Effective time management is an important life skill to have. It is definitely one of the major determinants of whether you will be successful at whatever you are doing in life. Time management skills are especially important for a student in years 10, 11 and 12. As you may have noticed, the jump in difficulty in being a high school student is significant when you enter year 11 (suddenly you have 12 units of subjects to worry about and receive homework/exams from, instead of just the 3 main ones – English Science and Maths). Also keep in mind the HSC subjects individually are suddenly harder than what you’d expect coming from year 10. As a result of this non-linear jump in difficulty, many students have not been able to properly adapt to their new situation.
How many times have you left an assessment task to the last minute because you didn’t pace yourself correctly, or you submitted low quality work / received low marks due to being overwhelmed by exams and assessments? Have a read of the following insights and think about what you can do to improve your time management skills – this will surely be one extracurricular skill to have that will translate to higher marks!
Urgent vs. important
Firstly understand the difference between a task that’s urgent, and a task that’s important. One thing that separates successful people from the rest is that successful people spend most of their time doing important things, rather than urgent things. For example, on any given day you may have one or several friends on facebook to reply to, send birthday reminders, or reply to people saying ‘hi’ on msn – these are all urgent, non-important tasks. Stop doing these things!
Important tasks are things that count. For example, studying for your school assessments / exams – it’s a certainty that you’ll need to do that assessment or exam so why ignore it until the last minute? Starting that assessment task now rather than later – you’ll eventually need to do it so why not start sooner rather than later? Do you really need to stop everything and get distracted by ‘urgent, non-important’ things like if your friends are inviting you to join their multiplayer online game, or your dog needs a walk, etc? Obviously we’re not saying ‘lock yourself in your room and study for 18 hours a day’ – you need to strike a clear balance between study and recreation (see next point).
Set clear boundaries: work while it’s work time and rest while it’s rest time
It’s important to find a good balance between work and rest. Set a clear time of the day after which you’re ‘off the clock’. This time should be dedicated to leisure. Avoid things that remind you of work – e.g. you could have all school-related stuff in your study room, and keep your bedroom free of any school-related material, or keep your school-related material in your room and spend your leisure time in your lounge. Resting and working in the same room could be stressful as you can be interrupted by emails, msn messages from friends who stress you out, or simply glancing at unfinished assignments left on your desk. Just like work, rest is best done without distraction in order to fully regain energy for the next day.
Also never plan to do important tasks in your ‘spare time’ – there’s no such thing as spare time and if you have this habit, you’ll certainly leave many tasks undone and neglected. You’re either working or resting, both activities are important to maintaining a healthy and sustainable work ethic.
The 80:20 rule
Also known as the ‘Pareto Principle’ or the ‘law of the vital few’: when applied to the field of time management, this ‘rule’ states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your actions. While there’s no mathematical significance of the 80:20 split, this rule alludes to the non-linear return of time invested – i.e. if you only put in 50% of your effort, you will get close to 0% of the results. But if you put in 100% of effort, you will get 100% of the results. That’s why it’s important to invest as much effort as you can, maintain a sustainable healthy work ethic throughout the year, and not be distracted by non-important tasks.
Keep a todo list and follow through with your plans
All effective time-managers keep a todo list. Split your tasks into 3 categories and put a number / letter next to them to remind you of which they belong to:
Your student diary can fulfil this task. In our modern age, you can also consider using your iphone to synchronise with google docs so that you have access to your todo list everywhere (while at school, or on the train etc).
Watch your sleep
The human body works most efficiently when you maintain a constant sleep schedule. Sleeping at around the same time every night (not too late) will ensure you’re energetic and motivated during the day. It’s impossible to follow through with any time management plan / todo list if you’re lethargic all day. As a general rule, aim to reserve 8 hours of sleep each night – and you can’t sleep bank (i.e. sleep 6 hours for 3 nights, then 10 hours over the weekend) – it doesn’t work and will leave you fatigued and unmotivated during the day.
About the Author
Terry Wu is a maths tutor at Dux College. Having achieved an almost perfect ATAR himself in 2009 and HSC state ranks, he is an expert at time management and study skills. He is a passionate advocate of the ability for students to do well in the HSC through ‘acquired skills’ such as effective time management, effective study skills and learning exam technique.
When searching for maths tutoring, (whether it is for a private maths tutor or a coaching centre that offers maths), knowing a few things will help you find one that’s genuinely helpful.
What subjects do they offer?
The list of subjects offered by a tuition centre will indicate their level of expertise. For example, many tuition centres or private tutors will offer all levels of maths, except maths extension 2. As a general rule, if you’re searching for good maths tutoring, we advise you to find only private tutors / tuition centres that offer extension 2. Maths is a very integrated subject, and any one topic can’t ever be fully separated from another – there are connections on every level and a knowledgeable tutor will have no problem teaching any level of high-school maths, including Extension 2.
Know the principal(s) and their background
For tuition centres, find out as much as you can about the principals – the person(s) that make the decision. What background are they? Mathematics / sciences? English / humanities? The background of the principals give an excellent predictor of what the institution will be strong at. The reason is simple: if the principal makes all the decisions, and has a background in maths / sciences, he/she would be in a better position to make the right decisions in terms of course design / tutor hiring decisions than a person without the right background.
Franchises are hit and miss. You may find one where a particular teacher of a particular subject is great, but generally the entire operation is not as organised / focused as a tuition company that carries their own name. Usually with franchises, the quality of the operation of the head office differs significantly to branch offices. We won’t delve further into this issue as it would be mean of us to name names – our advice here is to seek out a free trial lesson if you’re interested, before making up your mind.
While we’re a tuition college, we still acknowledge that private tutors can be great, but finding a great one can be tough, especially on a budget. In finding one, just keep in mind the following:
Free Trial lessons
All reputable tuition companies offer trial lessons in some form. It’s unreasonable for a place to require upfront payment of an entire term (effectively signing a contract for 10 weeks or more) before you’ve even had a chance to try it and make an informed decision. By all means, shop around as much as you can (as much as time permits, it’s important not leave it till too late as joining in the middle of a programme could mean you’ve missed some topics or modules).