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The video gamer's guide to time management

Aside from the lingering social stigma that tells us that hours immersed in an interactive game world are somehow less acceptable than hours connected to an intravenous TV drip, most of us have come to accept that video gaming has achieved full-fledged hobby status among its aficionados. Like most hobbies, it's a hungry one. Even in console games that spin a story to an inevitable conclusion, replay and achievements and hard modes and alternative endings beckon. With a subscription MMO game like World of Warcraft, the entertainment is designed never to end.

Unfortunately, your supply of time to play is not equally boundless.

Those hopeless, choked nights when you fear there is no possible way to hack your way into the thicket of tasks waiting to tear you to shreds come dawn are no reason to cut off your game subscription entirely. We'll show you why, and we'll follow up with tips and resources that help you keep all the plates spinning at once -- including some well-deserved game time.

The video gamer's guide to time management
Why you shouldn't quit playing

Clearly, you should never let responsibilities slide in order to keep playing. At the other end of the spectrum, there could be periods in your life when you need to call a temporary halt to get over a particularly demanding challenge. But all work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy -- and a very burned-out boy, as well. Everyone needs a little time to rest and recharge.

Figuring out how to fit gaming into a busy schedule builds an important life skill: self-discipline. "This belief is exactly why we recommend working game time into even a middleschool-aged student's schedule," says Drama Mama Robin Torres. "Once you learn how to set your own limits for fun and be flexible as necessary, you will be able to rely on that skill for the rest of your life."

The video gamer's guide to time management
Find the right guild

One thing you absolutely do not have to resign yourself to as a busy gamer is being entirely locked out of activities such as raiding. True, your current guild might not be the fit you need. You might find yourself benched, stuck on standby status, or moved to the second string if you can't put in the time on your guild's established schedule.

Talk to your guild leader to see what alternatives exist, but remember that a guild has to plan a schedule and goals that suit the majority of its members. It can't cater to one person.

The important thing to know is that you do have alternatives. Want to raid on an inflexible or variable schedule? There's a guild for that. Proof: Even someone as tightly focused as Olympic gold medalist and world record hurdler Aries Merritt enjoys endgame raiding in current content. "In my experience, the most reliable raiders are the ones who also have many other real life responsibilities," Robin notes. "Once they know how to schedule their leisure time and have properly educated their loved ones ('It's like a bowling league!'), these players show up consistently and are very considerate guildies. Responsible people know that it's not just their own time that is valuable."

Ready to play? Our guides on find the right guild will show you how to target a guild that's compatible with your schedule.

The video gamer's guide to time management
Take control of your time

Now it's time to get down to business -- and that means learning how to manage your time.

Sit down and make a list of what's important. This means everything, from long-range goals to daily to-do's: work or school, playing WoW, walking the dog, spending time with your significant other, eating breakfast every day -- anything you want to happen.

Prioritize it all. Ask yourself if you only had time to accomplish one thing, what it would be. Rinse and repeat with what's left.

Spend some time admiring your prioritized list. Let the feeling of taking control wash over you. This is what it takes to be the person that you -- you -- have decided you want to be.

Run, don't walk, to some sort of organizer/scheduling system. Some people like apps. Some people make lists and sticky notes. Google Calendar is free and can link up on your phone or tablet, too. Whatever method you choose, start at the top of your priority list and begin scheduling whatever it is you need to do -- even if it's just remembering to think about something.

New habit: Check your to-do list/calendar every morning and every night. Keeping tabs on what you've decided is important to you is what this is all about.

The video gamer's guide to time management
More time management tips

Take care of responsibilities first. This non-negotiable principle keeps responsibilities in the bag.

If you're having a hard time remembering to check your to-do's or calendar, write yourself a big note and stick it in the crack of the front door or somewhere you go without fail before leaving for the day. When you leave for the day, check your list and move the note to your bed. When you're ready to go to sleep, there's the note! Check your list again and move the note back to the front door.

Don't try to cram snippets of WoW into little niches of time. It's just too hard to break away and get back to business. Easier: If you have a little extra time, drop it on your to-do's instead of the game. You'll be able to more fully enjoy gaming later, knowing that you have a firm handle on your responsibilities.

Build a schedule designed to work for you, not your calendar. It doesn't do any good to block off massive weekend slots for study time, for example, if your brain collapses after studying more than 30 minutes.

Figure out how much time you actually need to raid. Add up actual raid time plus a realistic amount of time for supporting activities. (This will decrease steadily as your need for rep farming and so forth disappears.) Now you can see how much time you actually need to do the raiding you want. The rest is icing on the cake.

Resist the urge to fiddle about with parts of the game you enjoy less than others. If your game time is tight, spend it where it counts. You may be so hungry to satiate your gaming appetite that you've been wasting time in parts of the game you're not crazy about simply to be able to tell yourself that you're playing, darn it, yes you are!

Beware the dangers of doing one thing while you're waiting for another. Sure, pick herbs while you wait for a PvP queue to pop -- but don't start a dungeon while waiting for a battleground, defer the battleground when it interrupts, and then end up spending your game time in a 5-man group that keeps wiping.

When you find yourself tempted to log in when you've not yet taken care of business, ask yourself: Which will I be happier to have 10 years from now, a video game mount or the fruits of taking care of my other commitments?

Let smart tech do the work. If you're a gamer, you're tech-inclined already, so put those leanings to good use. Press your computer into service with Google's free suite of apps, including Google Calendar and Google Tasks. If mobile apps and a cross-platform lifestyle are more your thing, get a helping hand from a proven organizer like Remember The Milk. ... Or buy a WoW wall calendar -- whatever keeps things moving.

The video gamer's guide to time management
Special advice for students and parents

If you're a student, check out our student's guide to balancing real life, good grades, and video gaming. Parents of young gamers can help kids develop time management skills with tips from the parent's guide to video gaming for kids.

A note for our regular Drama Mamas readers: Does any of this stuff sound familiar? It is! We're updating and building on a number of topics from past installments to create an easy-to-use Drama Mamas Guide to Dodging Gaming Drama. Soon, we'll be able to offer a growing guide to all the questions you ask most. Hang tight while we lay the foundations ... We're sure you'll appreciate the results!

Dodge the drama and become that player everyone wants in their group with advice from the Drama Mamas. Remember, your mama wouldn't want to see your name on any drama. Play nice ... and when in doubt, ask the Drama Mamas at robin@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Drama Mamas

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