Get back in the swing of things with these time management tips!
A new school year is around the corner, and we hope that this one will allow for kids in classrooms and on sports fields rather than in pajamas and on Zoom! As regular school days and extracurricular activities pick up again this year, we would like to share some time management techniques to help our students get off to a good start.
Creating a Planner
Students sometimes balk at investing time in creating a planner, but time management is anything but a waste of time. It can help students stay on top of assignments and prevent those dreaded all-nighters when they suddenly realize that a paper is due in a few days. Students should create a calendar with three parts:
- Fill in all assignments and tests for each course, using your syllabi.
- Fill in school activities, including extra-curricular activities such as sports matches, school plays, homecoming, etc.
- Fill in events, such as standardized tests.
- Add new items to the calendar as soon as you become aware of them. Keep your calendar up to date.
- Include all assignments, tests, school activities, and work obligations.
- Work your way backwards from big assignments. If you have a Biology test on Friday, for example, block out time to study for that test during the week – perhaps 30 minutes each evening leading up to the test.
- Create and review your weekly calendar at the beginning of the week, usually Sunday night or Monday morning, so that you know what to expect.
- As you complete each item on your weekly calendar, check it off. At the end of the week, see which items have not been checked off and decide whether to include them in the next week’s planner.
- Use your weekly calendar as you make your daily to do list. Some of your daily “to do” list items will consist of homework assignments assigned that day, but consider your weekly assignments, too. Included on your Tuesday evening to do list, for example, might be 30 minutes of studying for that Bio test on Friday.
- If you really struggle with time management, use a daily planner with times marked, and write what you are going to work on next to specific times – for example, 4-5 PM: Read history textbook.
- Check off each item on the list as you complete it.
- At the end of the day, analyze the items you didn’t do and decide whether to add them to the next day’s to do list.
Other tips for time management:
Break down large assignments into smaller parts and estimate how long each part will take you. For example, if you have to study for a test, think about the component parts of that task and make a note of how long each will take.
- Review class notes (30 mins)
- Review reading notes (45 mins)
- Work some problems/answer sample questions (30 mins)
- Have friend or parent quiz me (20 mins)
Breaking down a big task into smaller parts will help you feel that an assignment is more manageable. It also helps you see whether you are on track.
Build in breaks into your study time. Remember that you are going to need to take breaks as you study, so budget those into your study time. If you estimate that it is going to take about 2 hours to read a history chapter, for example, you’ll want to plan for 2.5 hours of time on your weekly calendar to account for breaks. That allows for three 40-minute reading sessions plus a 10-minute break for each.
Use timers. If you find that you spend too long on a particular subject or you get distracted while working (or taking a break), consider setting a timer. Tell yourself that you are going to read for 30 minutes and stop when the timer goes off. Do not take a break during that 30-minute period. When the study period is over, take a short (i.e. 5-10 min) break. Figure out the optimal time for your “study chunks” – 25 minutes? 30 minutes? 35 minutes? How long are you able to focus and remain engaged on a task before you need to break?
Read ahead on weekends. For those of you with lots of reading to complete each week, (yes, that’s you, AP US History and English Literature students!) consider doing your textbook reading on the weekends even if it hasn’t been assigned yet. Block out several hours of reading time and put it into your weekly calendar. That way you have more time during the week to work on other assignments.
Be aware of time spent on social media/texting. Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tik Tok are designed to hook you through constant notifications such as “likes.” Similar to addictive substances or behaviors such as gambling, notifications trigger those areas of the brain that release dopamine, a chemical that makes us relax and feel good and motivates us to repeat a certain behavior. In the case of social media, the pleasurable activity is the promise of social engagement. Be aware that if you are studying with a phone buzzing next to you, you are setting yourself up for failure. Turn off your phone (better yet, put it in a different room) during your study periods. Use it as a reward during your break time, but don’t forget to set a timer. A 5-minute texting break can easily turn into 35 minutes without you realizing it.
We hope that you are excited about your classes and activities in this new school year. Remember that good time management will not only help you achieve your academic goals but also reduce your levels of stress. If you would like to work with a tutor on study skills and time management, please contact Alex Evans and she will help match you with the right tutor.