Time management for high school students
At school, children learn things that will be useful in their future education and life, however, it is interesting to note that school has very little to say about time management. In addition to one’s natural inclinations and diligence, the third most important factor that indicates long-term success at school and in life is possessing time management skills.
Time management is defined in the Cambridge Dictionary as “the practice of using the time that you have available in a useful and effective way, especially in your work”. If we take this definition of time management into account, we can conclude that free time is the only (and perhaps the most valuable) resource that every child has almost the same amount of, but the way they use their free time is a decisive variable in predicting their potential success.
However, although a lot has been written on this topic, students find it hard to distinguish between good quality and poor quality information, which eventually leads to misinformation and attempts to implement advice that inevitably leads to failure and disappointment. Below, we will try to explain the importance of time management, its benefits, the first signs of poor time management, as well as to give you some practical tips that will help you achieve success at school.
Why is time management important for high school students?
We are all aware that the skill or habit of time management is not a decisive factor for achieving good results in the early days of formal education. However, as students move from junior to senior grades, their responsibilities and commitments increase, and when timelines are not met there is eventually declining grades, and loss of motivation for continued education. Specifically, this problem most often troubles high school students, either during high school, or at the beginning of higher education when they have significantly more responsibilities and tasks they have to complete and master in a short period.
Given that we live in the world of rapid technological development, which is also chaotic and full of uncertainty, possessing time management skills will be a highly sought-after resource in the business world. However, time management is a skill that reflects on other areas of life as well, including school where it represents the first major turning point in the lives of many students. If you have control over your free time, you will be able to better organize your school responsibilities, and in consequence, you will become more productive, get better grades and will be in a better mood, you will have more time to do the things you love.
Like any other positive habit, time management has its benefits that extend beyond one’s school obligations.
- DEVELOPS RESPONSIBILITY – Men and women are often told that taking responsibility is the basis for success in life. However, no one tells students what the first step toward achieving that quality is. So, taking responsibility for every grade, poorly done assignment or test is a good starting point toward raising one’s awareness of the importance of personal responsibility.
- CREATES A GREAT STARTING POSITION IN THE BUSINESS WORLD – One of the basic factors that separates highly paid from poorly paid employees, in addition to expertise, is how efficiently they manage their time at work. Time management skills are often associated with specialists, experts, team leaders and executive directors.
- MORE FREE TIME – Good time management requires a certain amount of discipline in fulfilling the defined tasks. If you possess the ability to organize your obligations well and the discipline to fulfill them, you will be able to generate some free time for the activities you enjoy. By completing these activities, you will increase your motivation to perform daily activities, both at school and outside of it, which will potentially reduce your exposure to stress.
- MORE CHANCES/OPPORTUNITIES – People simply love responsibility and those who know how to manage time. Making a good first impression with a teacher, employer, or friend will help you build a good reputation in the long run, which will consequently generate various opportunities, from good interpersonal relationships, to potential recommendations for a job or college.
Signs of poor time management
There are certain signs that indicate efficient time management or lack thereof. Here are some indications that your time management is not as good as you think:
- LOSS OF CONTROL OVER ONE’S RESPONSIBILITIES – If you feel that you never have enough time and that responsibilities are just piling up, it is a sign of poor time management.
- MISSING DEADLINES – Missing a deadline for a task or a project happens to everyone. However, if it becomes a habit, you should probably work on defining your priorities.
- INEFFICIENT WORK – Sleepless nights before a test or irregular hours of study indicate inefficient work, or poorly organized time for your obligations.
- BAD REPUTATION FOR BEING ALWAYS LATE – being late on a regular basis is an indicator that you are unable to manage your time. The first sign is being late to class or meetings with friends.
Time management tips for high school students
Every beginning is difficult, especially when you need to make revolutionary changes in time management. No successful change ever happened overnight, even the partial implementation of time management will noticeably improve your school performance, and make a positive change in the current paradigm of your life.
Create an effective schedule in your calendar
One of the first steps towards gaining the ability to manage time is to have a schedule where you can plan and write down your annual, monthly, and weekly commitments and goals. The best way to start is to take a calendar and enter all your major school commitments, from tests, assignments, presentations, etc. which will give you a broader insight into ways to organize and schedule your commitments within a month or a week. After entering the important dates, you also need to enter deadlines, i.e. goals and stick to them. This approach has proven to be very useful for those who start doing their assignments early. When it comes to large-scale tasks, students can divide them into smaller chunks within a certain period, which increases their motivation in the long run, and reduces stress that usually occurs as the deadline for submitting assignments approaches.
Set your goals correctly
Goal setting is usually seen as the easiest part of making a schedule, but Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversy (Kahneman, Daniel. Thinking, Fast and Slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011.) proved that people usually overestimate themselves and their capabilities and underestimate the time needed to complete a task which often leads to breaking deadlines. This phenomenon is called the planning fallacy. Kahneman and Tversy examined students to see when they would finish their assignments, and they realized that students usually miss the task completion time they gave themselves by 50%. For example, imagine that you believe you need 20 days to finish an assignment when in fact, you will complete it in 40 days.
Tips on how to correctly set your goals:
- Divide the goal into short-term and long-term tasks – Instead of approaching the task in its entirety at once, divide it into smaller chunks. By doing this, you will be able to see which parts are more, and which are less demanding.
