A Work Day in the Life of Jamey Stegmaier

30 July 2018

I’ve been asked a few times to post what an average day looks like for me. But I struggled to figure out how that information might be useful to you…until now. I recently realized something that has improved my work life, and I wanted to share it with you in case it’s helpful.

From a distance, my overall schedule still looks very similar to before I had this realization: I work 7 days a week at my home-office for about 12-13 hours a day. I don’t work at a blistering pace–typically, if I finish a mentally heavy task, I’ll take a 5-minute break afterwards to watch a game review or a silly video. I play games with friends 2-3 times a week (I don’t count that as work), and I sometimes go out to eat instead of cooking from home. I’m single, with my 2 cats as my only dependents.

That’s all the same. What has changed is that I now intentionally break down my day into 3 segments that feel distinctly different, with each segment giving me a sense of closure and accomplishment. You can see the detailed breakdown below, roughly in order of operations.

This change has been particularly helpful for my emotional and intellectual well-being, as it ensures that I don’t burn out on any particular type of task. I feel more comfortable saying “not today” to a certain type of task that I’ve already addressed during a segment today, knowing there’s a segment available tomorrow.

Morning (7:00-12:00)

  • Post to Instagram.
  • Read and respond to easy/urgent emails (I normally wake up to around 40 e-mails, around 10 of which are just notifications). I try to get to inbox zero in the morning, which makes it easier to maintain for the rest of the day. (Please note that if you ever want to contact me directly about a private matter, send an email to jamey@stonemaiergames.com. Don’t send me a message on my personal Facebook account or on BGG Geekmail.)
  • Check in on social media (Twitter, Facebook, BoardGameGeek, Instagram). I’ll return to this a few times each morning.
  • Receive and review incoming samples from Panda (this is when FedEx delivers them).
  • Brush teeth and shower (not work, but important!). I try to multitask by watching/listening to game-related YouTube channels and podcasts whenever I’m within earshot.
  • Respond to emails requiring more time and attention.
  • Create the content for the day (blog or video).
  • Operations/logistics/project management: This is a broad category, and it varies vastly depending on the day.
  • Participate in podcast interview (sometimes, though I prefer the early afternoon).
  • If there’s time (and the need), sometimes I’ll run an errand in the morning.

Afternoon (1:00-6:00)

  • Read and respond to emails accumulated during lunch. Because these are often responses to emails I initiated earlier in the day, they can often take significantly more time than the morning emails.
  • Put out fires: The aforementioned emails can reveal problems that need to be solved as soon as possible.
  • Quick check on social media (repeat several times).
  • Read and respond to comments on blog and YouTube (particularly whatever content I posted in the morning).
  • Participate in a podcast interview (if applicable). 2:00 CST has been my preferred interview timeslot for quite a while. I also have monthly chats with the Automa team at this time.
  • If there’s no interview, I’ll often post something on a game-specific Facebook group (like a design diary post) knowing I’ll be available for the next few hours to participate in the discussion as necessary.
  • Wednesdays only: Meet with co-founder Alan, usually to playtest a game in design, development, or consideration for publication.
  • Sometimes tasks from the morning will bleed over into the afternoon a little bit. If they’re consistent or urgent tasks, I’ll take care of them now.
  • I’ll scroll through Feedly (an RSS reader) to stay in the loop about game news and reviews, among other topics that interest me.
  • Game development: This varies based on what stage a game is in. Most often it means corresponding with the designer, managing blind playtesting, and working through the many stages of final file creation.
  • Prototype printing, cutting, and assembly: This doesn’t happen every day, but when it happens, it’s usually in the afternoon while listening to a gaming podcast.
  • Occasionally, if it’s a slow day, I’ll get to work on my own game designs in the afternoon.
  • If there’s time, I like to do a short workout in the afternoon.

Oh, and throughout the day, Biddy may try to “help” by doing this:

Evening (7:30-10:30)

  • Check and respond to email.
  • Check social media.
  • Write my personal blog entry for the day.
  • Game design time! This is my reward for completing all of the other work in the afternoon and evening. As much as I enjoy all of the work that proceeds this, I can go to bed with a sense of satisfaction and progress if I’m able to work on game designs for a few hours in the evening (and sometimes the afternoon, if I’m lucky). Sometimes this is pencil-and-paper brainstorming/revisions, and usually there’s also some InDesign creation here too.

Then I go to bed, ending the day with 30 minutes of speculative fiction reading to help switch off my work brain (right now I’m reading Age of War). I sleep for 7-8 hours, depending on when the cats convince me to get up, and then I start the process over again!

I’ve really found this segmentation process to be invigorating and helpful. Have you tried anything like this? Has it worked for you?

Also read: The 80-Hour Workweek

If you’re going to Gen Con this week, check out Top 10 Things You Should Know About Gen Con.

If you gain value from the 100 articles Jamey publishes on his blog each year, please consider championing this content!

18 Comments on “A Work Day in the Life of Jamey Stegmaier

  1. Hey Jamie,

    Great post! Appreciate you breaking it down.

    You mentioned 2-3 times a week spending time playing games with friends, but if you follow this format 7 days a week I don’t see how that fits in.

    Do you not have any other interests? That is rather rhetorical because I know you watch movies, and enjoy some sports.

