As we mentioned in an earlier blog, high school students are more over-extended and stressed out than ever. While students may not be able to do anything about the amount of time they have in a given day—we all only get 24 hours—there are things that they can do to maximize the time that they do have, so that they spend it more wisely and can achieve a better school-life balance. By managing their time more consciously, high school students can lessen their stress, improve their ability to complete tasks and find more time to rest and have fun. Following are some tips for high school students to take charge of their time.
Keep good records of assignments, appointments, classes, and deadlines. Not only does this help students avoid missing important obligations, it will also provide them with an idea of when they need to begin working on assignments and, equally important, when they can make time for fun/relaxing activities. Whether electronically or in an old-school paper planner, keeping track of obligations is key to managing time.
Waiting until the last minute to study for a test or write a college essay is a surefire way to add unnecessary stress. Some students may believe that they work best under pressure, but beginning work earlier puts students in greater control of the tasks at hand. Cramming for tests the night before does not usually help students learn the materials they’ll be tested on, even if they end up doing well on the exam. Essays, especially thoughtful essays, require several drafts before they are polished; no one produces a perfect draft on the first go-round. By starting early on homework and college applications, students can plan what they have to do, the steps they must take to accomplish those tasks, and still have time to enjoy themselves and rest as well.
Stressed out about college applications and that essay for history class? Take things one at a time, and think about what is most urgent. What must be done right now or in the very near future? What has to be done soon but can wait a little longer than other, more pressing tasks? What would be nice to do, but doesn’t demand attention right away? For example, if that college application isn’t due until mid-December, but the history paper is due at the end of the week, work on the paper first. If there are two college applications to be done, do the one due in December before the one that has a February deadline. If there’s an important sports practice or extracurricular activity to attend on Saturday morning, students may need to spend less time out on Friday night, but can plan to do something on Saturday night or for Sunday. By figuring out which items on the to-do list are the most pressing, students can take pressure off themselves by letting go of items that can wait for the time being.
Realize that self-care is an important priority.
Yes, there are lots of demands on high school students with classes, college applications, extracurricular activities and more, but in order to be successful in their pursuits, students need to take care of themselves. That means making sure to allot sufficient time for sleep, eating, exercising and downtime. While it can be difficult to make self-care a priority sometimes, and especially when we are under a lot of stress, it is an important skill to master to perform to our potential and to achieve a good balance between work and play.
Figure out what needs to be done and how long it will realistically take to accomplish. By thinking about how much time a given task needs to be completed, students can reduce their stress considerably. Students will also have a better idea of how much time they can spend doing not only the tasks that they need to accomplish for school or college applications, but also how much time they’ll have left over to hang out with friends, watch Netflix, or do whatever they’d like to do for themselves.
Factor breaks into schedules.
Trying to work for four hours straight, with no breaks, will not lead to greater productivity, but rather to spending time meant for studying staring off to space, compulsively checking Facebook or reaching a point where they no longer retain information. By scheduling in breaks in their study time—say, 10 minute breaks for every 50 minutes of studying—students can keep themselves alert and better able to absorb information.
Break down tasks into more manageable chunks.
For instance, instead of putting “study for Spanish test” down as a goal, students should break the task down so that they can figure out what they need to do and how much time they need to do it. Write 20 vocabulary flash cards. Spend an hour practicing verb conjugations. By setting tangible goals, students can know when they’ve achieved them and they also have the satisfaction of getting concrete tasks done.
In the end, students can’t do much about the number of hours in the day or days in the week. But they can control what they do with the hours and days available to them. By being more deliberate about what they do with their time, students can reduce their stress, improve their productivity and find more time for fun and relaxation.