How To Make Time (From Nothing)


People often say to me, “Miktar, you’re always playing so many games, where do you find the time?”

I always find the time exactly where I left it, which is nowhere. You don’t find time, silly. You make time. Not to get too deep into time perception, we all have exactly the same amount of time in which to do things. We just decide how to allocate that time, differently. To better illustrate my point, I broke down my average day:


Below is a general day for me. Not every day goes exactly like it, and of course, the games listed change regularly and randomly. Certain events, like internet outage or a huge rainstorm might throw a spanner in the works, but the main core to how I approach my day is the 20-minute technique.

Thanks to school, I grew up mentally chunking time into hours, half-hours and quarter-hours. As I got older, I realized there’s a problem with my time being segmented that way. An hour is just too long, my attention span isn’t that great. A half hour is almost okay, but there are only two in an hour (more on that in a bit). A quarter-hour, or 15 minutes, is too short to do anything productive in.


Enter the tomato timer. I found one online for cheap, and it’s supposed to be used for cooking (hence the visual appearance of a tomato, I’m guessing). I specifically got a tomato-looking one, because it looks friendly and healthy, and I’m sure that helps psychologically. Full disclosure: I’m full of shit. But it helps me get by in life.

I use the tomato timer throughout the entire day. Making time requires that you keep track of time. By constantly setting the tomato to 20 minutes, it helps me granulate the day into very convenient segments. Twenty minutes, for me personally, is a kind of sweet-spot. There’s three of them in an hour (the power of threes compels you), they’re longer than 15 minutes so I get more done (even though 5 minutes isn’t all that much), and 20 minutes is just short enough that I don’t get bored or distracted. It seems I have a 20 minute attention span. Even writing this article, was done in 20-minute segments, with things done in-between. Yes, it’s that craaaazy.

So how does an average day for me go, with my 20-minute gamer-approved totally bullshit technique? Like this!



Alarm goes off, I get up, brush teeth, take the dog outside (he sleeps inside the house but lives outside), feed the mewling balls of frustrating (cats), feed the dog, set the coffee machine to make some damn coffee, and water my vegetable garden outside. Side note: if you ever move to America, even if you hate vegetables, you’ll learn to eat them. This country is unhealthy!


Time to fold the bedsheets and store them, fold up the bed (I sleep on a shikibuton due to space constraints), get some coffee, eat a banana, check email and twitter. I don’t get that much email, which is not a complaint.


Since I have time before work (I work from home and start at 9AM, because that’s what Dolly Parton sang and she seemed smart), I use this chunk to check in with Animal Crossing: New Leaf. You can get a lot done in 20 minutes in Animal Crossing. I usually run around collecting the day’s buried fossils, getting money or gems from the money rock, then identifying the fossiles and selling what I don’t need. The money I get from all this, a third goes into savings, a third into paying off Nook’s newest home loan, and the final third into paying partway for a public works project. Animal Crossing is a great tool for teaching “a little every day goes a long way”.


Time for some actual work. Research into possible news articles, writing articles, collecting files for next month’s cover DVD, and mostly boring things nobody would want to hear about.


Someone linked me to an amazing Splinter Cell: Blacklist preview, which I ended up reading.


Take a break to find the last two parachute baskets in Guild Wars 2, that I need for an achievement. I didn’t care about the achievement points (and still don’t), but they recently added serious rewards to the achievement system, and I want those. Points are meaningless, but gold and items, I can use. It didn’t take that long to find the baskets, so with the time left over I ran a few Sanctum Sprint races.


Get another cup of coffee. Do some prepwork for the September issue of NAG, secret stuff so I can’t tell you. Read some gaming news. Seems the US government now considers League of Legends a real sport. Bad news for Tribes: Ascend fans, seems the developer is pretty much abandoning it. I half expected it to happen, PlanetSide 2 took most of the Tribes: Ascend players, and the remaining hardcore that still play it aren’t enough to sustain it as a Free-to-play game. I wouldn’t be surprise if they shut it down in under a year.


