Last school year, I was a fairly average example of a high school student: if something was due Monday, I was sure to get it done by Sunday night. I might need to stay up until 1 AM and consume some sort of caffeinated beverage, but I’d get it done. Almost all of my student friends follow this same model of procrastination. Some say it works best for them, that their best work is done under pressure, and/or they can’t focus during the week. This school year, though, things changed for me in some major ways, and I think most students would appreciate this shift taking placing in their own life, even if it seems ridiculously impossible at this point. (Before I go on, I must clarify that I am homeschooled and basically attend a one-day school/co-op, but some of my methods will benefit students of all sorts.)
Since the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year in September, I have not done homework on a weekend. Sounds great, right? Since mid-October, however, I have not done homework on a Friday. And since early December, homework on Thursday has actually been a bit of a rarity.
Let me calm your fears before I go on. Yes, I do my homework, I study well, and none of my grades are lower than an 85% (which, particularly in a class like chemistry, is fine by me). I don’t skip more homework than most kids already do, and I’m learning thoroughly; yet, homework doesn’t loom over me constantly.
How is this possible? I’m honestly not too sure. It started as an accountability plan with one of my best friends, but at this point, it has grown way beyond what I hoped for, and he and I don’t really talk about it anymore. (I’ll also add that accountability partners have never been much of a help to me, but teachers as a form of accountability have majorly kept me on track during my high school years so far.)
As much of a mystery this is to me, there are still a few things that I know helped. I will explain them as Realization, Boxing (because I dislike the word ‘clump’), and Momentum. Parts of these methods will mostly be helpful to students attending the same style school that I do, but even if you’re attending a basic five-day school system, or even university, there will be something for you. And of course, if you’re expecting any success, you must have a good reason, a thought-out why.
Before you can work up the motivation to attack your homework with Tuesday Gusto, you might have to do some math. Write down your subjects, and think through the weekly workload. How much time per week do you usually spend on the homework for this class? Does the workload vary, stay fairly constant, or diambiate [I’m leaving this word here because my brain thought it meant something, I wanted to say a word that meant ‘ebb and flow,’ but that came out…] between twenty minutes and two hours? It’s okay to make liberal estimates; even these will likely encourage you and give you a dose of reality.
Now that you have your time estimates for each class, add it all together and divide by the number of homework days you have available, excluding the weekend because you should get your rest and sleep is not a mythical concept. For me, I have four days. Once you divide this number and realize that you really only need to work on school stuff for two to three hours a day, four or five days a week, (–it’ll be different for everyone–) you might just decide voluntarily to
clump box this into three days instead of four.
Draw up a schedule of your school days, take your weekly time estimate, and distribute it. If you’re feeling adventurous, cut out Friday and see what your week would look like if you did just an hour or so more the other days of the week, to make Friday part of a three-day weekend. Simply looking at this on paper can change your work habits overnight.
For me, this looks like packing American history into Tuesday morning and (late) evening, chemistry into Tuesday (early) afternoon, geometry into Wednesday (mostly the afternoon, because the later hours work best for me) and British literature wherever it will fit. Sure, I’m pretty much eating/sleeping/doing homework/going to a church group/working 24/7 (24/2?) those two days, but I like it.
If you had four construction projects to work on of a given week, and you knew that each one took about four hours, would you visit each site every day of the week and work on it for an hour? [Not a story problem.] You probably wouldn’t. Okay, so why do we cut our homework up into chunks, then proceed to go after one project, then *hours of Instagram or Facebook scrolling later* to the next project, and then to the next? There’s an argument that this is helpful to keep the information in your head, particularly for math, but I honestly think that idea is for elementary school. Choose a day to do all or most of the homework for a certain class, and power through it in one sitting (with maybe a twenty-minute snack-and-YouTube break). If you need to study it a bit to refresh your memory before a test coming up, the good news is that you’re basically an adult now and you can do things like setting reminders for yourself and, like, have some semblance of organization. Would you like a badge?
Why finish your homework on Thursday? Because you have something better to do Friday/Saturday/Sunday. My goal is to use my extended weekend for writing, running, practicing piano/ukulele, activities with friends, and reading. Sadly, many weeks, this extra time has mostly been utilized to sleep in, consume entertainment, burn up time on social media; the generation Z usual. There is much room for improvement, but I’m getting there.
Every situation is different, and I know some students are functioning at a level wherein there isn’t even an hour of free time, and this would be an impossible goal. Wherever you are, work to become master over your time, but be content with what you have if that is the best you can do. That’s okay.
A Note on Procrastination
Planning always beats procrastinating. It gives the fulfilling feeling of getting work done, while basically just being a better form of procrastination. However, knowing what you have to get done and how you’ll get it done will easily knock out the ambiguity that keeps us from starting. Have a paper coming up? Outline the steps you’ll have to take to finish it, and you might just find in yourself the motivation to begin. Need to study for a test? Get some index cards and do some color-coding before you write out what you need to remember.
Questions? Comments? Wild success stories? Email me using the form below.