Dear Motivation and Time Management

Dear Poppy design created by Sydney Haulenbeek.

Dear Poppy design created by Sydney Haulenbeek.

Dear Poppy,


How do I stay motivated during the school year? I am already struggling to keep up with all that is occurring in all of my classes. I do get stuck on YouTube. Sometimes I will look at the time and tell myself that I have time to do my work when in reality I don’t. I am the type of student that needs a lot of time to absorb information and even more time to process and apply what I have learned. I lose my motivation to do work and learn because deep down I feel that I won’t understand and grasp all of the material in time for class. I only have one study block and I get distracted fairly easily at lunch. I don’t have transportation to take me to the public library at the school and I don’t spend much of one lunch in our personal library because I attend clubs that I can’t go to after school since my parents need me to be home. My weekends don’t really consist of doing homework until Sunday night. When I do work, I spend hours on it and get burned out. I know that keeping up with things like this is all about time management, but it’s easier said than done. Especially when someone doesn’t have the motivation to keep going.

Motivation and Time Management


Dear Motivation and Time Management,


First, I’m going to encourage you to slow down, stop moving, and take a few deep breaths. I’ve heard this advice for years and considered it absolutely useless until a teacher this year turned off the lights at the beginning of class and had us shut our eyes and take a few deep, calm breaths. It really does help to quell anxiety, and it’s a good studying trick to go from being on your phone to doing homework: by moving to a different space (try the kitchen table or desk – somewhere you don’t spend most of your time watching YouTube at!) to shift your mind into focus mode, and then take a second to restart your mindset by breathing calmly instead of letting anxiety eat you up.  


Time management is a personal action governed completely by outside forces, your teachers who determine your workload, your job if you have one, and chores and responsibilities at home, which makes it difficult to handle. There are a couple of ways to make this better, though! The toughest two years of high school I’ve dealt with were both ones where I didn’t have a study hall, so it’s good that you took the initiative to have one this year. Try to make the most of it and your classes. I’m just as addicted to my phone as everyone else, but I make a point of putting it somewhere where it is difficult to use during my classes (at the bottom of my bookbag). Simply paying close attention and taking good notes helps to reduce the amount of time you need to study. There’s a girl near me in one of my classes who panics a lot about the course, but if you put away other things that eat up your attention and listen, you’ll be surprised how much you remember! It’ll also help you feel more confident if you are really pressed for time and can’t find a minute to study, knowing that you paid close attention and were listening. It’s a study-free way to pass (unless it’s math, then I can’t help you there). 


Next, don’t think too much about lunch! I know this is really difficult for students in classes with SOL and AP exams, but do whatever you can to avoid doing schoolwork during lunch. Think the night before about just how exhausted you’ll be if you spend the entire 8 hours at school doing schoolwork, and get it out of the way. If you’re really concerned about a test or presentation, then study the last 20 minutes, but don’t let schoolwork completely dominate the only break you get to have. For a long time I felt guilty when I spent lunch with friends or on my phone instead of doing something, but your body actually needs that time to rest. 


When it comes to actually doing the studying and homework – I know, this by far the worst part – it does come back to time management. I believe you can create time for yourself out of almost everywhere. I make a point to go home and grab a half-hour nap between the end of school and the beginning of my work shift, and I consider that to be my “break”. When I get home from work, I give myself another 20 minutes and then knock my homework out. It is important to hold yourself to limits. When you sit down to take a break after school, look at the clock and say to yourself: I will start my homework at 4:00, and then do it. When you break the pattern once and say “just 15 more minutes” you’ll then find it much easier to do that again and again, and you’ll lose control over getting your work done. It’s like getting the vacuuming done before your mom gets home; you know she’ll yell at you to finish it if you don’t, so you might as well just get it done. The only problem is that it’s entirely you that is doing the regulating, so you have to be careful not to burn yourself out while making sure everything is done. Like I told Stressed with School,  you have to get your work done as it comes, so you don’t end up in overwhelming yourself. Try and find healthy ways to regulate yourself, maybe turn YouTube into your reward for getting your homework done, or make more constant work like chapter readings enjoyable in some way. I used to hate reading chapters for APUSH until I discovered an audiobook of the textbook, and colored on my phone while I listened to it, making the assignment feel like fun. You’ve got this, keep going!



Poppy <3