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3 Ways to Manage a Busy Schedule in High School

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

An overhead shot of someone writing in a planner. Next to the planner is a page of stickers and above it is a Starbucks coffee and a pair of glasses.

We’re all busy during high school and will only get busier after we graduate. This is why it is key to develop organizational skills in high school to help you manage your time, schedule, and responsibilities so you can fine-tune them by the time you graduate.

In addition to the obligations and deadlines from school such as homework, projects, and other assignments, most students also juggle extracurriculars, sports, volunteer work, jobs, clubs, etc. I had to quickly and efficiently learn how to manage my time even before entering high school.

As a student athlete, I had 20 hours a week of practice. My sport coupled with the duties that stemmed from being in two different clubs, additional language classes on the weekend, and the usual time obligations required of me from school meant that I had to manage my time productively.

So, how did I manage my time with over 20 hours of extracurriculars a week? Here are some of the most helpful things I’ve found that work for me:

Use a planner

Using a physical planner was the most instrumental aspect in managing my time. You might find it tedious or a waste of space in the beginning, especially if you feel you do not have that much to write down, but getting used to using a planner helps build excellent habits for the future.

Keep in mind, your planner does not only have to be for writing down homework! It can be used for everything from remembering key events to writing down miscellaneous to-do lists.

I specified using a physical planner for two main reasons. First, schools often do not allow students to use their phone or laptop during class, meaning that an electronic planner wouldn’t be helpful.

Additionally, I have found that having a planner on my phone or laptop is a huge distraction; I would unlock my phone to add something to my to-do list only to find myself scrolling on Instagram 15 minutes later.

Also, I prefer to hold a hard copy with pages I can physically flip through. I find it to be more useful to be able to look at multiple pages at once rather than click through multiple pages of an online planner or have multiple tabs open.

Personally, I did not really utilize my planner for the first two years of high school. I always thought to myself, “Oh I can just remember it in my head. It’s not that much anyway.” While that may have been true for my freshman and sophomore years, once I started taking AP classes in junior and senior year, this was not the case at all.

Suddenly, I had a lot more on my plate and it was not possible to “remember it all in my head.” I wish I had started using my planner earlier so I wouldn’t have been scrambling to develop those habits that should have been there later in my high school career. Learn from my experience and start using a planner early.

One step that helped me continue to use my planner was to write homework or projects down as soon as they were assigned. Take some time at the beginning of your class to write down the homework, or quickly jot it down if it is assigned at the end.

Keeping your planner open next to you throughout the day also can serve as a constant reminder of the tasks you have yet to complete or serve as a sense of satisfaction that you have completed all your tasks.

While everyone has their own system for their planner, highlighting deadlines and events can be extremely helpful. In particular, highlighting important dates ensures that you can keep your eye on them in the upcoming weeks and months.

I also recommend getting a planner with an academic calendar as opposed to one with a typical calendar (January – December). Typically, academic planners begin in July and go all the way to the June of the following year.

Not only are these types of calendars specifically designed for students and their unique calendar, but there are lots of fun designs to choose from to help you feel more motivated about your tasks.

Also, there are hidden benefits to using a planner that you might not expect. While it is different for everyone, I have found that using a planner was helpful when I needed to look back to see exactly what dates important events occurred.

Ultimately, consistency is key. As long as you use your planner regularly, you will find that you are able to alleviate stress and find more free time in your day. 

How To Stop Procrastinating

DO NOT procrastinate

I know most, if not all of us want to put our task off for “future me” to deal with, but time and time again, “future me” is stressed and anxious because of our procrastination habits.

In my personal situation, I didn’t really have the luxury to procrastinate; if I did not do my task at the time I had set for myself, I would only fall further and further behind, eventually unable to keep up.

I urge you to explore and find study or motivation habits that will allow you to stop procrastinating. For most people, myself included, the hardest part is simply getting started. Once you get in the groove of things, it’s much easier to continue working. 

Take advantage of dead-time and use it productively

Similar to my early point about not procrastinating, one of the key points that helped me avoid this bad habit was to make use of my “dead-time.” For instance, this could be the 5 minutes I had before class started because I arrived early.

This also includes travel time to and from school, home, and practice. If I was particularly busy one day, I would even use the time after I had finished eating my lunch!

Trust me, you can still have a conversation with your friends while you do your homework; you won’t be missing out on anything. During this dead-time, I would start homework or briefly study and review.

Using my dead-time, I found that procrastination was not as much of an issue because it was easier to be motivated to actually start. I had begun the task, so in my mind, it was easier to finish it.

Additionally, using my dead-time put me under a time constraint. Because I knew I only had a certain amount of time before I would have to stop working, it motivated me to start working immediately, leaving no room for procrastination. 

I urge you to also use the few minutes and breaks you have to spare throughout the day to start or progress on tasks. Not only will it allow you to squeeze extra homework or studying in, but it will help you stop procrastinating!

Try to work ahead or prep for your classes and tasks

Just as many students recommend reviewing the material before the class to better understand it, you should try to do something similar for your schedule.

For instance, if you know that the following day, you have limited time in the morning, try to pack your bag the night before.

In an academic sense, you can try to work ahead of the material so if something comes up, you won’t fall behind. While this is only possible in a few classes, having even one less class to worry about in the future relieves that much more stress.

In my junior year, I often worked ahead in my AP US History class because I would usually have competitions over the weekend, meaning that I would not be able to take the required notes during that time.

In this way, I was typically two chapters ahead of the rest of my class and by the time we covered a chapter in class, it was essentially review. Not only was I able to balance my time better, but it also helped me academically.

 

In the end, I used a combination of the 4 suggestions I mentioned above to manage my busy schedule. Although my schedule might have been more or less busy than yours, you can use my suggestions nonetheless. 

Build these important habits now so that if you eventually go to college, you will have a reliable organization system to rely on that works for you!

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Author: Sophia

Sophia is a current high school senior in the California Bay Area, committed to Pennsylvania State University with plans to major in marketing. When she's not studying or in the gym, you can find Sophia watching her favorite Youtube channels or streamers. In the future, she hopes to travel the world while developing her marketing skills and building her network.