Teens these days do it all. Wake up at 6:30am for school, finish at 3pm, go to sports/music/club practice until 7pm, get home and eat dinner, start homework at 8pm, and go to bed whenever they do (10pm? 11pm? 12am? 1am, 2am, 3am, even 4am?). But the stress of grades, activities, and sleep deprivation add up, and more and more teens write about how stressed they are and how they wish they could manage their time better across all of their daily activities. But how?
Time Management: Buddy or Buzzword?
As a teen myself, I know that I’ve heard the term “time management” many times and more. In high school, I played the violin, fenced, was on the chess team and the math team, competed and judged in policy debate, and volunteered and tutored, all on top of taking a challenging but incredibly rewarding course load. What I did to balance my life (and keep myself sane) is what is commonly known as “time management,” which, simply enough, is managing your time. It’s not letting one part of your schedule carry you away and disrupt your timeline; it’s finding ways to hold yourself accountable to your commitments. Let’s take a look at a few tips on how to do so.
Tip #1: Prioritize.
Prioritizing can also sound like a buzzword for when others can’t give you concrete help on what to do, and in a way, it is true that the task of prioritizing falls fully and completely on you. The idea of prioritizing is creating a mental picture of the big picture -- what is urgent, what is important; what is a passion, what is required? While it may feel arbitrary or confusing to rank or qualify your activities as some level of importance, prioritizing is key for you to ultimately understand why you do the things you do. Do you truly love soccer, or have you played since kindergarten and all your friends are on the team? Do you actually want to pursue music further, or have you been playing for a while now and it is “too late” to stop? Prioritizing will help give you an answer to these questions and tell you if the time and effort you are spending is efficient and economical.
Tip #2: Set time limits and stick to them.
Simply, do not let yourself get carried away. If you feel that you are struggling with having enough time, ask yourself, are you doing too much, or are you spending too much time on one or a few things? Does it mean taking it easier on color coding every line of notes, or does it mean you are coming home late late after practice so you don’t have time to eat? Take the time to decide how much time you really should devote to an activity, and be respectful of it -- then, you can be respectful to your other commitments and to yourself.
Tip #3: Give yourself breaks, not excuses.
What’s important in time management is that it is a system that, when in place properly, gives you a moment to breathe and retake control of your day. Time management is to give you power and autonomy, proactivity and responsibility. That said, do not use an activity as an excuse to slack off in others. Practice is not a reason for not doing homework, and homework is not a reason for not eating dinner. If you need a moment to gather your wits and take a breather, give that to yourself. Be honest when you are tired and reward yourself for your hard work -- you will feel much more fulfilled and evade the guilt of “over”-committing to an activity.
Tip #4: Sleep!
The reason why I was able to handle all of my passions and activities on top of my course load in high school was because I stuck to a very loyal sleep schedule. I'm in bed by 9pm, lights out no later than 9:30, and sweet dreams until my alarm the next morning. Did this cut from the time I had after getting home to do homework? Sure, but you will notice as you get more sleep, you become more efficient, alert, awake, and ready to take on the day. Homework that might have taken an hour before now can be finished in 45 minutes (leaving 15 minutes for myself or an activity) and you will feel a lift in your step as you feel well-rested. Taking care of yourself sets you up to move with energy and vitalization, making you quicker, more awake, and happier.
Tip #5: Talk to your parents
At the end of the day, your parents are your biggest cheerleaders, mentors, and teachers. If you feel overwhelmed with your schedule and that the stress is starting to become unbearable, speak with your parents. It is very possible that they are the ones pushing you to do x, y, and z activities and requiring you to keep your grades up, and that makes it even more important that you assert your voice that you need a break. Parents ultimately push you so that you can grow up to become experienced, successful, and happy in your endeavors, but if the happiness isn’t grabbing, then it is time for change. Communication will help voice this need.
Take these tips and make them your own. In the end, you are the master of your life, and you are in charge of your activities and passions. Give these tips a try and hopefully you will feel like you have breathing room once again, and always feel free to contact us for more. Good luck, busy bees!