Exams, homework, coursework, sports team trainings, musical rehearsals, CCAs, university applications, keeping good grades and on top of all that, still having a social life. Whether you’ve just begun your IGCSE journey or you're in your final year of high school, these are just some of the activities on an endless list that we are expected to juggle on a day-to-day basis.
“Time is a circus, always packing up and moving away.” Lost time is not something that can be found again. That might sound cliché, but take it from someone who joined Tenby in Year 5, looking up at all those older kids thinking it would take forever to grow up. Now here I am, a few months shy of finishing high school, forever.
Do you ever find yourself at the end of the day, wondering what you accomplished? How did time pass so fast while you were stalking someone’s Instagram feed or binge watching Buzzfeed videos of people trying $2 pizza vs $2000 pizza, and suddenly its 1 am and your to-do-pile is still stacked miles high? Well do not fret my friend, because I too, am guilty as charged. Since taking a step out of my comfort zone after Year 11, I chose to tackle the IB Diploma Programme. This lead to a whole new slew of adventures; from leaving home to stay in a school hostel on weekdays, to planning a one-week service trip to Sawarak to carry out a leadership camp for a local Iban school.
The IB is famous for its rigorous and relentless syllabus that has students needing to study not just 6 subjects with each having their own set of coursework and personally designed investigations, but writing a 4000 word ‘mini thesis’ on a subject of choice, taking an extra class called TOK (also known as that lesson that makes you question if 1+1 actually equals to 2 or is it just a social construct that you’ve been programmed to accept) and fulfilling Creativity, Activity and Service hours as well. In all seriousness, IB is not for the fainthearted. Deadline after deadline will clamp down if you aren’t up to speed.
Couple this with being the pioneer batch expected to initiate and plan school activities as well as being part of the school’s volleyball team, I found myself having to stay back every day after school, some days as late as 8 pm, having meeting after meeting. Throw in applying for a competitive spot to study Architecture, preparing my portfolio and refining my application, soon enough I found that I didn’t have enough hours in a day and my grades were slipping. I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t have a few breakdowns and feelings of demotivation, but my mum told me that everyone has 24 hours in a day. Its how you spend it that counts.
One main problem was that I’d said ‘yes’ to more things than I could handle, so the first thing that I had to work on was saying ‘no’. It’s much easier said than done because every opportunity is a great opportunity. I had to turn down a few things that I was reluctant to do at the time, but in hindsight it was the best decision because it took a lot off my plate.
Prioritise. That is the main factor in having good time management. Not just in the activities that you choose to participate in, but even down to the day to day work that you get. Deciding which pieces you get done today or tomorrow helps to narrow down the time spent jumping from one piece of work to the other.
Another looming issue is that I spent too much time procrastinating on social media. I know it’s a large leap for many, but deleting social media that you find yourself most addicted to really helps with creating more productive time. I’m not suggesting a mass social media hiatus, but pin pointing the one that you spend the most time on and getting rid of one or two clears up time that you would otherwise spend endlessly working out your thumbs. For me this was Instagram and Youtube, because I could not stop myself from clicking on ‘One Last Video’ or saying ‘Five More Minutes’. Sure, you’d miss out on some stuff, but when you feel that you have some extra time to spend, download it back and trust your self-discipline to delete it again after you are done with your well-earned splurge.
Apart from this I found that spending some time and writing out my goals and tasks for the next day or week, decorating it and hanging it up where I can see everyday really helped me to stay focused and organised enough so that I could work out what I needed to prioritise and finish for the next day. I found that working day by day was much better than having a mass plan without any specifics. Laying out the plan for the day and even if I don’t finish everything on my to-do-list, I know that I have done the urgent ones and the others could be left to tomorrow.
Lastly, getting enough sleep is the key to being more efficient. I would always stop when I felt too tired; regardless of studying for an exam or doing assignments, call it a day, go to bed, and wake up earlier tomorrow to compensate for the extra time I took off. This worked out for me because I’m a morning person and I work better with a clear mind from a good sleep. Slowly I got the hang of it and went with the flow. Giving and taking, but most importantly allowing myself just enough down time to enjoy myself with my friends and family. By no means have I erased my procrastinating tendencies and magically got everything under control, perfectly planned down to the second. Learning through experience is one of the few gifts that time provides, and I’ve only shared a small part of my journey in conquering self-discipline and time management. Not everything works for everyone, but I just wanted to share my experience in hopes that it would be of use to some of you. There is a long period of recovery for us procrastinating addicts, and to those who have got their things down - my hats off to you.
Currently I’m waiting on my mocks results, finishing off the last bits of coursework for IB, watching UCAS Track for the last few university decisions to make their way to me and strapping in for the final stretch of school. I’ve somehow made it past a large chunk of stress, tears, and work. For those of you who are still making your way, I wish you the best of luck.
Grind hard, keep your goals forefront, and don’t forget to factor in that Buzzfeed time.