Manage Your Time Wisely

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Written by Chloe Lee

It’s already 8 PM on Thursday evening. You had one of those weeks at school that has convinced you your teachers are secretly coordinating all of their project deadlines and test dates. You are already sleep-deprived from those early week quizzes and presentations, and losing a basketball game to your rivaling team is not helping you feel any better. You still have to study for two tests and a quiz and finish a paper. How are you possibly going to manage your time now, and also get some necessary sleep?

If this situation sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Time management is one of the most common challenges high school students consistently face, especially those navigating full schedules in the middle of a pandemic.

What’s more, managing your time wisely can be a key ingredient for academic success, staying competitive in the world of college admissions, and maintaining solid mental health.

If you struggle with time management, here are two excellent methods for staying on top of your tasks with focus and ease: the Pomodoro Method and the Pareto 80-20 Rule.

The Pomodoro Method

The Pomodoro Method is a fancy name for giving yourself a specific timeframe for deep focus and actual rest. Rather than taking the total amount of time spent at the desk as a measure of effectiveness, this helps students pay attention to efficiency

It also stresses the importance of taking full mental and emotional recess during scheduled breaks.

To follow this method, begin by getting rid of all possible distractions: turn phone notifications and music off, set your phone to airplane mode, and create a clean desk space. 

Grab a timer, and set it to the following increments:

25 minutes – STUDY

5 minutes – BREAK

25 minutes – STUDY

5 minutes – BREAK

25 minutes – STUDY

5 minutes – BREAK

25 minutes – STUDY

5 minutes – BREAK

(Total of 2 hours)

Once this cycle of two hours is done, take a longer (at least 30 minutes) and emotionally rewarding break. During this long break, leave your chair and desk and enjoy a healthy snack, do some stretching, and/or play with your dog!

The Pareto 80-20 Rule

This rule is named after economist Vilfredo Pareto. It hypothesizes that 80% of outcome and results comes from 20% of input and causes. 

The core message is that just 20% of input, when leveraged in the right way, could be responsible for nearly all of the total productivity!

How can you apply this concept to studying?

First, be honest about your use of time. 

Let’s say you spend 10 hours sitting at your desk over a typical weekend. 

On a scale of 1-10, would you rank your level of focus, use of time, and effectiveness of task prioritization over these 10 hours (1 = not so excellent, 10 = superb)?

Analyze these rankings. Where do you see the need for the most improvement?

Here’s how you can improve each of these 3 things:

  • Prioritization: Rank your tasks by urgency and impact, and tackle tasks in this order
  • Level of focus: Create an environment most likely to promote focus (i.e., distraction-free, well-lit, clean)
  • Use of time: Utilize the Pomodoro Method (described above)

Reassess your efforts often until you feel you’ve come closer to maintaining an 80-20 Pareto balance.

Whenever trying new study methods and habits, we encourage students to start by just picking one – ideally, the most accessible and easy one! Also, create an emotionally satisfying reward for sticking to your study methods for one week. Finding your own rhythm and study environment that serve you best is a critical part of the process. 

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