Monday, 20 August 2018

Finding balance between schoolwork and extra mural activities.

Sports, arts and culture have many benefits, but it shouldn’t hinder you from doing your homework.

There is pressure all around us to perform. Academically, on the sport field, on the stage and even socially. We are met with expectations in every activity we choose to do and sometimes those expectations come from ourselves. We somehow look around at our peers and see them doing well in tests, becoming captains of their sport teams, sing in the choir, participate in the debate team, and somehow they have a large circle of friends. How do they do it? How do they balance school, sport, culture and leisure? Where do they find the time?

Zig Ziglar once said “Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.” We believe that balancing schoolwork and extra mural activities comes down to time management. Time management is the process of planning and taking control of the time spend on specific activities. Time management increases effectiveness, efficiency and productivity. We believe when all your activities are planned out and executed in their specific timeframes, there will be enough time for relaxing and fun activities too.

In this article we’ll look at the following important ways to maximise your time and balance schoolwork and extra mural activities like a pro:

1. Prioritising your activities.2. Managing your time.3. Coping with pressure and reviewing your plan.

1. Prioritising your activities.

When it comes to your activities, you need to categorise them from the most important to the least important. This way you will easily know which activity you need to allocate more time to when making a schedule. When prioritising your activities you might want to ask a parent, teacher or guardian to help, because when you are in school you may think playing a video game is the most important thing, but in reality your maths marks aren’t what they ought to be. A parent, teacher or guardian can help by giving guidance with the bigger picture.

Don’t prioritise an activity as a whole, but rather break it up into components to better understand where you need to focus on. For example, of course schoolwork should be your most important priority as a growing child. However, you should break schoolwork into its different subjects. You can even divide different subjects into their different modules to better prioritise your activities. If your Life Orientation marks are very high, because this subject’s content comes naturally to you, but your English marks aren’t good, then prioritise your English homework above Life Orientation. Remember you still need to complete your Life Orientation homework, but you need to spend more time on English.

We suggest you make a long list of all the activities you will be doing during the month. Then evaluate the importance of a task with these four questions:
  • ·       How important is it to you?
  • ·       How well you are currently performing in it?
  • ·       How much time does it require to be good at this activity?
  • ·       Does it contribute to your success in the long term?

When you have answered those four questions, rank the activities and start planning a schedule to allocate more time to the activities that take up higher priorities.

2. Managing your time.

Managing your time effectively will make a great difference in your productivity. You will achieve more in a shorter period of time, simply because your time won’t be wasted. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be any free time or time to relax, it simply means that the time you take to relax will be scheduled. In fact you will be able to enjoy your leisure time more, because you know it is well-deserved and appropriate to take a break. This prevents procrastination and overall lowers your stress because you know when it is appropriate to do all the fun activities you love to do.

There are many ways to set up a schedule. In our previous blog post ‘4 Tips to help you set up a schedule for a successfulschool year’ we discuss various ways of setting up different types of schedules and how to stick to it. 

A great way to manage your time is through Covey’s time management matrix. This grid was created by Stephen Covey who wrote the bestseller The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. In this matrix he explains that your time can be effectively managed through a table that shows Important, Not Important, Urgent and Not Urgent activities. When you list your activities into the table you clearly see what you need to focus in. Below is the visual representation of the time management matrix.

Stephen Covey’s time management matrix.

In the table, you can see there are four quadrants. Quadrant 1 represents the Urgent and Important tasks, Quadrant 2 represents the Not Urgent and Important tasks, Quadrant 3 represents the Urgent and Not Important tasks and Quadrant 1 represents the Not Urgent and Not Important tasks.

Quadrant 1:

Quadrant 1 contains tasks that are Urgent and Important, tasks that are for example graded, and will have consequences if they aren’t completed on time. This quadrant is for deadlines and important crises that have to be solved immediately. These are tasks that aren’t supposed to take up too much time and can be completed quickly and efficiently. This list should also be as short as possible (because you ideally want as little as possible crises or problems). You should always complete these tasks first. Examples of quadrant 1 tasks: Homework due for the next day; last minute preparation for an upcoming test; an assignment that you need to complete for the due date; a task you forgot to do but needs to be completed now.

