Time Management and D&D

If there is one thing that has kept me from playing D&D lately, it's that the logistics of running a steady RPG have been seemingly impossible since I started graduate school. I do manage to write some RPG-related stuff on the blog here, usually random NPCs that I decide to stat out and post, and I'm still trying to keep my online Rifts campaign going as steadily as I can. Still, the sad truth is that time is at a premium in my life right now, and games like Magic: The Gathering just fit into my schedule with less hassle.

But I'm saying now that I want to run a D&D campaign again... in person...

How could this possibly work out while juggling a full time job and full time college course work? Honestly, I'm not entirely sure, but I'm willing to give it a shot. Here are some ideas that I'm thinking might help. Please feel free to contribute in the comments below.
  • Game time rather than game night. We used to play every Tuesday from four o'clock in the afternoon until we decided that we had to stop or we wouldn't be able to wake up for work the next morning. Nowadays, that's unrealistic. Planning for a two to three hour session is about as time consuming as I can manage, and I think my players would say the same. Scheduling something like 7-10 on a weeknight or 1-4 on a Saturday would be much easier to convince people to put game time on their schedule.
  • Periodic marathon sessions. To make up for all of the lost time from shorter sessions, it might be possible to schedule a marathon session a few times a year, when we meet for lunch on a Saturday and then play the rest of the day. These would be ideal for climactic battles or for times when long-lost players return for a visit, and would let us relive some of the old days from time to time.
  • Sandbox-style story. In a sandbox, the players drive the story more than the DM provides it. This takes a lot of work off of me, as I'll mainly be improvising at the table and reacting to the players' actions, rather than building a story arc and spending my time predicting how the players will interact with it.
  • Sandbox-style setting. I'm going to pull from material that I already have rather than creating a whole bunch of new stuff. I'll probably pull some encounters and locations from different adventure modules that I already have: Night Below, Menzoberranzan, various Dragon Magazine issues, and my Shadow's Apex homebrew campaign setting. Mix it all together and just see what the players do with it.
  • Focus, focus, focus! We goof off a lot when we do have game night. Inevitably, we end up watching at least two or three YouTube videos that have absolutely nothing to do with the game at hand, and tell jokes, and talk about people we haven't seen in a while, etc. That's all good, and we could do that when we had 6+ hours to play, but when we're confined to 2-3, I'll need to do a better job of managing how focused we are. 
  • Mechanical shortcuts. Since this will be a D&D 3.5 campaign, I'm guessing the target stats for Pathfinder will be acceptable. I've still got the Pathfinder Beta pdf, so I'll use those as often as necessary to keep from needing to fully stat out monsters.
All that said, I'm still open to suggestions. If anyone has any advice, please share!
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