and ways that I could drive my productivity up, one unexpected focus from Self Command was the frank discussion of distractions. Chris is cuts to the core of how the modern world is really built around algorithms that are trying to steal and direct our attention. While there a lot can be said about the ethics and morality of this, Self Command focuses exclusively on the facts of the situation at hand — news aggregators, social media, and our phones themselves are literally teeming with software that was specifically engineered by teams of people that have studied and perfected exactly how to capture a humans attention.
I am not a large consumer of social media in general – I don’t have many social accounts, and the ones that I do have are tailored very much to my game development interests. Even so, I found myself agreeing with a lot of the points mentioned in Self Command about software that grabs your attention. I personally have a hard time reaching ‘inbox zero’, and I found myself noticing how I would chase the ‘you’ve got mail’ notification or keep the clutter in my inbox – both points that are addressed and discussed in the audiobook.
Regardless of who you are and where you may be in your life journey, the modern world simply has technology that didn’t exist 50 years ago. You need techniques that were created in the modern era and adapted to combat the very real technology that we face on a daily basis, and I found that Self Command was both refreshing in its bold statements on distractions as well as useful in delivering techniques that again are immediately applicable for reorienting your focus and attention.
While I have yet to go through the entire three audiobook series, I am impressed with the quality I have encountered in self command. There is a lot of material on the internet discussing how you can improve your productivity. Most of them seem more interested in selling you on additional tools or software instead of providing solutions. It is rare that you have a takeaway system in my experience without a subscription. Self Command was extremely upfront with its asks on you, both in time and resources required. Chris went out of his way to make sure that the tools required are easy enough to acquire. The approach taken is one that can help people without having a steep cost barrier in place. This isn’t to say that the techniques are easy, or simple to do in practice. Habit is a powerful thing, and it can as easily work against you as for you.
The audiobook was forthright in its discussion about how reducing the barrier to entry is only one part of the system. It discussed how often the hardest part of the process will be committing to it. Ensuring that you can break free of your existing habits and move towards regaining command of your own attention. This ability to regain self command in the modern age of distractions is something I have found infinitely helpful for improving my productivity and time management, and I definitely recommend this audiobook if you would like to do the same.