Quadrant 2:

Quadrant 2 contains tasks that are Not Urgent, but very Important. These are tasks that you need to perform for your long term success. These tasks aren’t urgent, with a deadline, but it is definitely important. This block contains tasks that you can plan for and usually help prevent crises and deadlines from getting too close when you work in advance. Most of your time should be spent here. In this block you will build discipline and perseverance as it normally contains long term goals. For example: If you dream of becoming a tennis champion, then you need to train 4 – 5 times a week. Use this block to add tennis practice times in. Another example is preparing in advance for a test cycle or the exams. You may have a goal of 4 distinctions at the end of the year, but you need to keep your focus by making summaries every day.

Please remember that quadrant 2 focuses on long term goals, this includes relationships too, so schedule quality time here for friends, family and your parents. If you fail to schedule relationship-time into this matrix, you will most likely be deprived of social interaction and become lonely or depressed. Schedule time for you friends and fun things you want to do – this keeps you healthy and motivated too.

Quadrant 3:

The third quadrant is for tasks that are Urgent but Not Important. This can be seen as the interruption or distraction block, because unforeseen and unimportant things can happen that you should add into this block. This block usually steals a lot of time, because we might think something is very urgent to complete (like the fifth student council meeting in a week or when you go to a study group just to re-learn old work that you already understand) but it doesn’t really contribute to our long term success. Therefore, try to minimise your time spent in this block.

Quadrant 4:

Quadrant 4 is where all the procrastination and time wasting happen, because these are things that don’t help you achieve your goals. This block contains tasks that are Not Urgent and Not Important. For example, being on Facebook or Instagram for hours, watching YouTube videos where you’re not really learning anything new, or binge-watching a series. Even hanging out with friends while you know you should rather be studying for a test that you write the next day. This doesn’t mean friendship isn’t important (it is very important), but even fun activities with friends can be scheduled when it is well-deserved. Make sure you spend the least time in this quadrant, or rather, make sure the time you spend here is well-deserved leisure time. Schedule things in this block like a new movie you want to watch, and make sure you only go watch the movie after everything in the first quadrant has been completed.

When you learn how to effectively apply Covey’s time management matrix, you will perform tasks without panic or stress, because you know the importance of each activity and how much time to allocate to it.

3. Coping with pressure and reviewing your plan.

When you take on many extra-mural activities, you can often start feeling stressed because you are tired, there’s a lot of pressure on you and you might feel like quitting some days. This means you may need a little break or you might have bitten off too much at a time. Evaluate your priorities list and determine if you really love all the activities on the list. For example, you might love playing in the school band, but you really don’t enjoy choir practice. These two activities are both musically driven, so you are allowed to say you want to leave the choir group because it doesn’t contribute to your happiness or success. Choose your extra mural activities wisely and don’t keep performing certain activities that doesn’t contribute to your wholeness.

Another example is if you really want to go study in a competitive field, like medicine, and you know you need to get your grades up. Getting good grades by itself is already a lot of pressure, therefore you need to minimise the pressure of other activities. You should then rather choose to leave one sport activity and go to extra mathematics and science classes instead, because that will take the pressure off of your studies.

Lastly, don’t be pressured by what other people say if you either have a lot of extra mural activities or very few. We are all individual. You shouldn’t compare yourself to others. If you only wish to participate in 1 or 2 extra mural activities, that is perfectly acceptable. If you want to try every extra mural activity available at school, then try it out. Don’t be afraid of what other people think or say, you are unique and you can make your own choices about how you spend your time. With time you will learn what you can and can’t do.

Balancing schoolwork and extra mural activities can be quite daunting because we all get distracted and lose focus sometimes. The best way to get back on track is to simply list your priorities, set up a schedule and then stick to it. Victor Hugo said “He who every morning plans the transactions of that day and follows that plan carries a thread that will guide him through the labyrinth of the most busy life.”

How are you balancing schoolwork and extra mural activities and what other techniques do you use to keep your priorities organised?

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