Summers can get overwhelmingly busy, but typically people end up having some extra time to relax. This summer, I worked, was a camp counselor, went to off-season training, was in rehearsals for a musical, all while also trying to have enough time to prioritize my mental health and give myself some much-deserved downtime. Sometimes I’d be working at the camp from 8-3 and then have work from 5-9, but I’d still get time to relax at night because I didn’t have to wake up at 6am the next morning.
School can make balancing all of these activities more difficult because you may still have a lot of those responsibilities, but now you just have a lot less time to do them. You now have mounds of schoolwork on top of sports, rehearsals, work, and anything else you want to do, like sleep or having time to relax.
I’ve struggled to balance this kind of time management in high school, and it’s going to be even harder this year since I’m a sophomore and am taking my first few AP classes. We’re only a few weeks in and I’m already struggling to get everything done. Usually August is a terrible month for me and adjusting to my new classes is very hard. I was prepared for the worst this year, but I did find that this year was a lot better than past years. I have some theories as to why, so I’ll share a few tips and tricks that have helped me tremendously this year.
- Keeping A Planner/Staying Organized
In past years, I used an online calendar planning program to keep track of my homework assignments and reminders. However, I always felt like I was forgetting things and generally felt overwhelmed. I am a very visual person who learns things best from seeing/writing them on paper, so this year I got an actual student planner to keep track of homework, tests, work, extracurriculars, school reminders, and social events all in one. I color-coded it and it’s made it a lot less stressful keeping track of all of my activities. If you do want something electronic, keeping it all in one place is important. A free website called LifeAt.io has many calming workspaces, complete with calendars, notes, a to-do list, breathing exercises, work timers, daily quotes, and more, along with a simple layout that isn’t overwhelming.
- Mental Health/Therapy
For me, my mental health not being in a good place has drastically affected my performance and balance in all areas of my life in the past. Although it wasn’t easy to bring up my mental health struggles with my parents, it has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. If you feel like you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, OCD, or any other mental illness and nothing else will help, make sure you’re getting the accommodations you need, whether it’s therapy, prescription medicine, or just reliable coping mechanisms.
- Use Your Time at School Wisely
A huge thing for me is getting my homework done at school. When I finish my work in one class, it can be tempting to just play a game or watch a movie on my computer, but if I have a lot of work I need to do, I know I just need to get it done. I’ll thank myself later when I’m tired late at night and don’t have to stay up late finishing homework. Sometimes, though, I’m so tired and burnt out that I do need a break to just play a computer game. If you are giving yourself a much-needed break but know you have work to do, relax for five or ten minutes and then get to work.
With long-winded homework, there are different ways to portion out your time and it can be tricky to both focus and also take breaks when needed. I often use the Pomodoro Technique, which is a time management technique where you work for 25 minutes and take a 5-minute break in between each 25-minute period, or “pomodoro.” Every 4 pomodoros, you take a 15-30 minute break.
- Listen to Your Body/Take a Break if Needed
It can be tempting to just go, go, go without stopping. Sure, you’re exhausted and burnt out, but at least you feel productive. You have to know your own personal boundaries, though, and know the line between being productive and just running yourself into the ground. Make sure you’re getting as much high-quality sleep as you can and be disciplined about it. Don’t stay up on your phone in bed for an extra hour; that can make such a difference in how you feel the next day. If you don’t take any time to rest, you’re more susceptible to getting sick, and then you’ll be forced to take a break, so I believe it’s always better to listen to your body and know when you need to take a breather. Sometimes that break can just be getting someone else to take your shift or missing one practice to catch up because in the grand scheme, that one night of work wouldn’t have mattered as much as letting your body take the break it needs.
- Be Selective with Extracurriculars/Don’t Do Things You Don’t Love
As enticing as it may seem to stack your resume with every club and extracurricular you can possibly squeeze in, it is not sustainable. If you’re worried about colleges, they would rather see a student consistent in the things they love over a jack of all trades who is a part of everything that has no meaning to them. Don’t let yourself get in t0 a repetitive rut when you’re only doing something because you’re used to doing it. For example, I played soccer for about eight years. There was a time I loved it, but around eighth grade I realized that I just wasn’t excited about it anymore. I was ready for something new. So I found other things that I enjoyed more, and now I’m so happy that I did.
Balance can be a hard thing to achieve, but that doesn’t make it any less necessary. I never really prioritized balance or thought about it that much in the past, but as I’m trying to prioritize my mental health and general well-being more this year, I’ve been making an effort and it’s really made a difference, so I believe it can help you, too.