Structure your day

Why reinvent the wheel?  You get up every morning, and you go to school from 8 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.  Some things happen regularly.

Put down appointments first

Take a sheet of paper and write across the top each day of the week (Sunday, Monday, etc.).  On the left, start with the time you get up in the morning and go until your bedtime.  Fill in the things you do every day.  Put appointments in red.  For example, school 8 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.  Every Monday through Friday that structure occurs.
 Sunday Monday  Tuesday  Wednesday  Thursday  Friday  Saturday
 6 a.m.
 7 a.m.
 8 a.m.
 9 a.m.
10 a.m.
However, you must now work out the rest of the structure.  For example, if you have a job or athletics, be sure and enter those hours in red.  Every commitment you have that involves others and/or being a certain place at a certain time becomes an appointment and should be entered in red.

Decide on your study time

I suggest a three hour block of time for high school students.  Write those three hours in green ink.  Think of it as your learning time.  One of my students told me that he didn't need three hours to do homework.  “Don't you want to learn anything?” I asked.  “Sure,” he replied, “I’d like to learn to play the guitar.”  We decided that he would do his homework and spend the rest of his three hour block playing his guitar.  He thus practiced every day and did well.

You should begin to have problems

Once you start putting this down on paper, you will probably find that you have problems having enough time.  School, work, athletics, and other commitments are a given.  If you plan to sleep eight hours a night, you probably are out of time before you block out your study time, especially if you like to talk on the phone or hang out with your friends.

The three hour secret

Most students approach school as though it should take no effort.  I'm not talking about sitting at a desk for three hours.  You will need a ten minute break every fifty minutes, and you will have some interruptions.  Also, some nights you will get home late.

The three hour study block keeps you from underestimating the time you need.  The further you go in school, the more you will have long range assignments like reading a novel on your own and having the report ready on a certain date.

Facing reality

Many students are shocked when they find out that they can't find enough hours on their structure schedule.  However, that is the reason we are doing it.  We all underestimate how long things take us.
You might have to give up something, or you might be able to combine some activities.  Perhaps you have some free time at school you can write in green ink and use for study time.

Leave fun time

Of course you need a social life and time for your special interests.  We simply must find a way to structure in friends and our special interests.  Maybe you can visit friends during the school day or on weekends.

You should leave at least one hour a day to do something you want to do.  Rather than wasting time, you will use time more efficiently if you feel interested and refreshed.  Life becomes a drag if we spend time doing stressful, serious things with no recreational breaks.

Don't give up

You might need to work with the structure for a couple of weeks to find out how to group things together to get it all in.  You might have to eliminate something.

Unfortunately, if it won't work on paper, it won't work.  Of course you can be flexible.  The point is that if you go to a basketball game rather than using your study time, you know you haven't done homework.  A structure allows you to know where you are.

This week, play with the structure of your day.  Experiment, and don't give up.

(C) 2001, Don Mize

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