Spend some time playing one of my review titles. Pretty exciting stuff.


Switch to a different review title, just for variety. Also exciting stuff.


Read more gaming news. After a while, I just mark them all as read in Digg Reader (since Google canned Google Reader). I usually give up on reading gaming news, when they start repeating across multiple sites. This is the part of the job I admit I don’t like. When you read enough gaming news, you realize just how much of an echo chamber it is, vapid and pointless, with every site just cribbing from every other site. And then of course, I have to write something about something I read on another site, cribbing from them.


Try some more 3D sculpting using Sculptris, a free program. It’s something new I’m trying, just for variety, because when you do art stuff it’s good to try many different things. Here’s an example of some of my experimentation. I’m not sure if I’ll stick to it, but any practice is good pratice.


By this point I start getting fussy and distracted. Likely due to a lack of lunch. This is natural, I’ve found. Even when I was working in an office, that little bit before lunch is generally unproductive. I spent the next 20 minutes just reading the Guild Wars 2 tag on Tumblr.



Lunchtime! First I empty the dishwasher (it runs overnight), clean the kitchen somewhat (I live with very messy people who have no consideration for keeping a space clean or tidy), return a bunch of cookware to the neighbor next door, who had left it here after cooking dinner for us last night. Living in a small town is weird, okay? Make lunch (hot dogs, because I effing love hotdogs).


While eating lunch, I watch an episode of something, either online, or recorded on the DVR. In this case, it’s an episode of Space Brothers. I only watch two shows per day, which is likely part of why I have so much time to do other things. Many people just veg out in front of the TV, but I couldn’t do that. So, I watch something with lunch, and something with dinner, and that’s it. It helps that shows tend to be around 20 minutes, when you remove the ads.


Brush teeth after lunch, put dishes in dishwasher, find more files for the cover DVD and read some general world news. When The Daily Show comes back from break, I’ll likely watch that for lunch and use that to keep up to date on US and World politics. Reading world news straight, is depressing. At least The Daily Show wraps it up in some comedy.


Check the Steam Summer Sale, which resets at this time. Nothing good, thankfully. I don’t need more games, but, the sales man. The sales! Now that lunch has settled, it’s time for chores. Dusting, sweeping the kitchen, cleaning the bathrooms, vacuuming. Yup, I do this every day. When you do a little cleaning every day, it’s easy, goes quick, and it’s way better than doing that ONE GIANT CLEAN per month that takes forever. Protip: Clean from top to bottom. For example, dust higher shelves first, clean counter-tops, then vacuum last. Buy some wetwipes, like Clorox Disinfectant Wipes, and keep one in the bathroom and one in the kitchen. They’re great for cleaning up spills or grime, and especially great for cleaning up hair after shaving.


Chores done, and a friend in South Africa wants to play some Diablo III. Due to the timezone difference, it’s already after work for him. By the time I’d be done with work (after 5PM), they’d already be on the way to bed. So this is really the only time I get to spend with them, so I agree to play.


We’re doing well, so I agree to another 20 minutes so we can hit the next checkpoint. We’re busy going through Inferno, as they had yet to do so and I have to do it again after making a new character on the European servers (my main character is on the North American servers, and you can’t transfer).


Back to work, mostly prepwork for the next issue. More coffee.


Time for 20 minutes of Wii Fit Plus. Don’t laugh, it’s a good workout. It’s convenient too, since you can tell the game you want to exercise for a certain amount of time, and it will build you a custom workout around criteria like back and hips, body toning, cardio, etc.


While cooling down from the workout, I get distracted by a Dynasty Warriors 8 combo video. I love me some musou games.


More worky-work. Research and writing for the next issue, files for the cover DVD, etc.


A quick game of Smite. I prefer Smite over League of Legends and DotA 2, personally. It’s simpler than either, with more emphasis on the actual action part. The moment-to-moment combat just feels much better, being a third-person game. It has a lot of modes too, quick things that take 5 minutes, or the longer traditional conquest mode that takes 20 to 40 minutes.


Played a bit more of one of my review titles.


