(A comprehensive guide.)
And I mean really, really comprehensive. Warning: this post is REALLY LONG.
You can jump to any section using these links:
- Simulcasting versus Binge-watching
- Figure out Timing and Schedule it in
- The Strategic Reserve Time Chart
- Priorities and What’s Really Important
- Using your Time Effectively
- Before or After?
- Use of Idle-Time
- Making Watching Anime Productive
- The Truth
- Extra Tips
Or, you can skip to the summary here.
It’s not like I have watched a lot of anime in my life, but when I tell people around me that I’ve crossed watching 400 series (even if I haven’t completed all of them) most people ask me this:
“How did you have the time?”
Good question. If you do some quick math:
12 episodes * 30 minutes per episode = 6 hours of anime time for a single season.
6 * 400 = 2400 hours of anime I have potentially watched in my life.
And that’s actually the floor. Many anime I have watched are 2-cour or multiple cour series. So that would add hours. And sure, some series actually have only 6-minute episodes so maybe it balances out somewhere…
Whatever. My point is that watching anime takes time. No matter how much you skip the opening and ending songs.
Now, when I looked on the Internet for advice on how to make time to watch anime, most people said something to the effect of, “I don’t choose when I watch anime. Anime chooses when I watch anime.” or “Just become a NEET and start your own NEET organization.”
And they have a point. Not exactly with the NEET thing, but most of my time spent watching anime is either when I’m procrastinating on something (homework, studying, work. You know, life) or when the temptation is just so strong that I abandon everything else that matters. In the past, my relationship with anime was especially unhealthy. I’d pretty much binge-watch anime just about every second of free time I got. And more than that, actually.
But perhaps some of us out there do aim to be just a leetle bit more of a リア充 (riajuu; a person who is satisfied with his or her real/offline life). And, as it turns out, I’m the type who likes to be super organized. So I thought I’d put together some tips from my experience in watching anime while still having a life.
Simulcasting versus Binge-watching
I actually primarily simulcast while watching anime now. I simply pick whatever interesting series are airing this season (right now as I write this in Winter 2017, it’s Youjo Senki, Demi-chan wa Kataritai, Kuzu no Honkai, Gabriel Dropout and Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon) and follow them as they air.
EDIT: I’m revising and actually posting this in Summer 2017, where my favorite anime are Tsurezure Children, New Game Season 2, Gamers, Kakegurui, Youkoso Jitsuryoku Shijou Shugi no Kyoushitsu e and Princess Principal.
This is easy for some people. But I know people who are hardcore bingers. They can’t wait a whole week for the next episode of an anime.
And that’s fine, too.
Math tells us that you will spend the same amount of time, whether you watch it week-by-week or all at once.
I won’t explain why I chose to simulcast. Instead, here is a list of the pros and cons of Simulcasting versus Bingeing:
A key factor when simulcasting anime is that the anime you watch follows a weekly schedule. So create a weekly schedule for yourself with the anime you’re following.
Trust me when I say it helps to keep track of this stuff. Saves you a lot of time from just randomly checking your anime site of choice all like:
“Is anything out yet?”
*scans new releases*
“Oh, no. Not yet. “
*opens anime site again after 5 minutes*
“What about now?”
Figure out Timing and Schedule it in
As I mentioned before, watching anime takes time. So know how much time you need.
If you’re simulcasting, know how many episodes you’ll be watching each day and how much time you need for each of them. As an example, if you have two standard-duration anime releases on a day, you’ll need an hour to watch both of them (30 minutes * 2 episodes).
If you are binge-watching a series, here’s a series of steps to follow:
- Prioritize what you want to watch and pick the highest priority piece. This can be based on mood, rating, recommendations, whatever.
- Calculate the total amount of time you need to watch the entire series. Eg. 6 hours per cour per series for standard-duration anime. Sure, you can say that each episode is actually 23-25 minutes instead of 30 minutes, but it’s better to add buffer time.
