Grade 12 is a busy year for high school students who are preparing to apply to university. Many may worry about their GPA and anticipating the university applications to come. It can be a lot to maneuver, especially when you throw in all of the normal high school social events and milestones on top of everything else.
However, you don’t have to feel like you’re being buried beneath all your responsibilities. There are some simple ways to stay organized and schedule your time effectively. In fact, by employing basic time management skills and organization systems, you’ll be better prepared to prioritize your work and visualize the bigger picture ahead of you.
1. Get a Planner and Keep It Updated
There are many formats for planners out there. You should have a look through what is out there to help decide which will work best for you. Take a field trip to the office supply store and browse through some examples. Or if you are the type of person who keeps your tenure life on your phone or computer, try Google Calendar. Keep in mind that most students find it helpful to have at least a weekly view on the page spread so that you can see an extended visual of your responsibilities.
As soon as you have your planner, go through the entire school year and write in days of the week and dates, if this isn’t already completed. Then, go through and add important dates. These might include assignment deadlines, application deadlines, tests, competitions or special events, or family commitments. Usually, these are non-negotiable priorities, so having them in your planner first will help you to shape the remainder of your schedule around them.
Also go ahead and copy these important dates onto your family’s calendar. It’s important that everyone in the family is aware of such significant deadlines and events. This way, there will be no surprise double-bookings or confusion later on.
Finally, be sure to keep up with your planner. Make sure you have all of your commitments in it, regularly updated. While it can be hard to commit to writing everything in a planner rather than rely on memory, especially if that’s what you’re used to, keeping track of your schedule in one place is absolutely necessary to staying organized. You should use it to track assignments, events, club meetings, study groups, and important social events. Being able to see all of your important commitments will make prioritizing easier and more straightforward.
2. Make a To-Do List Every Night
In addition to your planner, keep lists of what needs to get accomplished on a daily basis. Each night, before you go to sleep, write a list of things that need to happen the next day. Cross them off as you complete them during the day. If anything on the list does not get completed, it should become an immediate priority for the next day.
Sometimes it can be helpful to include smaller tasks that you know you’ll accomplish on this list. It is satisfying to see your accomplishments get crossed off and your list of remaining tasks dwindle. Including things like making your bed or filling up the gas tank on the way to school ensures that you’ll get a few things crossed off right away and might help to incentivize your further productivity.
3. Reward Yourself
As you start working on bigger assignments or tasks, be sure to set small rewards for yourself at certain points in your progress. For example, if you are writing a lengthy English paper, tell yourself that after you finish three pages, you can watch one episode of a tv show or take the time to do something that you enjoy.
It’s important that as you do this, you set finite rewards. If you tell yourself you can play video games, make a time limit in advance. Do the same if you’re going to take a break to call a friend or have a snack. Without firm time limits set in your mind in advance, it’s tempting to get carried away with “just five more minutes” again and again. Avoid falling victim to this time suck by setting firm limits in advance and sticking with them.
4. Schedule Specific Times for High Priority Tasks
There are always some priority tasks to do. If you know that you need to tackle a big task, and you’re not looking forward to it, schedule time specifically devoted to it into your day.
For example, if you’ve created a study schedule that includes 9 hours of study time each week, create a weekly overview of specifically when you’ll tackle this study time. Don’t let it stack up until the weekend when you realize that you haven’t met your goals. Instead, schedule a certain time each day that you’ll study for an hour during the week, and then a two-hour block for each day on the weekend.
5. Bring Work With You
There is tons of time during the day that is wasted through no fault of your own. Think of all the small instances in which you’re left waiting for something. Maybe you’re at an appointment and the doctor is running late. Maybe you’re waiting for your teacher to start class. Maybe it’s taking longer for your peers to finish their study questions during your study group.
Whatever the case may be, there are often times throughout the day when you have a few minutes to spare and no way to spend the time productively. Get in the habit of bringing work with you so that you can maximize this time. You could keep required course readings in your backpack, download a study app or online flashcards app.
Whenever you find yourself with a few minutes to spare, use them productively. Get out your readings or study materials and give them a quick review. Even if you don’t have time to get fully involved in them, at least you are staying focused and immersed in the things that need doing. These small periods of time can add up significantly over the course of just a few days.
6. Remove Social Media Apps From Your Phone
There is nothing wrong with social media, and many teens use it as a way of staying connected with their friends and socializing. Social media can be a great tool for connecting with friends. But social media can also be a gigantic time suck. It’s so easy to get carried away while scrolling through a newsfeed or browsing pictures. Even if you only intend to quickly check your messages, it’s really not uncommon to find yourself still completely immersed in it half an hour later.
Do yourself a favor and delete these apps from your phone. You can still check social media on a computer or tablet, but you’ll be able to better limit the urge to do so mindlessly, and you’ll be more likely to use spare minutes actually getting work done.
7. Get Enough Rest
One of the biggest obstacles to productivity is the inability to work efficiently. If you can’t focus, take too much time to settle into a task, or find yourself continually losing yourself in other thoughts, you might be overly tired.
This isn’t an unusual occurrence for high school students. Most high schools start early in the morning and it’s common for students to be up late into the night getting work done. Combine this with the fact that many teens have a biological clock that actually keeps them alert at night and makes it difficult to rise early, and you can have a formula for exhaustion.
You need to take care of yourself to perform at maximum efficiency. If you aren’t well-rested, you won’t be able to use your time well when you’re awake. Staying up late or getting up early to get ahead will actually have no impact if you’re exhausted, and instead you’ll find that it takes you longer to accomplish things you could do quickly if you were well-rested.
8. Keep Your Priorities Straight
Recognize when your commitments are adversely affecting other parts of your life. Staying on top of your organization and time management is an integral skill to develop while you’re still in high school. When you get to college, there will probably be no one else around to hold you accountable and keep you on track. High school is the time to build these skills.