Nap. I do like the irony of it: in kindergarden they kept trying to get me to nap in the afternoons with all the other kids, but I was a little dynamo. I could never sit still, or sleep in the afternoons. Now, I can’t make it through the day without a 20-minute nap.


Put dinner in the oven. Usually I cook something in the evening, but I was feeling lazy this day, so I just shoved something in to cook for an hour while we take the dog for a walk. We walk the dog mostly every day for an hour, which in the summer is Difficulty Level: 35 degrees Celsius with 70 percent humidity.


Feed the dog and cats, and watch something while eating dinner. In this case, Venture Bros, if you must know. I eat dinner slowly, because I don’t want to rush everything in life.



Now that all the major things are done for the day, I get down to some gaming. First, some Borderlands 2. I’ll be honest, I’m not enjoying it much. But I paid for it, so I’m duty-bound to at least try and finish it. There’s nothing really wrong with the game, I just don’t find the gunplay that interesting, each fight seems just like the last. There’s no real nuance to the system.


Fiddled with Universe Sandbox a bit, to unwind. Made solar systems collide with each other, because that’s cool.


Listened to some music while sketching, since I wasn’t really feeling like gaming.


Some personal life stuff, like talking to the neighbor, playing with the cats, catching up with a friend online.


Guild Wars 2 time! The daily reward system resets this time every day, so I make it a point to play at this time. It only takes about 20 minutes to do the dailies, and if you’re leveling an alt it’s even better because of the bonus experience you get from doing them.


With dailies done, I meet up with the guild I’m in. Monday is World vs World day, and everyone meets up around 8:30PM to give people time to do dailies. Then we hit the server borderlands and defend our keep, or assault the enemy keeps. Being a guild composed 100% of only Engineers, we’re quite a bit of trouble for the enemy as we can chain-drop Supply Crates for nearly a full minute of stun.


I make it a point to not play Guild Wars 2 past 10PM. Spend the next 20 minutes playing  Black Ops 2, multiplayer of course.


A round of League of Legends.


A round of MechWarrior Online.


Art stuff, mostly sketching and painting practice.


Final internet stuff, like checking mail, looking at links people sent me during the day, replying to some comments on Twitter, posting things to my various Tumblr accounts.


Load and set the dishwasher, clean the kitchen (roomates make an ungodly mess in the evening), get the dog inside, take a shower, pull out the bed and blankets.


Play something to relax, in this case Zelda: Oracle of Ages on 3DS.


Read a few chapters of a book, currently working on Century Rain by Alistar Reynolds.


Sleep. Goodnight tomato timer. You’ll be annoying people around me every 20 minutes again, in the morning.


It’s a lot of text, but if you did read any of it, you’ll notice that there’s very little down time. This particular day was quite busy, which isn’t always the case. Sometimes I’ll spend 20 minutes just doing… nothing. Most people would call it ‘being bored’, but I don’t see it that way. It’s good to disengage from everything for a while sometimes, and just let yourself be bored. It resets your expectations and helps you identify things you could be doing. Most people fight the “boredom”, and in doing so deny themselves the real benefit from it.

As for dividing the day into a bunch of 20 minute blocks, I find it helps me utilize my time better. I don’t let anything drag on, and by pacing games you’re less likely to get bored of them. Many people burned out on a game by playing it for like 10 hours non-stop, which is just ridiculous. Then again, I could do that when I was a kid: I once spent an entire weekend playing nothing but Megaman 2. Of course, I was 8 years old. Didn’t have much else to do.

And before anyone says it, yes: the number one reason I have time to do all these things I do, is probably because I don’t have kids (and never will). If you have kids and are trying to juggle a passion for gaming, you have my condolences.

NOTE: Due to how magazine production works, my schedule changes dramatically every two weeks. Above, represents the “more relaxed” schedule because we’re currently in the “off” cycle of production, where we prepare for the two-week full-on production schedule that comes later. When the magazine is actually in production, things get far more focused on output, actual feature writing and such gets done, and far less games are played.