Beat the Clock
Are you a procrastinator? An overcommitter? A Forgetter? No worries! We’ll show you how to get it done (with time to spare).
School just started, and already you’re feeling a churning in your stomach when you think about all that STUFF you have to do—the math problems piling up, the friends who want to hang, the mandatory soccer practices. Oh, and what about the history assignment due in a week? Yikes! Yes, you could go into avoidance mode and watch panda videos while your to-do list increases by the minute. Or you could learn the art of time management. We know which one you’d pick, so to help you along, we’ve rounded up three teens with issues just like yours—and found fixes that will help you all have an A+ year!
“I’ll look at one vocabulary word and think I deserve three hours worth of Netflix.”
—Kami Baker, 16, Omaha, Nebraska
Kami, a high school junior, gets all her work done—it just takes her twice the time it should. “I procrastinate until I can’t procrastinate anymore,” she explains. Part of the problem, says Kami, is it’s hard to find a balance between fun and what feels like torture. “Sometimes I find myself rewarding myself for doing the tiniest task.”
Just do it, Kami!
Start with the worst: Most people do the easy stuff first, but our experts say that leaving the hardest for last sets up an “avoid it” goal rather than a “do it” one. If you tackle the task you dread most right away, there’ll be no need to procrastinate anymore!
Set a timer: Kami has the right idea about work and reward, but her ratio is off. The secret? SPIFY: Short Periods Of Intense Focus, Yes! Work for 45 minutes, then take a 15-minute break; follow this 45/15 cycle until you’re done. The more strictly you stick to SPIFY, the more firmly ingrained it will become—and before long, you’ll no longer operate in procrastination mode.
“It’s hard to find time for all my extracurriculars, schoolwork, and fun.”
—Ana Lucia Boorady Bloom, 15, West Stockbridge, Massachusetts
Ana runs track, rides horses, and does gymnastics…and that’s on top of taking honors classes. On a normal day, she arrives home at 6 p.m., already exhausted, then rushes to dinner with her family before doing homework. “I need help finding time for socializing
and relaxation. I’m too focused all the time.”
Just say no, Ana!
Make tough choices: Ana may need to drop some commitments—but she shouldn’t see that as a negative. If you’re having a similar problem, think about what your goals are and stick with things that help get you there. Lose the stuff that stresses you out, like those piano lessons you never practice for.
Look for hidden time: Ana can’t add more hours, but she can examine the in-between, transition periods in her schedule to identify any time she can seize for small homework tasks. Maybe she can do some of her reading for English on the bus to practice, or study for her math test while hanging out with friends.
“I can’t remember anything—the book I’m reading, homework, even my phone charger!”
—Enzo Marino, 13, Kingman, Arizona
Thirteen-year-old Enzo is a star quarterback, owner of a small business (he raises chickens and sells the eggs!), and has a full social calendar. But he’s juggling so much that he drops the ball on a daily basis. This makes him even more stressed—and even more behind.
Just write it down, Enzo!
Put it on paper (or a digital device): Your new mantra: Paper remembers, people forget! A killer to-do list is vital to success. Experts agree that trying to keep everything in your head creates mental clutter—resulting in extreme forgetfulness. Fortunately, there are a ton of to-do list apps (Wunderlist is our fave), but it can also be fun to go old-school and keep a notebook. Why? It’s incredibly satisfying to physically cross stuff off a list.
Make a date: Using a calendar helps you commit and reminds you about it (no nagging from your parents—a win-win for everyone!). Additionally, thinking of time as something you are the master of—instead of your scary enemy—will pump you up to bring your “A” game.