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Azeroth Interrupted: Reader Mail -- All work and no WoW...


Each week, Robin Torres contributes Azeroth Interrupted, a column about balancing real life with WoW.

This week, I am answering an email from Gabe in Venezuela:

Dear Robin,

I'm Gabe, and I come to you with a question about balance. I'm 17, live in Venezuela, study in an international school (that follows the format of an American High School) and am doing something called the International Baccalaureate Diploma. Needless to say, this Diploma is one of the most challenging high school diplomas in the world, taking up countless hours of homework a week, and not letting me enjoy my game. Don't get me wrong, I have my priorities straight, I know school comes first. All my fooling around is recreational, and strictly on weekends, so you could say I'm a fairly responsible person (at least in that aspect). What I don't want to happen is for my homework and school work to be my whole day. I enter school at 8:30 am, and leave at 3:30. After all this time of work and class, I come home to a pile of paper that I need to work on that lasts until 8:00 pm. Of course, as you can imagine, I'm exhausted by the time I'm done.

During the summer I joined a raiding guild, and I haven't found any activity in WoW that I enjoy as much as raiding. My guildies are hilarious, and I have a good time doing it. I can also blow off some steam, and rest. My raid days however are Monday - Wednesday and on Fridays, of course, all school nights, meaning there's homework to do. My problem is not making it to raid, that I can do. What I would like to see if you could help me with, is how to do homework, raid, and not be exhausted by the next day. I know, the simplest solution would be to stop raiding, but if I do, my whole day consists of work, work, and more work; and I don't like the idea of not having any me-time for hobbies, which in this case happens to be WoW.

Thanks in advance,

Dear Gabe,

Thank you for your email and giving me the chance to address something that bothered me in the comments to last week's column. Many of the commenters, when reading about Bonechiller's desire to convince his mother to let him play WoW on school nights, suggested giving up WoW entirely. While your priorities do need to be focused on studying at this time in your and Bonechiller's lives, giving up your leisure activities is not only unnecessary, it's a bad idea.

Balancing leisure activities with work and/or study is important to your physical and mental health. There are plenty of articles, studies and experts to back up this statement. I'm not saying all work and no play will drive you insane -- after all, there were other factors involved in Jack's demise as pictured above. But all study and no leisure will burn you out and make you less productive, so I'm glad you're trying to find time to enjoy yourself along with all of your studying. You'll be less likely to regret this time of your life and you are even working on other skills while you play.

So, how do you mix enough playtime in with your studying without becoming exhausted? Properly balancing all of the important aspects of your life will help you, though you may have to make some hard decisions and a couple of lifestyle changes if you really want to make this work. And while I write these tips to you, I really need to follow many of them myself. As Alice said: I give my self very good advice, but I very seldom follow it.

Quality Sleep: Though there are widely varying results from studies about how much sleep we need as humans, everyone agrees that the quality of sleep is the most important. Going to bed at the same time at night and getting up at the same time in the morning -- even on weekends -- is a great way to teach your body when to seek rest. Dr. Andrew Weil has written some more excellent tips to help you sleep. Here are some highlights:

  • Reduce or eliminate your caffeine intake: Even though you probably have access to some delicious coffee in your part of the world, artificial stimulants only make matters worse. You will have better rest at night if you reduce how much caffeine and sugar you consume, particularly in the afternoon.
  • Create a good sleep environment: Use white noise if necessary (like a fan) and keep your bedroom as dark as possible.
  • Study outside when possible: More bright, natural light during the day helps you sleep better at night. And since you probably are playing WoW indoors, do what studying you can in the sun (being safe as far as time and sunscreen, of course).
Exercise: It doesn't sound like you are including any exercise in your schedule. Finding the time to exercise for just a half an hour -- say getting up a little earlier in the morning -- will help you sleep better at night and increase your energy level overall. Though, if you are adding exercise to an otherwise sedentary lifestyle, you will feel more tired for a few days until you get the hang of it.

Breathe: Breathing techniques can be used to stimulate you during the day and relax you before bed at night. Going back to Dr. Weil again, here are some great breathing exercises to try.

Nap: Ooh, I love naps and it turns out they're good for you! Try taking a 10 to 20 minute nap in a dark room when you get home from school every day. A little cat nap can really help you with your mental clarity and energy for the rest of the day.

Take physical breaks from WoW and Studying:
After boss kills, when other people go AFK, after finishing a chapter: get off your butt. Stand up, walk around, do some stretches, get some water -- you get the idea. You want to stop looking at the screen or book or whatever and move your body around a bit. Teeny little breaks here and there will re-energize you and help prevent nasty repetitive injuries.

Work Ahead: I said this last week, but it bears repeating: don't procrastinate. Do as much work ahead as you can. If you are caught up on your reading, read ahead. Start papers and other long term projects immediately. Schedule several hours of study time on the weekends since your raid times are on school nights anyway. The more work you have done before it is due, the easier it is for you to plan both your study and play time.

Be Realistic: You are going to find that as your studies increase over the semester (or quarter or however your school does it), you are just not going to have enough time to do as much raiding. Make your raid schedule as flexible as possible and if you have a lot of things due in a week, you may have to cut it out all together. Though taking breaks will still be important during heavy schoolwork weeks, something as intensive as raiding during that time is probably going to hinder your progress more than help your stress level.

Use a Scheduling Tool: If you find that you are having a hard time scheduling everything, you can try getting yourself a day planner to schedule mundane things like chores and grooming along with your classes and play time. Or you could use a tool like Life Balance which creates a To Do List according to how much time you've been putting into each of the aspects of your life. A free and fun option is to make a game out of getting everything done with Chore Wars. The setup for any of these tools will take some time, but getting organized will start saving you time almost immediately.

It really sounds like you have a lot going for you and your future looks promising. Getting the most out of your education is the right thing to do. Also, the time management and life balancing skills you learn now will help you in the workplace in the future.

May you get great grades, hefty scholarships, awesome loot and server firsts. Keep in touch, Gabe.

Robin Torres juggles one level 70 Tauren Druid, multiple alts across multiple servers, two cats, one toddler, one loot-addicted husband and a yarn dependency. After years of attempting to balance MMOs with real life, Robin lightheartedly shares the wisdom gleaned from her experiences. If you would like to ask Robin's advice or if you have a story you wish to share, please email Robin.Torres AT weblogsinc DOT com for a possible future column.

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