Anyone who has played a sport or an instrument knows the importance of training during “off” times. Meaning, it is as important to keep a training and practice regimen during the times when there are no games or performances as it is during the actual season. This “off” period is the time when players and performers can invest considerable energy to learn, practice, and grow. It is the time when athletes will hit the weight room to work on strength training. It’s when performance artists take master classes to improve their skills.
The #1 conversation I have with students is about time management. More often than not, any academic stress and anxiety¹ a student is feeling is usually related to their time management (or lack thereof). This is why I wrote a 2 part series on time management to discuss the basic principles and offer suggestions on which tools to use. After coaching students on time management, they always comment how they feel more in control of their life. They no longer feel pulled in a million different directions. It allows them to take command of their life and direct what happens AND it allows them to respond to unexpected situations.
Just like athletes and performers who use the off season to prepare, so should you to prepare for the school year. If you think of the academic year as “game time”, the summer is your off season. You can take advantage of the summer months–the academic off season– to practice your time management skills in order to prepare for the fall semester. This may sound a little silly, but I assure you it is practical. You will only add more stress to your already stressful life if you wait until the school year to work on your time management. It’s the same as not practicing or rehearsing before a big game or performance. Your off season preparation is a time you can (and should) engage your time management strategy, learn some new ideas, and experiment with those ideas. So, how can you go about drilling your time management during the summer? Here are some ideas:
One of the cornerstones of any time management strategy is knowing what you need to do. This is where a to-do list is helpful. Using an analog system or technology based solution will help you catalogue all of the tasks you need or want to do. A to-do list is how you ensure you are taking care of your responsibilities and working towards achieving your goals. Practicing this during the summer will hone your skills for the upcoming school year. Did a family member ask you to do some chores or errands? Great! Write them down. Did you get an email from school with a laundry list of tasks to complete before the school year? Perfect! Enter them into your list. Feel like your system needs an upgrade? Excellent! Use this time to research and try different apps and systems. Practicing using a to-do list during the summer will help you work out all the kinks before the school year starts.
Keep Your Calendar
Just because you aren’t as busy during the summer as you are during the school year, doesn’t mean you don’t have appointments or deadlines. Use your summer break to practice using your calendar system. Write down that pre-school year doctor’s appointment. Schedule those tasks on your to-do list, setting your own deadlines to complete them. Pick a day and time to go visit family members and friends before the school year starts. Set-up times when you plan to do your workout. Block out time for your summer homework. See when you can set aside some “me time” for reading or other personal enrichment. Find ways to use your calendar daily, so the habit is part of your daily routine when the fall semester starts.
Check Them Regularly
It’s important to start the year, month, week, and day with a plan. Having some idea of where you want to go helps you regain some control over your busy and hectic life. The best way to map out what needs to get done and when is to check your to-do list and calendar on a regular basis. Some people take 30 minutes at the end of each day to reflect on the day past and plan for the day ahead. Some people use the weekends to strategize for the week ahead. Some people figure out their daily plan over their morning coffee. You can spend the summer building and honing the habit of checking in on your tasks and schedule regularly. Creating that ritual of accessing your to-do list and calendar will ensure you are one step closer to readying yourself for the upcoming school year.
1. Any student diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and/or any other mental illness should be working with a specialist. If you aren’t sure please visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness and talk with your/a healthcare provider.
Looking for more?
Time management can be tricky. While the basic tenants are the same, everyone’s approach is individual. Contact me if you want to explore how you can improve your time management!