Amani C. Snellings
As an incoming freshman this year, I had no idea what to expect from high school, especially because the second half of my middle school experience took place during a pandemic. Sure, I had some experience trying to balance extracurriculars, schoolwork, and everything else, but I was still grossly unprepared to handle everything high school would throw at me. As a result of that, the first quarter was slightly rough for me. However, I’m taking it as a learning experience, and I’m feeling pretty good about the second half of the semester. So, with 1/16 of my high school career over, I urge you to not make the same mistakes I did. Here are my top 7 time management, studying, and general student life tips.
Tip 1: Break it up.
I know we’ve all been told to do a big project in specific time chunks each day, instead of rushing at the last minute. This plan seems promising, but between homework, extracurriculars, and everything else we do, it can feel impossible to complete a whole section of a project daily. One strategy I would suggest is breaking everything down into teeny tiny bits as soon as you get it, over the weekend, or any time you can set aside a solid hour or so to prep. The “bits” should be different amounts of time, depending on the size of the project. (Ex: 5 Hour total project, 15-minute bits; 10-hour project, 30-minute bits; or even smaller bits that are 5-10 minutes). Trying to do an entire section of the project is daunting and might seem impossible, but fitting 5-15 minutes of work time into your
schedule when you have a break (and maybe a bit longer over the weekend) can be a lot more manageable.
Tip 2: Take breaks!
I’ve had so many times where I got stuck on a difficult homework question, took a break, then immediately knew what to do when I came back. Even if you don’t have time to take an extended break and do whatever you like, you could try taking a break from one homework assignment and going to another. Not only is it less frustrating, but it’s also more efficient than struggling through it. One homework or assignment strategy is to quickly divide between your A assignments (Long/Hard/Least favorite subjects/Time-consuming, etc.) and B assignments/tasks (Quick/Easy/Favorite Subject, etc.), then find some kind of alternating pattern. That way, you get mini breaks after each really difficult assignment. Some pattern examples might be ABABA or AABAAB.
Tip 3: There’s always time to get things done (even when there isn’t).
Between 2-5 hours of extracurriculars plus homework, and other day to day activities, I definitely understand feeling like you have no time for anything. However, if you try some of the following time saver strategies, you might discover that you have more chances to get ahead than you originally thought.
For languages, practice going through verb conjugations in your head as you walk down the hallway.
Review study guides on the bus or ride to school.
Take a couple of minutes before the advisor/coach for your club meeting or practice comes in to practice on Quizlet.
If you usually watch TV while working out/cleaning/doing your hair, or other activities that don’t require a lot of thinking, try watching a unit recap video on YouTube instead.
Have a one-page review of whatever you’re studying for to look at if you have an extra minute during passing time.
Tip 4: Know which study strategies work best for you, and stick with them.
Something that’s really helped me study effectively is knowing my learning style. The four main learning styles are visual, auditory, kinesthetic and reading/writing. After taking a five minute online quiz or reading a short article to discover your type, you can save yourself hours of studying in an unhelpful way. If you know watching a concept breakdown on YouTube helps you, do that. If you know listening to a podcast on the subject helps you, do that. If you know associating various gestures or movements with topic work for you, do that. If you know rewriting class notes helps you, do that. Don’t waste time on strategies that don’t work for you!
Tip 6: Work smarter not harder!
Everyone needs a helping hand from time to time, and Hall has all kinds of great resources to help students. Personally, I’ve found that going to both the math center and the writing center allows me to catch my missteps quickly, and do better moving forward, instead of making the same errors repeatedly. Most teachers are also open to answering questions via email or during independent class work time. Don’t undervalue Google either. It’s better to spend five minutes searching for a response than to spend 20 minutes second guessing an answer, when it comes to non-graded homework, and similar practice only assignments.
Tip 7: Fast Facts and Other Miscellaneous Suggestions
Using online tools like Grammarly, instead of checking mentally.
If allowed, always use a calculator instead of trying mental math (unless you need to practice the latter).
Late work is better than no work: 50% > 0%
Ask for extra credit if you are close to your desired grade at the end of the quarter/semester. The worst a teacher can say is no.
Listen to music while you work. It can help you go faster and prevent distractions from background noise. Plus, it makes things a lot more fun!
Add events to Google Calendar to keep an organized schedule.
Check the To-Do feature on Google Classroom.
Make a plan of action. To do lists are your friends.
Try using a timer when doing homework/studying. It can save you time in the short term, and make tests and quizzes easier.
Finally, if you’re someone like me who’s already involved in a million clubs, extracurriculars, and other things, it might not be in your best interest to add something else to your plate, especially if you don’t feel too strongly about the possible new activity.
Look for places to cut down on your workload when possible both task and time wise.
Task: If you are currently doing something that is negatively impacting you mentally, and has no real benefits, drop it!
Time: Try setting goals for how long something should take, and slowly shortening the amount of time you have available.
Remember to take care of yourself too: drink water, nourish your body, sleep, and focus on your health. You are so much more important than any grade, assignment, or anything else!
I’ve tried every tip I listed above, and use most of them regularly, including in the making of this article. I…
Broke my projects up into multiple chunks to work on when I could.
Took breaks to work on other assignments/projects when I started to get stuck.
Brainstormed during class transitions, and wrote using my tried and true writing style, during multiple lunch and study hall periods in the writing center.
Put all of the newspaper deadlines in my Google calendar.
Prioritized doing things I love, like writing and (hopefully) helping people out, over other activities. (Bonus)
I hope this article was at least somewhat valuable, and remember to always prioritize your well-being.