A couple of Mondays ago, Strawberry Singh challenged us to write a post about what we’ve learned as a result of our participation in Second Life.
I’ve discovered talents I never realised I had outside of Second Life, having learned how to build simulated environments, like Basilique and produce immersive theatrical performances, like Paradise Lost.
I’ve leveraged my love and knowledge of music by performing in Second Life, sometimes with singing and more frequently DJing. I also first learned how to capture and edit video, using the marine park I designed as subject matter for my first machinima a few years ago.
My choices in Second Life have also challenged me to improve skills that I have practiced professionally in varying degrees in real life. Skills like writing, both for this blog and for my upcoming book on virtual etiquette. My photography (e.g. as seen on my Flickr) and my graphic design skills (e.g. all the posters I’ve made for my events, the book cover I designed for Huckleberry Hax’s latest novel) have improved as as result of practising in Second Life.
I’ve become more technically ambitious than I thought I was. For example, I’ve recently been challenging my ability to customise Google Sheets so that they act more like databases, for my project for Blogging Second Life.
I’ve also had a chance to practice my research skills (having taken a lot of research methods and statistics courses in school), it’s been fun to put those skills to use to find out things I’m interested in about Second Life with surveys and quizzes.
It’s been a busy seven years, but I’m much the better for it. Second Life has been an incredibly flexible platform on which to try new things, virtually risk-free, and develop talents in things I rarely get a chance to do for fun in real life.
The most important thing I’ve learned, however, isn’t at all sexy. It doesn’t have a fancy outcome, and no one will ever rave about it. However, it’s in my opinion, probably the most important skill one can learn in Second Life – if you want to balance an active Second Life with an active real life – without burning out or feeling you need to ditch Second Life to take care of real life (like, sadly, so many do).
That skill is time management.
I’ve always been pretty good at time management, but my active Second Life has made me need to become a pro. Many people ask me, “how do you find the time to do all the stuff you do in Second Life, while not suffering in real life because of it?”
My secret? Planning. My tool? Google Calendar.
I run my Second Life, like I run my real life – planning the most important things in, so that I can get what I need done, while letting the little things either take care of themselves or get discarded all together.
The image above is a picture of my weekly calendar in RL and SL. The green and grey bits are my big projects at the moment, the light purple bits in the day are my daily task reminders (e.g. checking my email, checking in with colleagues, daily catchup meetings). The blue boxes in the evening, is my Second Life calendar (which is integrated into my RL calendar for the evenings too, so that I can avoid conflicts).
Here is my SL calendar, cleared up so it’s visible:
Mondays is my busiest day in Second Life. I tend to get my planning done on that day, like prepping my set list for that evening’s Monday Music Social. I also have a reminder to plan that week’s chat salon. It gets me thinking about it, but I don’t usually settle on a topic until I have to send the mailer out on Wednesday. Then there is the Monday Night Social, where I typically DJ for 2-3 hours. While most of it is from a set list, usually 1/3 of it is requests. I love it. It’s always a fun night and I love sharing my musical favourites with people, while hearing their contributions, and how the music moves them.
Tuesdays is a light night, and I sometimes don’t go into Second Life at all. If I do, it’s usually fairly late. I might spend my time writing at Silky’s Cafe, or doing other things just for me. This is when I might check out new products I’ve seen on the blogs, or make new outfits, or organise things. This is my light prep time that lets me relax about those things on the heavier nights. I also read a lot of the blogs I follow.
Wednesday is the night of the Chat Salon I lead. I have to pick a topic early enough to send a mailer about it. The salon itself is always a full-on activity. So much that I like to go to bed early that night as I’m usually very tired after it. Oh, yes, I alarm my bedtimes, otherwise I might never go to bed, and I need at least 7 hours of sleep or else I’m grumpy and foggy the next morning.
Thursday is another light night. On these nights, I read the blogs, write my blog posts – either in RL or inworld, and sometimes take pictures. I tend to keep to myself on Tuesdays and Thursdays – although I might have a couple of chats in IM when I wander into Second Life – again, usually on the later end of the evening. Usually, I’m on my own at Basilique – at Silky’s, Harvey’s, or sometimes the Ballroom or Bathhouse.
Friday night is very casual. I have a movie planned to start at 11pm (GMT local) at Basilique. Sometimes it happens, other times it doesn’t. There’s no obligation. It’s not a popular event, so it’s easy to do something else instead if I’m not in the mood. Tonight for example, a group of friends gathered in Harvey’s Bar and talked nonsense most of the night. These nights are always a good laugh.
Saturdays are usually reserved for RL. This is the day I love to do nothing at all. In the end, I usually read, watch videos, or play games. Sometimes, especially as the weather gets better, I get out for the morning or even the whole day. I rarely plan anything in Second Life for Saturdays, because I want complete flexibility to do whatever it is I want to do. If I feel like it, I’ll go in, but rarely to work.
On Sundays, I tend to work on longer term projects, both in RL and SL. For SL, I have 3 on the go at the moment – one being the sim itself. There really isn’t much to do for this to be honest, but I like to be reminded to poke around and clean things up, get rid of things that are no longer necessary, or finally get on to niggles that have caught my attention over the week. Sometimes I’ll clean up my lists, update signs, and do a sim restart.
Sunday is also when I look at my projects with the other groups I’m involved with. For example, I want to give Blogging Second Life a couple of hours a week to complete the website overhaul. And, I want to write a blog post for SL Blogger Support at least once a month.
And that’s my week. In between the calendar events and reminders, I spend time just chilling out. Often chatting with friends late into the evening, or spontaneously exploring or shopping too. I also deal with things I need to do for the post-production on the movie of Paradise Lost we’re launching later this year.
Many among you might look at my approach and think I’m way too serious about planning. I’ve heard people say they come to Second Life for respite from their over-scheduled real lives. Others have told me that it seems that my activities sound a lot like work, and not enough play. They wonder how I can have any fun?
Believe it or not, I manage to have a lot of fun. I just also like to get a lot done in the process.
My approach isn’t for everyone. I greatly enjoy my Second Life, while accomplishing a lot, and feel like my calendar helps me get what I want done. Having it let’s me feel free to relax whilst doing what matters to me – which ranges from socialising with close friends, visiting new and old places I like, and meeting new people when time allows.
Most importantly, despite having a few wobbles along the way (and who doesn’t, right?), I’ve managed to maintain a balance between two busy and active lives, and pay attention to the most important relationships within those lives. I don’t have any more hours in the day than anyone else, but I do make sure my big rocks are in the jar first, before I put my smaller stones in, and I tend to leave my sandy grains alone.
I honestly believe that the number one contributor to Second Life burnout, is our inability to maintain an appropriate balance between real and Second Life – however one defines appropriate.
One sure way to lose your balance, is to lose control over your time. This is how I manage mine, and it’s an approach that has worked for years. Maybe you have another way that works for you.
How do you manage your time in Second Life? Do you make no plans? Or, are you a planner like me? Are you like some of my friends, and only set reminders for a few important events? I’d love to hear about it in the comments, and go on, call me crazy if you like 🙂