    How would one manage a romantic relationship (assuming you wanted one) when you have yourself this booked?

    I guess I am looking for “how much wiggle room do you have?”

    Do you find yourself falling behind if you take a day or two off completely? Do you take vacations?

    1. Thanks James! As for the playing of games, I’m saying that when I do that, I deviate from this schedule. Same with movies, sports, meals out, etc.

      I’m not really interested in a romantic relationship, but if I were, it would make this schedule difficult.

      Your last question ties into why I travel so rarely and one of the reasons I attend so few conventions–for every day I miss, I have to work around a day to make up for it (or less, but I bump some of the things that I really need to be consistently happy, like game design time or that important time with friends).

  2. Do you ever think about outsourcing/hiring others to do certain tasks, such as social media and non urgent email? Or do those tasks (such as seeing all the positive feed back on social media), give you a pleasure you’d rather not outsource

  3. Thanks for lifting the veil a bit on your day! This, after seeing many different schedules/planners/etc, finally made me map out my own daily schedule. Today was Day #1 on it, and it worked well to keep me on task!

    Thanks again!

    1. Josh: Thanks! I typically take a 5-7 day trip to Virginia each year (that’s where most of my family is), during which time I spend only an hour or two working each day. There’s a fair amount of catchup to do when I return to the office, but it’s not too bad.

      My primary relaxation time is built into deviations from this schedule, like playing games, watching movies, eating, cooking, reading, etc. They’re little chunks of time, not entire days off.

  4. Jamey, I’m amazed at how much design work you manage to get done, and incredible work at that, if you average only about 3 hours of design time a day. Currently, my day job consists of 3 12-hour shifts followed by 4 days off, of which I spend at least 10 hours a day focusing on designs. Granted, my process is probably drastically different from yours, and I don’t have near the amount of resources (artists, manufacturing, etc.) Working at that pace, I’ve managed to design 4 original games in about 7 years, not including 5 expansions for one of those games, and 3 rethemes that I just make as birthday gifts for my wife every year.

    Seeing how you break down your time is inspiring, because I do have trouble staying focused for long periods of time once in a while unless I’m at a point where the creative work on the game is mostly finished, and it’s just the busywork of assembling layouts and balancing. So I may need to break down my time spent in a similar manner, and set a kind of schedule for myself. Because at the moment, I just finished a game last week, in its third iteration over about 2 years, and now I’m juggling 4 other ideas in various stages, with no idea where to focus first. For example, I have a storytelling game I’ve been working on for a while, I still have a lot of writing to do for that, so it’s at least a year away from being anything, while I have 3 others that are coming together much more quickly, but would be better if I could focus on just one at a time, but it just isn’t working that way. Do you ever find yourself with several simultaneous design projects, and find it at all beneficial to divide your time equally between them, or do you just gravitate toward wherever you have your next epiphany?

    1. Brandon: Thanks for sharing how you work and allocate your time. I’m similar to you in that I’m typically working on a few different designs at a time, and I’ll often have ideas for other games while I’m working on the primary designs. I personally like having several projects at a time, as it means I almost always have something I’m really excited to work on (it diminishes burnout for any one design).

  5. Looks like you need a cat trap! Place a low-sided cardboard box in a convenient place next to your computer and the cat will (usually) sit in the box rather that on more inconvenient materials.

  6. Hi Jamey, thanks for sharing!

    Had a similar day organization (in a sense that I had 3 segments broken down further) when I had a crazy amount of things to do in a 3 week period and it helped a lot! I was much more efficient.

    Right now I have a full time job with changing working hours so I have to adapt my schedule to that. Also have a partner so my day needs to be flexible for her as well but she is very understanding and patient :). I have involved her in the company as well. That combined with the fact she is ambitious actually makes us work good together and game design doesn’t suffer as a result.

    I see you are not very interested in finding a life partner the moment and i wasn’t as well (for years in fact). One day a friend asked me what’s the news (haven’t seen him for 6 months). I was giving him feedback about all the projects I was involved it, my startup at that time, sports I was playing, new game design hobby (at that time i just started it as my fun creative time to distract me from work). He interrupted me one moment and asked how about love? I said none on the horizon and I don’t mind, he answered WELL OF COURSE! LOOK AT ALL THE THINGS YOU DO, IS THERE TIME TO THINK OF THAT EVEN?!
    That got me thinking and I realized it wasn’t on any of my lists, I had no thought for it so of course I wasn’t really attracting it in my life. I started finding some time for it and here we are:
    2 years later and I have had a partner over the last year, not only that my projects didn’t suffer but I actually have a different kind of motivation/inspiration.

    The key i guess is in being patient and finding just the right compatible person. I feel the difference, when there is this one person with who you share and experience life together.
    Also, having a life partner teaches us so many lessons and makes us grow, makes us better people.

    At least that’s how I felt it now (my ex wife certainly didn’t make me a better person :)).

    1. Jason: I really appreciate you sharing this, and I think it’s wonderful that you made the choice to become open to having a romantic partner. One of the big reasons I haven’t delved back into the world of dating is that I know that I would give my business priority over a woman, even if we had a wonderful connection. I don’t think that would be fair to her, and I don’t think it would result in a successful relationship. But perhaps that will change at some point (either organically or intentionally).

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