“I can’t, I have to (insert mundane task here)”
We’ve all been there. Friday afternoon, just when you’re finally decompressing after a taxing week of school, you get a surprise text from one of your friends (who seemingly never have any work to do). They ask you to hang out, and suddenly everything that you planned to do over the “endless” weekend seems to pile up in front of you. Your mind gets bombarded with schoolwork and clubs and oh god, no, laundry!! You cancel, saying that you really need to get caught up on your to do list, which really means Netflix until the memories of your responsibilities disappear (but you’d feel guilty going out when you have so much to do). Luckily, there are small habits that you can build to help you optimize your time.
Month by Month to Beat the Funk
Having a big picture view of your obligations can help you get a grasp of how much you have to do and which obligations are the most important. This is the time to break out a calendar. Things like school don’t need to be marked on the calendar since they happen daily, but if April is the beginning of lacrosse season and your new SAT class, then it would be helpful to mark the days of games and classes to make sure that you have a clear idea of what activities you have to juggle.
It could be helpful to also color code your calendar, such as by having green highlighter for sports and blue highlighter for family activities. Having a color system would help you see easily whether this month is more green heavy (meaning you have many extracurricular activities) or more blue heavy (meaning your family is getting together a lot this month), showing you where your priorities should lie for this time.
This calendar would also be the place to mark any special events that happen only once, such as your sister’s dance recital or your friend’s birthday party (trust me, you do not want to suddenly remember that it’s your friend’s sweet sixteen thirty minutes before her party). Make sure to put your calendar in a very visible place, so that you can easily see your obligations.
Week to Week, Get the Free Time You Seek
Now that you know where your priorities lie, make weekly goals so that your tasks don’t seem so large and looming. If you have to read a book for English class this month, write down that you want to read at least one hundred pages this week. If you have a big piano recital coming up, say that this week you’ll learn the second half of the song or perfect that part at the end. Weekly goals are large enough so that you can see your work building up, but small enough so that they’re not overwhelming. Keep your list of weekly goals somewhere that you see daily, so that you can see if you’re really working to accomplish them.
It also helps to have a designated rest day during your week, sometime to just relax, hang out with friends and family, or just make sure that your room is clean. After reading this article, you probably will be so inspired that you’ll want to get on that grind every single day, but having a rest day will help make sure that you don’t burn out. Mani-pedi Sunday with your sister or that movie on Saturday with your friends might be the thing that gets you through a tough week of studying.
Day by Day to Keep the Stress Away
In all honesty, it really helps to have a daily plan that you never deviate from. Having one builds structure and helps prevent that “Oh my gosh, my life is falling apart!” feeling that high schoolers are so used to having. Little habits build the foundation of a really productive person. Having a set homework time (and snack time, so that you don’t die of starvation while doing calculus) may seem like an unnecessary inconvenience, but a strict schedule will help you make sure that you always have your work done and that you never find yourself in the dangerous haze of the procrastinator (aka every high school student ever).
Sample Schedule Suggestion
In the morning:
- Eat breakfast!!!! (extra exclamation points because this one could save your life)
- Put pajamas away in a laundry basket
- Read over everything that you have to attend (club meetings, practices, lessons)
- Make a list of everything that you need to get done today (homework, projects)
- Smile and face the day!
In the evening:
- Put clothes away in a laundry basket
- Make sure that your room is neat (so that you don’t have to wake up to a dirty room)
- Lay out clothes and supplies for the next day
- Write down important events for the next day
Sometime or Another:
- Talk to your friends and family
- Build in at least 30 minutes of a relaxing activity (playing with a pet, reading a book, watching an episode of Friends for the third time this month)
- Pick up objects when they’re out of place, so that you never have to do a big clean up
- Shower and do other cleanly activities
With all of these tips in mind, it is also very important to make room for adjustments. Surprises happen to everyone, almost regularly (almost). Your mom might forget to tell you that you have to babysit your younger brother, or your laptop might break down (like mine did today). These things will happen, but all of that extra time that you’ll have because of your efficient planning will help you deal with these surprises and still have time and energy to spare!