How Can I Strike a Balance Between My Studies and Hobbies?

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a teenage girl who attends a junior high/high school. My hobby is reading manga and novels.

Once I start reading them, I can’t stop, and I’m having trouble keeping a balance between my studies and my hobbies.

My classmates around me work very hard and I’m trying my best to catch up with them. Recently, I’ve been studying by suppressing my desire to read, because I feel that I need to get good grades, too.

Reading manga makes me feel like I’m just having fun, so I try not to buy the latest editions of my favorite stories. I’ve sold manga that I had to a secondhand bookshop, and have stopped reading novels on my way to school and during breaks in order to study.

My parents told me that I may be going a little overboard.

Honestly, I really want to read manga and novels. How can I balance my hobby of reading with studying to lead a well-balanced life?

N, Aichi Prefecture

Dear Ms. N:

To get good grades, what you need to do is not only make time to study, but to improve the quality of your studying. It’s important to learn how to improve your concentration rather than just spending more time studying.

People cannot concentrate for a very long time. Set aside, for instance, 1½ hours to study, and completely immerse yourself during this time. After that, read a novel or manga for 20 minutes, then exercise by taking a walk or stretching your body for 10 minutes.

If you combine studying, reading and exercise into a set of three activities like this, it allows you to use different parts of your brain and your body. This will make you feel refreshed and can improve your concentration.

I believe inspiration and ideas are also more likely to come to you by doing this.

If you only study, you may feel fatigued because you only use some parts of your brain and body. In this case, you may find it difficult to stop reading manga once you start.

Before exams, try a different allocation of your time between the three activities.

I believe that alternating between studying, reading as a hobby and physical activity will be useful to you when you start working or have a family.

Junko Umihara, psychiatrist