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Make your time count!

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By Fiona Fawcett

The new school year has just started, and I know I am not the only one who is completely stressed. On top of all of my school work, I must study for my Science Olympiad competition, run cross country, work on my debate outline, send in my article for ChangemakerZ, and maybe find time to sleep. To say the least, I have a lot on my plate. With everything happening in my life, I’d prefer to have nothing preventing me from doing my work well, but life loves to place hurdles in my way, the greatest being handling my time efficiently. Though I’ve definitely had my fair share of struggles fitting everything into my schedule, I’ve picked up a few tricks along the way.

Keep a planner/schedule

Every year, I look forward to buying a planner. Planners allow me to look ahead into the week, write down different ideas in one place (rather than twenty other places) and keep track of the tasks that I have completed and have yet to complete,

There are many types of planners: big and small, thin and thick, monthly and weekly. Everyone has their own preferences, so no planner is better than the other. A few I suggest are the Moleskine 12 month planner, Bloom Planners (which was started by college students from the University of Delaware), or DIYing your own planners with a sketchbook or journal.

Prioritizing Your Activities

I usually make a list when I get home on the things I need to get done. Some tasks should take precedence over others. When making my list, I ask myself the following questions to figure out what I should prioritize:

  1. What is due the next day?

  2. Are there any tasks due within the next couple of days that I can get ahead of?

  3. Are there any large projects due within the next couple weeks?

Applying these questions to my daily schedule, My list often looks similar to this:

  1. Finish my math and biology homework for tomorrow.

  2. Begin the reading due in a few days for literature. ChangemakerZ article.

  3. Work on my history essay due in a few weeks.

Finding Balance Between Personal and Work Life

As much as you may want to do all of these events, you should always have a little “Me-Time” in the day. Me-Time can be anything from taking half an hour after school to take a power nap, reading a book, or watch a quick TV episode. It is important to find a balance between work and personal life, as work can build up stress. The effects of stress include low energy, headaches, and insomnia. These are the best ways to prevent stress:

  1. Learn to say “no”: Essentially, I warn against committing to an excessive number of activities. It’s better to do a few things well than many things decently (quality over quantity, as they say). If you are worried about the amount of events on your plate, start off with just doing a few things, then, if you have extra time to spare, sign yourself up for more things.

  2. Sadly, coffee will not solve all of your problems : The average teenager needs at least 9 hours of sleep a day. Do not get work done during the time you should be sleeping! Sleep deprivation can cause irritability, laziness, depression, and stress. If it is time for bed, there are other ways to make sure you get your work done. Recently, I had four tests in one day and not a lot of time to prepare for them. By the time I had finished studying for three of the tests, it was 10 pm and I was falling asleep over my textbook. I knew I wasn't going to get my full nine hours, but I knew that if I didn’t fall asleep soon, I would not perform well on my test. So, I set my alarm for 5 am the next morning to study. I woke up, splashed my face with cold water, ate breakfast, and opened up my textbook to study again.

I am by no means perfect at managing my time efficiently, but I’ve a few tricks along the way. As much as I love to geek-out to extracurriculars like Science Olympiad, Odyssey of the Mind, and debate, I need to also make sure to find time to ask myself, “Can I manage all of this?” and adjust accordingly.

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