High School Time Management: The Balancing Act

Managing time can be a challenge. You schoolwork, activities, and hopefully a social life. Let C2 help you with the balance!

Good time management skills are critical for success in high school. After all, between classes, homework, extracurricular activities, test prep, and all of your other responsibilities, you still have to find time to have some semblance of a social life and, well, sleep. This is a challenge under the best of circumstances, but amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, high school time management has become even trickier. The routines you once counted on to help you keep pace may be gone, and things can change on a moment’s notice.

But even in the middle of a pandemic, you need to focus on your long term goals: admission at your top choice college. And getting into a top college still means earning good grades in tough classes, getting top SAT or ACT scores (yes, even at test optional schools), and remaining active in multiple extracurricular activities, all of which takes time that you might feel like you just don’t have. The key to success is balance. Read on for some time management tips to help you get through the high school balancing act.

Prioritize wisely.

Sometimes it feels like you have to do it all: six AP courses, a dozen extracurricular activities, three or four test prep sessions a week, and anything else that lands on your plate. But here’s a secret: it’s okay to say no.

When you’re juggling everything that goes into building an awesome college application, you have to prioritize. Maybe that means taking five AP classes instead of six because you know you can’t handle that much studying during basketball season. Maybe that means focusing on just two or three of your favorite extracurricular activities and dropping the others. Maybe that means doing your SAT prep on the weekends so that you can use weekdays for homework.

The key is to know which obligations are really important and which ones you can let go of. Colleges know that you aren’t superhuman and that there are only 24 hours in a day. You’ll do yourself (and your college aspirations) no good by burning out before you ever step foot on a college campus.

Schedule everything.

Things suddenly become much more manageable when you put them down on paper. Look ahead each week and create a schedule for yourself. Include everything from team practices and club meetings to study time and test prep. Don’t forget to pencil yourself in for some “me time” and social time – balance means giving yourself breaks, too.

If paper’s not your thing, go electronic. Every phone has some sort of calendar app that may prove to be a lifesaver. Put in project deadlines, set up reminders—encourage your phone to annoy you into doing the things you know you need to do. If bells and whistles are your thing, check out a range of calendar apps to find the one that works best for you.

Whether you schedule yourself on paper or on a screen, remember that a successful schedule must be realistic and flexible. Give yourself more time than you think you’ll actually need for each item to avoid feeling rushed and overwhelmed during the week, and make sure your schedule is flexible so that you can go with the flow when things inevitably don’t go exactly as planned. The point of a schedule is to reduce stress, not to create more stress if you can’t follow your schedule to the letter!

Make Lists.

Daily to do lists can help keep you on track, prioritize your obligations, and end the day with a sense of accomplishment. Each day, make a list of the things you need to do. Put your items in order of importance so that you take care of the most vital things first. Include some low-hanging fruit – easy tasks that you absolutely know you’ll get done. As you complete each task, take pride in checking it off the list. At the end of the day, transfer anything that didn’t get done to tomorrow’s to do list and enjoy a sense of accomplishment in looking over all the things you did get done.

Get enough sleep.

Sleep is too often the first thing to be sacrificed in the face of time management struggles, so it’s no surprise that, according to the CDC, nearly three-quarters of high school students aren’t getting the recommended amount of sleep. Without enough sleep, everything else gets a lot harder. Schedule in your full eight hours of rest just as you schedule in everything else. Getting enough sleep helps you handle stress, remember information, and stay healthy – all of which helps you succeed during busy high school years.

Reward yourself.

You know time management is important, but even so, sticking to a schedule is hard. Build rewards into your schedule to encourage you to stick with it. For example, if you follow through on your plans to study for an hour after dinner, give yourself 20 minutes to do something you enjoy—play a game, watch a show, read a book.