Consistency vs. Intensity

Consistency vs. Intensity

Justin Nearing

For the past few months I’ve been recovering from burnout.

It turns out having a stressful job, with a toddler, during a global pandemic, was in fact unsustainable.

The last few years have felt like treading water in a flood.

I’ve been very fortunate in that I’ve had the opportunity to step away from my career for a few months. Putting down that stone, so to speak, has allowed me to catch my breath.

And now that I am feeling refreshed, I’m ready to start building back into my career.

Great timing on my part.

The Creative Worker Apocalypse

By “great timing” I mean its been an absolute catastrophe in terms of layoffs in the games industry.

I haven’t seen things this bad since the Great Financial Crisis of ‘08.

And while I can quote the cyclical nature of the business cycle vs. risk/reward of game development, in practical terms it’s going to be a long time before I expect to see meaningful industry-wide growth in the games industry.

And it’s not just the games industry. Entertainment industries writ large are seeing long-term systemic issues explode into acute crisis. SAG-AFTRA & WGA strikes, the long history of burnout and low pay in animation studios. Across the board we’re seeing shifting currents that’s drowning creative workers in the undertow.

With these macro forces at play, what am I supposed to do?

Pacing for the Long Haul

The thing I’ve been focusing on is a personal emphasis on consistency over intensity.

I tend to have an all-or-nothing approach to… just about everything. Maximum effort, a laser focus on the task at hand- you get the idea.

That intensity of purpose is a superpower in some contexts.

I spent six years on-call for a litany of live services critical to my companies success: I’ve seen my share of late-night emergencies.

In that context; having a calm, focused approach to triage, remediate, and prevent issues is a literal superpower.

It’s when you have too many of those emergencies that you start to have a problem.

High intensity only works in short bursts. Too much intensity, for too long, leads to exhaustion.

In the industry we call that exhaustion burnout, and its a son-of-a to recover from.

Disciplined Consistency

Tempering intensity is probably the most important skillset that I can focus on.

The way I’ve been practicing temperance is by focusing on consistency.

If my expectation is that the games industry is going to be in a tough place for a long time, it makes way more sense to do a little bit every day.

It’s not how heavy I lift, it’s how many days I’m lifting.

In practical terms, it means I’m time-boxing my projects- Usually limited to an hour.

It’s flipping aggravating.

You can’t get anything done in an hour!

But if you force yourself to do it every day, you’re suddenly putting 7 hours into that project per week.

So little time is committed each day, you suddenly have the opportunity for more projects.

Meaning I can put an hour to put into exercise. And hobbies. And active parenting.

You might even call it work-life balance!

By reducing the depth I put into my projects, I suddenly have a lot more breadth in the amount of projects I can focus on.

And with a focus on consistency, real depth is put into all projects over time.

Two Steps Forward

Maybe this has all been super obvious to you.

But for me, shifting my mindset from intensity to consistency has required a real daily discipline.

I’m also fortunate enough to be able to focus on long-term thinking like this.

There are many, many good people in the games industry who have been suddenly laid off. Folks who really need another job, right now.

I don’t need to compete with those people, they’re coming in with a desperate intensity antithetical to what I’m trying to achieve.

I have the opportunity to focus on the long haul, find truly exciting opportunities, forge my own path forward.

With a disciplined consistency, one hour at a time, I forge my own path Forwards .