I am involved in about a million activities outside and inside of school. I take six classes, four of which are APs, and I also work at least four days a week. I am a figure skater, which means I wake up at 4:00 am and practice for two hours four times a week. I’m extensively involved in the music program at my school as a part of the wind ensemble, symphony orchestra, jazz band, marching band, pit ensemble, and other chamber ensembles. I also run a club that gives free music lessons to young students for two hours weekly.
As a second-semester senior who has done it all, let me tell you—time management is important! No matter what your focus is, managing your time effectively is the key to being successful. Here are some easy tips for getting homework done quickly and for general time management in high school.
How to get homework done quickly and effectively
Turn off your phone
Hear me out! I know we all have a special relationship with our cellular devices, but putting it away for a bit is helpful in more ways than one. It’s so easy to pick up your phone to answer a text and get sucked into the vast web of games, social media, and communication. If you’ve ever told yourself that you would use your phone for two minutes and ended up in the same position 30 minutes later—trust me, I’ve been there too. Save yourself the trouble and just turn your phone off! Use a computer if you need the Internet, and tell your friends and family that you won’t be answering their texts or phone calls for the next few hours. You’ll be surprised how much work you can get done in a short amount of time without constantly checking your notifications.
Give yourself frequent breaks
This may sound counter-intuitive, but it’s important. If you want to get work done, you have to give yourself some time off. Sitting down and working straight for three hours will not be productive. So separate your studying and homework into 45-minute chunks, then take a five- to 10-minute break, making sure not to get distracted by your phone or TV. You have to go back to work after your break, or you’ll never get anything done. But you’ll get your work done more quickly and successfully by taking a few breaks every now and then.
If you have trouble forcing yourself to sit down and study, use some motivation! For every 10 problems you finish, or for every 25 pages you read, you can give yourself snacks, regulated phone time, reading time, or anything else that would normally be a treat. This goes hand-in-hand with frequent breaks. Just make sure you don’t waste too much time on your prize! You can set a short timer so that you don’t get too carried away.
Clean your study space
For me, an unorganized study space makes it impossible to get work done effectively. It’s difficult to concentrate, and I get frustrated easily. Having things in your study space can also be distracting! It’s very easy to focus on the empty cereal box on the counter rather than your math equations. Take the extra time to ensure your study area is clean and organized. In the long run, by investing those extra few minutes, you’re saving yourself tons of time.
Experts say that having music on while doing homework can actually be a good thing! Depending on the rigor of what you are working on, having sound in the background can help you concentrate. When it comes to difficult work such as tests and stressful papers, it’s best to turn the music off, but feel free to enjoy your tunes when doing your normal busy work. You can even try listening to instrumental music or songs in different languages (that you don’t speak) to avoid focusing on lyrics and becoming distracted.
This is a common study method to help save time, but it’s tried and true! It’s much easier to focus on your studying when you’re not staring at a white page with black blocks of writing. Introducing some color-coding can help mix things up and keep your brain focused! You can also learn to associate certain facts and subjects with colors. This is great when you have to recall something from memory for a test.
Tips for general time management
Use a planner
Before senior year, I had never used a planner to schedule my activities. I just figured they weren’t important and I didn’t do enough to need one. But trust me—whether you have one extracurricular a week or are the president of three clubs, in the school musical, and on the cheer team, a planner will save your life.
In your planner, go through your calendar and write down all your activities. Even if you use your phone calendar, copy things down into your planner’s calendar. It is helpful to have everything in a tangible source. Then you can go through the week-by-week sections and write down what events you have. You should also write down your homework assignments, exam dates, and general to-do lists. This will help make sure you know exactly what is on your schedule and when.
There are also creative ways to use a planner! Check out these pictures of my friend’s planner. You can personalize your organization and make things your own with colored pens, drawings, and even stickers. If you’re opposed to keeping a journal, you can buy weekly calendar-style sticky notes that allow you to organize your materials and mark when things should be done in a less permanent way.
Use Reminders on your phone
The Reminders app on my iPhone has been one of my main methods of organization. I don’t normally take my planner to school with me, so when I need to remember to do something when I get home, I put it in Reminders. This app is also great for small reminders that you don’t consider worthwhile to put in your planner.
The alert notification only goes away when you mark the task as “completed,” so you can keep the alert on your lock screen until you finish your task to remind you that it needs to be done. There are various alternatives for Androids as well that accomplish the same function.
As my last tip, I want to remind you that organization cannot be a one-time hobby. It is something that you have to stay committed to. Getting started can be difficult, but once you get in the swing of organization, you will wonder why you waited so long! I promise it will be worth your while, and in the long run it will teach you lots of skills that will be important when you leave school and get a job. For now, just take baby steps, and you’ll do great.
Realize that if you finish your work, you can take time for yourself! Time management is about staying organized, but it’s also about doing it in your own way. Just do what makes sense for you, as everyone has different methods. I wish you the best of luck in your organizational journey!