- Be honest with yourself – Meeting your goals on time is most likely when you are aware of your possibilities and limitations. The moment when you honestly acknowledge them, you will see how your approach to work and your expectations have changed.
- Write down a daily to-do list – We often get lost in thoughts or some less important tasks while working on a project. By regularly writing a to-do list, you will soon get back on track.
- Reward yourself – after meeting a short-term goal, you should treat yourself with something you care about. This approach leads to increased motivation, due to dopamine release just before the reward (Sapolsy, Robert M. 2017. Behave: The Biology of Humans At Our Best and Worst. New York, New York: Penguin Press.)
Use the 80/20 rule to prioritize your tasks
Best-selling authors Brian Tracy (Eat That Frog!) and Tim Ferris (The 4-hour Workweek) have repeatedly talked about the Pareto 80/20 rule and how it can be implemented in time management. Namely, the Pareto principle states that 80% of consequences come from 20% of the causes, which in the language of time management reads that 80% of school results arise as the consequence of 20% of things we put effort into. We will give you an example from school:
- 80% of the grade is the result of 20% of the material learned
- 80% of the assignment grade is the result of 20% of the quality of its content
However, the authors mentioned above, as well as the successful investor Ray Dalio in his book Principles claim that it is hard to find those 20% of things we should focus our efforts toward. Below, we will give you several guidelines that will allow you to identify a prioritized task that will contribute to the fulfillment of the planned school achievement.
- Revise your to-do list – It is in human nature to take the path of least resistance, so you will often put easier tasks as “priorities” on your to-do list.
- Urgent and important tasks are a priority – Those tasks the postponement of which may lead to a penalty of some kind (poor grades, grade retention, or failure to enroll in college) should always be at the top of the to-do list.
- Would my day be fulfilled if I completed just this one task? – If the answer is yes, then it is very likely that this task will generate 80% of the value for the whole day. A small hint! In most cases, tasks that are easiest to complete and not so extensive are not a priority, nor will they help you achieve 80% of the desired daily results, let alone long-term results.
The information that teenagers spend an average of 9 hours online every day (including social media and entertainment TV platforms) graphically illustrates where your free time goes and why you never have time for your daily schoolwork. It is clear that the preferred method for socializing has shifted to social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tik Tok, however, it should be noted that life still largely depends on what we do in the real world. So, only by limiting the time spent on social media will you be able to see how much free time you actually have, and then you will no longer be able to tell everyone how busy you are and how 24 hours is simply not enough time to fulfill all your obligations. It should be noted that there is a selection of great applications that allow you to limit your daily time on social media and other online applications which, when overstepped, prevent you from accessing them.
Believe it or not, multitasking is a myth. Numerous studies have shown that we are unable to do more than one thing at a time, except that our brain gives us the illusion of doing several things at the same time. Some researchers even claim that multitasking reduces productivity by 40%. So, if you want to be as productive as possible and manage your time in the best possible way, do one thing at a time.
Learn to say no
The world that allows us to get almost anything we want with a snap of our fingers has created another problem for young people, and that is the fear of missing out. For fear of missing out on something, or not being in the loop, young people spend a lot of time with their friends on social media, and outside of them, which results in a loss of control over one’s time. For reasons of being able to manage their own time, and for students’ psychological integrity, it is important that they learn to say no to their peers. The moment they manage to do it, they will approach a new stage of maturity that will prove to be a very important life decision in the long run.
Study in shorter intervals
As we already said, we like to overestimate our abilities, both in terms of multitasking and in terms of the time we need to complete one task. Anyone who carefully monitored their own productivity realized that they could not stay focused on one topic/teaching unit/problem for more than 30 minutes. There are many learning techniques that speak about this, however, it is generally accepted that we shouldn’t study for more than 30 minutes in one sitting, whereas breaks should vary between 5 and 15 minutes, depending on the individual needs. So, if you are doing one task at a time, it is better to split it into several intervals than to work in continuity for longer periods of time.
Get a good night’s sleep
The last, but perhaps the most fundamental tip is the importance of good sleep in efficient time management, especially in adolescence when good sleep is essential for healthy development and the ability to use the full capacity of one’s cognitive potential. Research shows that teenagers need 9 hours of sleep (on average) for brain development and complete body recovery. However, it has been noted that adolescents sleep 7 to 7.5 hours on average, which is insufficient. There are numerous reasons why good sleep is important, both for short-term and long-term health. However, the most important thing for this topic is that the adequate amount of sleep leads to growth hormone secretion (HGH), hormonal balance, as well as the occurrence of 5 sleep cycles and their three stages (deep sleep, light sleep, REM) that contribute to optimal brain development, and consequently, better memory and cognitive abilities.
Namely, good sleep and good time management are often interdependent. To have enough time to sleep, you need to organize your time well, but also, if you want to be productive and fulfill your obligations on time, you need a good night’s sleep.
How to start managing your time today
Considering all the tips mentioned above, you may have the impression that this could be too much of a challenge for you. Time management, like any other skill or habit, requires dedication and diligence. It is best not to start abruptly, intensely, and with unrealistic expectations. In fact, expectations are the first stumbling block and the root of all disappointment.
Therefore, start by writing a schedule and setting short-term and long-term goals so as to have an insight into where you are going, and then gradually start implementing all other tips. Think less about the ultimate goal, and more about the steps leading to it, and you will achieve the desired result within the given deadline.