Back To School Time Management

September 4, 2020

By: Hanson Feng

Every night I get 9 hours of sleep as a full-time high school student, a part-time employee in business and partnership development, a small business owner, a Volunteer Coordinator, a Columnist, and a Play Director. Here’s how. 

I look down the cafeteria floor at classmates that are up until 2 am every night, struggling to complete tasks and assignments while holding little to no extracurricular positions. Some say it’s impossible to balance so many things, but I do it every day while still allocating free-time to spend with friends and family. 

Time is like money. We all have 1,000 minutes every day. 

You make the choice on how to spend it.

I use lots of different strategies to get everything done. But it all comes down to managing the 1,000 minutes I have access to every day and capitalizing on every minute that is given to me. 

A few things we all should do are:

  • If you can outsource it, do it. Time is currency and you should treat it like how businesses treat money by locating where the inefficiencies are in your day. An example of this for me is instead of reading, I listen. Common books and plays are on YouTube so I speed them up to 1.5x speed in order to capitalize on time.

  • Use your resources effectively. Choosing study guides over textbooks is a great way to make studying more efficient. 

  • Do it ASAP! A project for Social Studies was just assigned and is due to 2 weeks. If you have even 30 minutes to spare, work on it. All my assignments and tasks (work, school, or extra-curricular) are typically done days before they need to be done. This allows a safety net for assignment because a work pile-up is inevitable and will occur at some time or another. 

  • Write everything down. I always carry a little pocket notebook for anything I need to write down. I learned this strategy from work because I report up to a very busy Vice President and I only get occasional check-ins. These check-ins are full of information, tasks, and the next steps. Our brains are only capable of remembering so many things. Repeat after me; Write. It. Down. 

  • Cut the unnecessary things out of your day. An example is that I don’t send emails that just say, ‘thank you,’ I open, digest, and move on. 

  • Understand the framework of your day. What time is fully yours, what’s shared, and what isn’t yours, use this to your advantage. An example of ‘my time’ is getting to school and work super early (around 7:30) where there’s no distraction and no ‘could you get this done.’ Shared time is the time where you understand you must multitask because there are distractions like emails, phone calls, and quick printer runs. The time that isn’t yours means you cannot dedicate any time to your to-do list, class time, in-person meetings, etc. Shape your day around the understanding of how time is blocked. 

Here’s What a Day Looks Like

I am a firm believer in the 4 Ps; preparation prevents poor performance. This should start before the workweek. 

Sunday: This time is for me to review what I did the week before and what needed to be done that wasn’t completed (meetings and appointments, project progress for work, assignment progress for school, and family events).

Workdays: Prioritization is key when completing any task. Meetings are the most important, followed by immediate tasks delegated by executive management, then smaller tasks. I never go with a fixed schedule as things always come up; such as a huge deal being closed, contracts needing to be signed or miscommunication with a partner leading to further tasks. Understand what’s important at the right time and complete those tasks. 

School Days: It is important to understand what each period looks like, whether that be flexible periods, hybrid periods, and fixed periods. Use every minute that’s given to you:

  • Fixed Periods are periods (for example, lectures and labs) that take up the entire class time and don’t allow for time to work on assignments.  There’s little you can do here; you’ll have to give your full undivided attention.

  • Hybrid Periods are classes that consist of both a lecture/lab and a flexible work block. For example, if you finish an exam quickly. Use this block of time to your advantage. Remember, just cause you’re in Biology class doesn’t mean you can’t work on Social Studies if it’s higher on the priority list.

  • Flexible Periods are classes where the entire class/period is fully yours to work or study. These are GOLD, don’t skip these periods unless you have absolutely nothing to do (if this is the case, you need to actively seek an opportunity to grow and learn). Capitalize on this time and try to get everything done. Gauge your work environment to your situation. If you know that you have mountains of work, move away from people, plug-in, and work. If you have less work, feel free to socialize but keep it to a minimum.       


Get good enough to say “If it’s not done by 10 pm, I can wait”

Once you get good with prioritization of tasks and assignments, you should be able to walk away from your desk at 10 pm and say, “it’s not important enough.” Every day, I have to say no to tasks and that’s the fact of my busy life. With this, you also must understand how to say no. 

Many ask, how do I say “no” to a manager? When a manager delegates a task that seems too much for you to take on simply say “Question, I already have X, Y, and Z on my plate, what’s top of mind for the project/organization?”. Assuming you have a reasonable manager, they should either provide you guidance on what is more important or delegate the task to someone else. You must be reasonable with yourself with the timeframe it takes to complete these tasks when having these discussions. 

‘Me Time’ is Important and I Make That Clear

I burn-out and everyone will at one point or another. Between holding 5 different positions as well as attending school, understanding that a break and recharge is needed is crucial. Making that clear to people is equally as important. At work, I bank time from overtime and use it as a Personal Day off, my employees and coworkers understand this and don’t bother me until the next business day. 

Understand that if you are underwater with an assignment at school, have a candid and reasonable conversation with your teachers. In most cases, they’re also underwater with assignments they need to mark. Having these discussions about due dates is important. Teachers and managers don’t know every variable and you must be honest with your situation as you move forward with managing tasks and time-management. 

Remember that you’re important too. Some days, putting yourself first is a top priority with the mounting workload. For me, squeezing in 100 push-ups and a quick facetime call with friends is enough, understand that each day, week, and month is different.

Let’s Take This Into Practice!

Ready? Set. Go! You have 1,000 minutes. 

It’s not about the amount of time but how you use it. This week, I have a 40 hour work week with 50+ to-dos, 2 articles to write, textbook notes for two courses. I also have to update myself on our volunteer partner’s lines of business, finalize some stock-market positions, grab a new school ID, learn how to drive, and finish linking-social media for my business. I still have time to grab coffee with a few friends throughout the week, go on a family hike and dinner party, take one full day off during the business week, try to get some push-ups in, and be in bed by 10 pm.

If I can do it, you can do it!