- Now you can do one of two things:
- See how much free time you have in a given day and calculate how many episodes you can fit in there, or
- Find a period of time in which you can fit all of the episodes in a single block.
Okay, so I keep talking about scheduling in time for the anime you want to watch, but I haven’t talked about the exact how yet, have I?
The Strategic Reserve Time Chart
There’s a concept talked about in the book The Juggler’s Guide to Managing Multiple Projects by Michael S. Dobson called ‘Strategic Reserve Time’. I haven’t read this book, actually. I first learned about this concept in the course ‘Work Smarter, Not Harder: Time Management for Personal & Professional Productivity’ by the University of California, Irvine on Coursera.
It’s a pretty simple idea, really.
You simply take all the waking hours you have in a period of time (week, day, month, whatever) and then subtract all the hours that you need for minimal daily-functioning. What’s left over is your Strategic Reserve Time: the time you have to do anything extra in that time period.
Let’s look at an example by taking a whole week. WARNING: MATH AHEAD.
24 hours a day * 7 days a week = 168 hours per week.
Let’s subtract 8 hours a day for sleep (though Lord knows otakus get WAY less than that.)
168 – 8*7 = 112 waking hours.
Let’s assume we spend 9 hours on weekdays at school/college/work.
So we get 112 – 9*5 = 67 hours.
And maybe we do, say 2 hours of homework a day (if you’re a student)?
67 – 2*7 = 53 hours.
Now we subtract some time you’d need for grooming, eating, commute, etc. Here, I’m going to say we spend 3 hours a day on weekdays for all that, and maybe 1 hour a day on weekends.
53 – 3*5 – 1*2 = 36 hours.
So now you’re left with 36 hours of ‘free time’ in which you can choose to work on projects, exercise, study for tests (if that wasn’t done in homework-time), watch anime, watch TV, chat with friends online (or hang out offline, if you’re already a filthy riajuu), all that jazz. It’s up to you to decide how this time is used.
By the way, if you were to use all 36 hours just to watch anime, you’d be able to watch 6 1-cour anime series. In a week. Which would be 312 anime in a year.
Ta da! Now you found the time to watch anime. We’re done.
But wait! Before you go, there are a couple more things I should talk about in this post.
Priorities and What’s Really Important
Very few people would call watching anime a ‘productive’ use of your time.
I am a big advocate of the idea that a healthy relationship with anime is based on making your own priorities very clear.
What are your goals in life? What is important to you? How high-priority is watching anime in your life? What kind of value does anime add to your existence?
Yeah. Big questions, I know.
But the fact that you’re here and reading this post (unless I sent you this link and said, “read this or else I’ll kill you.”) means that you are, in some way, questioning your current relationship with anime and are looking to either define it more clearly, or change it somehow. The first step to achieving this is by asking yourself questions like the ones above.
And don’t judge yourself on your answer. Answer yourself with honesty and listen to yourself with kindness.
There’s nothing wrong with entertainment in your life. Even if you’re chasing after your goals, you need to rest and recharge every once in a while. Anime could provide that restoration for you.
Or perhaps you want to become a professional in the anime industry. Perhaps you want to become a YouTuber or Blogger on anime and earn tons of money online. Maybe you want to learn Japanese and move to Japan.
Whatever the reason, define its and anime’s priority relative to other commitments or goals in your life, and then work down to a micro level.
Here’s an example: suppose you have no big dreams in life, and no particular thing you want to do except spend all your time watching anime. Then come up with some way to sustain that kind of lifestyle. If you don’t make money out of watching anime (I’ve been told there’s a way to do that), then you’ll need to find some other way to pay for your internet connection and merchandise. Perhaps you’ll need good grades in school to get a job that pays enough to support your otaku lifestyle?
Take a look at the options and come up with a plan. See how you can achieve your goals, whatever they are.
Using your Time Effectively
Thomas Frank, in his video on High Density Fun talks about a number of useful points to keep in mind when looking for time to watch anime. Actually, he doesn’t talk about watching anime — he talks about playing games. But that’s besides the point.
