A Wrinkle in Time (Management)

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Photo via 1Zoom

If time management skills came packaged like candy, we would be on a permanent sugar high.  We would be addicted. Now, more than ever, effective time management has become critical to our “survival” during this pandemic because of distance learning.  Most of us possess some degree of time management skills. We juggle school, sports, extracurricular activities, and chores all at the same time, albeit with a silent prayer that we do not drop any of the balls that we are juggling.  When we do drop a ball, however, it is often because of poor time management skills.

Here are six tips that will help keep those juggling balls in the air:  

 

1. Set Goals, Eliminate Distractions

The easy part for most high school students is identifying and setting goals. These goals can be assignments posted by the due date or “To-Do” lists created by students themselves. However, setting goals is only half the battle.  In order to achieve our goals, we must also be able to identify and eliminate distractions. Sometimes, we fail to recognize these distractions because they have become a part of our environment. Because of this, we fail to acknowledge them as “distractions.” 

What Scotties Say:

For Jordan Lindsey, a freshman member of Helix Artivism, the TV and phone are distractions. “I will turn off my TV and put down my phone because if I leave my phone on, or in my hands, my full attention isn’t where it needs to be.” More importantly, Lindsey makes an effort to not use her phone’s apps for schoolwork. “Once I pick it up it’s hard to put down,” she explains. For Freshman Carly Kessler, “eliminating distractions” involves listening to music. “I usually try to clear my mind first, then put headphones in and play some music.”  

No matter which approach we take to eliminate distractions, it is important that we eliminate them.  

 

2. Avoid Procrastination 

Procrastination is the nemesis of time management.  If we feel unmotivated, Author and Learning and Teen Expert Daniel Wong suggests setting a timer for two minutes to allow ourselves just two minutes to work.  Wong believes that most students will keep working long after their two minutes are up, thereby increasing their productivity.  

What Scotties Say:

Busy Senior Avery Mancuso knows the importance of avoiding procrastination only too well.  Mancuso identifies scheduling as the most important preventative measure against procrastination. “[Scheduling]  can take on different forms depending on the person,” says Mancuso, who suggests dividing the work into smaller chunks to be spread out over several days so that it doesn’t appear as overwhelming. “Or, you can set aside a few hours of your day solely for schoolwork,” she says

Avoiding procrastination will lead to developing a strong work ethic. 

 

3. Plan Ahead 

A big part of planning ahead is prioritizing assignments. We can prioritize assignments based on the due date or the time we need to complete a task. If we choose the latter, it is better to overestimate than underestimate the amount of time an assignment may take because some assignments take longer to complete than what we initially think.  If we have time left over at the end of the day, we can either tackle small tasks or take the rest of the day off! 

What Scotties Say:

Junior and MESA Club Member Jeannette Nguyen believes in the power of planning ahead. “It definitely helps me manage my time when I lay out a schedule for myself,” she says, adding, “[the schedule] doesn’t always have to be written.” She explains that she looks at her weekly assignments and takes a mental note of them in order to distribute them evenly throughout the week. “I know for a fact I’d burn out super quick if I tried to do everything in one day.”

Planning ahead is crucial to busy Junior Owen Dahlkamp’s success. “Managing my time really boils down to having a good schedule-keeping application,” says Dahlkamp, who holds multiple leadership positions at Helix aside from a part-time job, an internship, a research assistant post, sitting on the board of directors of a non-profit, and volunteering (on top of being a member of the National Honor Society). For Dahlkamp, planning ahead involves using Google Calendar. “I use Google Calendar because it is easy to input events and edit them if needed. It also has options to add location, notes, invites, etc. At the beginning of every week, I input any commitments I know I have and review additional commitments that have already been made. This allows me to gain a full overview of my week, and understand my priorities,” explains Dahlkamp. Organizing his schedule through Google Calendar, helps Owen Dahlkamp know what he is doing at what time because he inputs the time periods in which he will be doing homework to ensure that it will be accomplished.

So, even if our schedules are packed, we can manage our time by planning ahead. 

 

4. Maintain A Routine 

An established routine trains our minds and bodies to function effectively and efficiently.

When establishing a routine, we should consider the time of day when we work the best: Are we a night owl or an early bird? John Rampton of the Entrepreneur Leadership Network explains that we can effectively plan our day by paying attention to our body’s rhythms. It is important to figure this out and take our breaks (or do “busy work”) when we feel tired. By establishing and maintaining a routine during our most productive time of the day. Daniel Wong suggests working on the toughest assignments during our most productive time. 

What Scotties Say:

According to Owen Dahlkamp, “Maintaining a routine allows me to have a set schedule that I follow every day. I know exactly what objectives need to be accomplished, and how to proceed with completing them.” Dahlkamp describes his routine as follows: “I eat breakfast, and then check my calendar and email in order to get ready for what is to come that day. After I finish that, I begin with larger tasks, such as projects and tests. Later on in the day, I finish homework and run any menial errands that need to be done. Lastly, I normally either go to work or accomplish a miscellaneous task that I have been wanting to fulfill. I then watch some TV, relax, and go to bed.”

If we identify when, where, and how we work the best, we can effectively manage our time by maintaining a routine.

 

5. Do One Thing At A Time

Most experts agree that doing one thing at a time instead of multitasking is better for managing our time.  A study conducted by the University of London showed that multitasking lowers our IQ, making us less productive. This is because when we multitask, we focus on multiple tasks at the same time splitting our focus amongst them. The strategy lowers the quality of our work, making us less productive and lengthening the time we spend completing one task.  

What Scotties Say:

Lauren Rainey, a freshman member of the Girls Softball Club who co-led the Class of 2024 Homeless Outreach Project states, “I find it easier to choose one assignment and complete that one [before moving on to the next].” Rainey states further that multitasking is counterproductive to her “because it stresses me out to try to focus on more than one thing at a time and makes me lose motivation.” 

By doing one thing at a time, we increase our productivity which makes us manage our time better. 

 

6. Breaks, But Not Too Often

It is important to take breaks during our work sessions, but not too often. Breaks are intended to recharge our internal batteries, not run them down. So, it is important that we avoid doing anything tiring during breaks. Experts believe that working in segments of 40-50 minutes before taking a break increases productivity. Breaks can follow the “Pomodoro Technique” where we take breaks after every working segment but make every fourth break longer. The Pomodoro Technique is best when we are not able to focus for too long on a certain subject.  

What Scotties Say:

Harper Niles, a freshman member of the Helix bagpipe band, states that taking breaks after working for 30 minutes to an hour works best for her.  Niles explains, “I don’t have a long attention span. So, taking frequent short breaks allows me to reset and clear my mind [before going back to work again].”  Avery Mancuso agrees: “For me personally, I like to work in 20 to 30-minute sections at a time and take a 5 to 10-minute break in between so that my attention span doesn’t give out on me.” 

Taking breaks wisely helps us re-energize and refocus our attention on the assignment which makes us manage our time efficiently. 

 

Effective time management is an integral part of our success, especially during distance learning. We can achieve this valuable skill by acknowledging and conquering our distractions and finding a way to circumvent barriers to time management such as procrastination, multitasking, lack of routine, and taking too many breaks. Even though the students who were interviewed for this article use different strategies to manage their time wisely, they still get the job done.