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Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
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How to Manage Time as a Busy High School Student

Keeping up with classes, applying to college, filling out scholarship forms, participating in extracurricular activities, and completing chores around the house—these are just a handful of the many activities that fill up high schoolers’ days. With so much going on, one of the most valuable skills a high schooler can master is time management.


The Cambridge Dictionary defines time management as “the practice of using the time that you have available in a useful and effective way, especially in your work.” Effective time management allows students to accomplish more in less time, reduces stress levels, and it frees them up to pursue additional opportunities. If time management is a struggle for your student, no worries—it’s a skill that can be easily built and will serve them well throughout their life. Keep reading to learn a few simple steps your student can take to more efficiently manage their time.

Keep a Calendar or Planner

A calendar or planner provides students with a high-level look at their commitments, allowing them to better understand what they have to accomplish and when, and helping them to prioritize activities. Calendars and planners should include information regarding upcoming tests, projects, practices, rehearsals, work shifts, and other extracurricular activities. Posting the calendar/planner in a place where everyone in the family can see it (or, if working digitally, sharing it with them) can make everyone aware of the student’s commitments as well. Typically, the more comprehensive the schedule and the more a student uses it, the more effective it is. Students will benefit from checking the calendar every day and marking off any items they complete.

The Power of Prioritizing Tasks

Students should put their planner to work by prioritizing their daily tasks. In the morning, students should look at their calendar and create a to-do list for the day, putting the most important tasks at the top of the list. Prioritizing their tasks first thing in the morning leaves students the maximum amount of time to complete each task throughout the day. In addition to creating a to-do list, students should get in the habit of pulling together everything they’ll need for the day—for example, clothes, school supplies, and lunch—so that they are prepared for all of the day’s events.

Break Large Tasks Into Small Goals

“It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward.” This Chinese proverb reminds us of the power of taking small steps toward achieving our goals. Many tasks on a high schooler’s to-do list can be overwhelming when viewed as a whole—but, when broken down into smaller pieces, the task load becomes much more manageable. Dividing up tasks can both ease the completion of massive projects and eliminate some of the dread (and its companion, procrastination) that often plagues them.

Find Hidden Time

It’s amazing how much time the average person squanders, and high schoolers are no exception. Time spent in front of the television, surfing the internet, and scrolling through social media are just a few of the activities that eat up precious minutes and hours of each day. Whether sitting on the bus or at the lunch table, students can use extra time wisely for everything from reading an assignment to studying for an upcoming quiz—it’s amazing how much time a few minutes here and there can add up to, and what you can do with the time you’ve saved.

Be Realistic When Setting Goals

Having a goal to work toward can help a student manage their time effectively. Goal setting provides an endpoint for a student to work toward; however, this is only effective if the goal is realistic and attainable. Whether it’s a lofty long-term goal like being accepted into Harvard, or a smaller bite-sized goal like finishing an assignment ahead of time, if a student’s goals aren’t feasible, it’s only setting them up for failure. Unrealistic goal setting can result in discouragement; consequently, it can lead to negative performances and a laissez-faire attitude regarding future tasks.

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Be Careful with Commitments

It’s easy for high school students to overextend themselves with all the various commitments constantly demanding and competing for their time. Whether it’s a boss asking a student to pick up an extra shift at work or a group of friends going to a midweek movie, it’s important for them to understand that they can say “no.” Students should be aware of their own limits and should avoid taking on more activities than their time allows.

Schedule Time to Relax

It can’t be all work, all the time. When building their schedules, students should include time to relax—for example, scheduling that aforementioned midweek movie with friends in advance. Another way to incorporate relaxation into the day is by using it as a reward. For example, for every task they check off of their to-do list, they allow themselves 10 minutes on Instagram.

Get a Good Night’s Sleep

A student’s brain needs time to shut down and recharge, and getting the right amount of sleep each night is one of the simplest ways students can practice time management. High schoolers should create a cut-off time for homework, avoid all-nighters, and set a bedtime (put it on your calendar). A well-rested student is sharper, more focused, and more productive than an exhausted one.

Get Help

If a high schooler feels like they’re drowning in activities, they should talk to their family, a friend, teacher, or counselor. No matter what goal a student is working toward, feeling overwhelmed is not the path to achieving it. Whether it’s getting help managing their time or dropping an activity, there is a solution available to ease the burden placed on a student’s time. Be sure to check in with your teen to provide support and create an open dialogue around their commitments and their mental health. 


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Short Bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.