One key point he makes in there is about how a large number of us spend a lot of time on ‘low density fun’ like scrolling through Facebook or randomly browsing the Internet during the time that you’re supposed to be working. This causes the time you’re ‘working’ to just balloon up until you have no time to actually sit down and do the fun things you actually want to do.
The solution? Schedule in time to have ‘high density fun’ (in this case, watching an anime you really want to watch) and stick to that schedule.
Actually, we already talked about this part. But an assumption that we made that we missed out earlier is that we assume that time spent working, is actually spent working. And with your complete focus. You might have heard people say that studying for 1 hour completely focused is better than studying for 5 hours with diffused concentration. Often times, it’s very true.
And that means that you have more time to watch anime if you simply focus on studying during the time that you are ‘studying’. The same applies for homework or work.
Before or After?
Another question that needs to be answered is whether you are going to do your anime-watching before you do your work, or after all your work is done; or perhaps you could use one of your breaks in between, like a long break on a Pomodoro session.
I think most people would find watching anime after they complete all their work to be ideal. It makes sense, since it simply makes sure that higher-priority activities get done before lower-priority ones. Another plus of this approach is that ‘watching anime’ now becomes a ‘reward’ for completing all your tasks for the day. It’s a great method of positive reinforcement and provides motivation.
Some people will land up thinking about the anime they want to watch instead of focusing on the work they need to do. In such cases, if the amount of anime they’ll be watching is small enough (like if they are simulcasting and it’s just one episode you’ve been waiting all week for) then it might be more productive to ‘get it over with’ and just finish watching the anime.
If you do not simulcast, then you could achieve a similar result by setting a timer that will keep you from losing track of time while watching. Well, you need to actually get back to work once the timer goes off. That’s in your hands.
Use of Idle-Time
This is a piece of advice I saw on the internet pretty often while looking at what other people do to watch more anime in the time they have.
The idea here is to make use of the free time when you have nothing else to do anyway. Commute time (if you’re not the one driving) is a great time to watch anime on a mobile device. So is time in the bathroom (again, be careful not to get carried away. Someone on the other side of the bathroom door might get rather angry with you.)
As much as I agree with the basic idea, I honestly think there’s a better way to approach this:
Here’s an example: suppose you need to get some ‘x’ amount of studying done and then want to watch some ‘y’ amount of anime. Most people talk about using your idle time to watch anime (and basically chip away at ‘y’), but I would actually suggest using your idle time to study (and chip away at ‘x’).
Studying as idle-time is more widely applicable than watching anime. After all, you can’t really watch anime while you’re standing in your lunch line, or while you’re walking home from class. Well, maybe you can. But it’s way harder — and more dangerous — than studying during that time. You could use audio-recordings, podcasts, flash cards or specialized apps on your phone to study on the go.
Using your idle time to complete your other work gives you more free time to watch anime. Now, isn’t that motivating?
Making Watching Anime Productive
I’ll probably write about this in more detail in a future post, but I’ll mention here that I learned nearly all the Japanese I know by watching anime.
Now, before you call me a total weeb, first know that I’m not kidding when I say I know Japanese. I’m JLPT N1 certified. I converse with Japanese natives. I participate in a Japanese-English bilingual club in my city. I do not say “dattebayo.”
Also, let me clarify that I did not learn Japanese by only watching anime. There were a number of other smaller and larger efforts that went into learning the language and the culture. It took me a fairly long time to reach the level I am at now, and I’m still learning. I’d hardly call myself an expert, or even ‘fluent’.
But the key point here is that, once I started learning Japanese, watching anime was no longer just ‘entertainment’. I actively looked for new Japanese words and grammar constructs. I looked up kanji for words that interested me. I wrote down topic-specific vocabulary.
‘Watching anime’ is now actually ‘learning Japanese’. That’s not the only way you can make use of your time watching anime. Now that I run this blog, ‘watching anime’ is also ‘researching for my blog’. You could use it to learn useful life lessons. Or as inspiration for your own stories or art.
