5:30 a.m. Wake up.
6:20 a.m. Catch bus.
7:20 a.m. Arrive at school. (Two options: Study in the library or hang out with friends.)
7:40 a.m. School day begins: Four 90-minute classes.
2:20 a.m. School day ends.
2:30 p.m. Extracurricular begins.
4:00 p.m. Arrive home.
This was an average day of high school for me. After 4 p.m., I had homework – as do many of you reading this. But along with homework, I had other priorities as well and wanted to spend time with friends and family…. And If you also mix in a job, volunteer work, or anything else that may spice up your high school resume, balance becomes a challenge.
But, in finding the right balance, you can have both a fulfilling academic and nonacademic life and receive that diploma that says “Go forth and conquer!” (To college, vocational school, or whatever suits your goals.)
Before I found my own balance, I had a hard time in high school. I did my work, but I wasn’t living up to my potential. I found it hard to get enough sleep because I didn’t make a plan for my short- or long-term assignments.
My free-time? That didn’t exist. My artwork would sometimes be the focus, rather than my academic work, or vice versa. Before I found my own balance and a life outside of high school, I got mostly B’s. But after re-organizing in my junior and senior years, I began getting A’s.
So what was my plan?
Allocate your tasks into time slots and prioritize. Devote time to the assignments that are due immediately, then work in the bigger projects that require multiple days or weeks of your time.
Being an art student in high school, I had loads of academics and art assignments. In my senior year, I found myself juggling AP studio art, textiles, graphic design, English, government, stats, and economics. Of course I wanted to devote the most time to my arts classes, but that wouldn't allow for much success in my other classes ... . But I had to compile my college portfolio and work toward deadlines. So how did I do it? A little at a time (and with a daily to-do list)
This can be done in any way. I worked on my assignments and in time slots. While doing so, I allowed myself room for self-care and family time (dinner, helping around the house, and playing with my siblings).
Here’s an example of a typical Monday evening for me using this method:
4:00 – Start English homework (due the next day)
5:00 – Study for economics test (test on Wednesday)
5:30 – GSA Club planning for next week’s activities
6:00 – Dinner with family
7:00 – Work on graphic design project for 30 mins (due next week)
8:00 – Take an hour for self-care (You’ll read more about this below!)
9:00 – Work on Studio project
10:00 – Quick review notes for academic classes
10:30 – Bed
Of course, this schedule is just a guideline. I never expected to follow it to a T. Sometimes I finished up work earlier and would find myself with more free time, or would find myself needing more time on certain tasks.
What’s this hour devoted to self-care?
Two years ago, I would’ve asked myself the same question. I had a lot of disregard for having an hour to myself. But I would often find times where I simply did not have the time to rest and recharge. The lack of this would result in a buildup of stress. (Which can lead to burnout and less productivity all together.) You don’t have time for that. So here’s my solution in 3 steps:
Listen to your body: Set a bedtime. While you may have new freedoms and independence, you’ll gain more focus and productivity if you set a limit. Without adequate sleep, I’d often find myself coming home from school and napping on the couch. Then, before I knew it, 8 p.m. would roll around and I’d groggily begin my assignments and set myself up for yet another long night. So do it, make your plan of action include shut-eye/beauty sleep/ whatever-you--call-it.
Eat healthy: Making a habit of eating breakfast each morning before school in my junior year made me so much more alert and ready to ace my day’s plans. Be sure to make healthy snack choices too so you can get through your school day!
Work-in time for yourself and those you love: In your daily plan, make some reasonable time to play that video game, doodle, make tea, call a friend, spend time with your family, meditate, jog – whatever you need to do. (Consider making a list of things you love doing to give you more ideas!)
Some days, I’d come home from school with so many deadlines the following day that I’d only have time to make some tea or talk to my family between tasks. Or I’d take 5 minutes to watch a funny cat video sent by a friend to keep up my good spirit. (The silliest of things can make the most difference!)
Even if your devoted self-care time can only be 10 minutes on a certain day, make use of that. I can’t stress this enough. Without self-care, stress becomes a major player.
Once you have a grasp on your academics, life outside of school, and personal time, you’ll be able to better walk the high school tightrope. Finding my own plan allowed me to have more time with friends, raised my grades, and gave me a lot of freedom to realize my potential for after high school.