The possibilities are endless. It’s a matter of how you make use of the material presented to you.
Okay, everything I’m about to write here might kind of fling everything I said so far out the window:
I never followed any of these techniques in the past.
I was a chronic binge-watcher of anime. Most of my binge-watching would be done during the time I was supposed to be studying for an exam. Out of the 400 series I’ve watched, 75 of them were in a single year (out of the 9 years I’ve been watching anime.)
“How did you have the time?”
Well, the truth was that I didn’t. But I watched anyway.
And the thing is, it kind of worked.
I scored pretty high in my final school exams (though I nearly failed one of my pre-finals ahaha) and have been able to get through college just about fine. If I want to just barely be on the edge of getting past life, then I probably don’t need all these techniques I talked about.
I started applying these to my life when I realized that ‘just on the edge’ and ‘just barely passing’ wasn’t good enough. I wanted more out of my life. So I set out to achieve other things I wanted, and then found that my ability to watch anime took a hit because of that. And worse, I thought that was fine: that I’d be better off not spending so much time watching anime and should focusing on my goals instead.
But the problem with that is that I totally burnt myself out in the few months I went ‘no-anime’. I need anime in my life. And I need it at just the right amount. That’s when I devised this whole system.
- Figure out how much time you have to watch anime. Chances are, there’s more than enough to really get the right amount of anime in your life.
- Consider simulcasting (or “fake simulcasting”) instead of binge-watching anime.
- Schedule out time on calendar to watch your favorite anime. Make sure you do the things you actually do need to do as well.
- Try to make watching anime a productive part of your day by trying to find some takeaway.
- Use your idle time to finish other work so you get extra time to watch anime.
- Figure out whether you want to watch anime before you finish your work, or after. Or even whether you want to make anime your break-time in between.
- Know your priorities.
I hope that this post can help some people out there devise their own systems to make the most of anime. It’s a tool; and one that can help a lot of people out. Any fan of anime knows why it is that watching anime is so… satisfying. That’s no mistake. It’s because it is actually enriching us somehow. Recognize that and leverage it.
Now go forth and conquer your world, fellow otakus. I wish you good fortune in your endeavors to make anime a healthy and enriching part of your life.
Any questions? Ideas? Do you completely disagree with me? Was this helpful? Too many words? Leave a comment and let me know. ^^
- The common theme in all my tips for making time to watch anime is to make sure that you value your time. It is because your time is precious that you want to be able to use it on the things you enjoy. Remember that.
- If an anime is absolute crap and it’s killing you to finish it, drop it. I do know several people who like to watch bad anime as well as good anime so they have a balanced experience, or so they can critically evaluate it, or so they can bitch about bad anime to others, or because they are ド-M (do-emu; really masochistic.) And that’s fine, but never feel obligated to finish an anime you started if you really can’t enjoy the experience. Remember, your time is precious. Do not watch anime that are not worth your time.
- I do not recommend following more than 6-7 series at once. The number of anime series a person can juggle at a time is different for everyone. See how many you can and stick to that. Also, you can calculate how many series you can follow using your Strategic Reserve Time chart. (Eg. If you have 36 free hours a week, then you can watch 72 30-minute episodes a week. So, in theory, you could simulcast up to 72 series a week.)
- The techniques I talked about in this post are not the only ways to manage your entertainment time and balance work versus play. Explore other techniques to managing your time and finding systems to help you do so. I’ll only warn you that anything related to ‘bullet journaling’ is a rabbit hole that will eat up huge chunks of your time if you research about it. If you choose to use it, limit the number of videos you watch on them before you start one. Otherwise, it’ll be endless.
References and Links
- MAL’s Anime Schedule
- Thomas Frank’s video on High Density Fun
- Coursera’s Work Smarter, Not Harder: Time Management for Personal & Professional Productivity by the University of California, Irvine
- Thomas Frank’s video on how to use Habitica