By Sofia Schofield
As high schoolers, we all experience some degree of stress and difficulty in managing our time. (If you don’t, we could learn a thing or two from you!) With school, extracurricular activities, and more, it can be difficult to balance the many items on our plates. I talked with professionals in different fields to learn their techniques for improving productivity and reducing stress levels.
Tip #1: Know how you respond to stress.
Stephanie Crowley, yoga instructor at MYNULIFSTUDIO in San Carlos, says it is important to determine how you respond to stress. “People tend to manage stress in one of two ways – either getting active and ‘doing’, or getting still and ‘feeling’. I think it’s crucial to figure out which type of person you are to successfully manage stress…and luckily, yoga can do both!”
Crowley adds that knowing your preferences should determine how you relieve stress. She continues, “Pay attention to what you enjoy doing, what makes you happy, and what you naturally want to do when you’re upset or anxious or stressed. If you enjoy playing sports, going to concerts, and things with a lot of activity and sound, you may be a person for whom ‘letting off steam’ (especially with friends) helps reduce stress. If you enjoy walking or hiking in nature, reading books, or other quiet and sometimes solitary pursuits, you may be better off relieving stress with something quiet and/or being alone.”
Whether you are a “doing” or “feeling” type of person, Crowley says that everyone “can benefit by breathing deep belly breaths – slow deliberate breaths – as this calms the central nervous system and helps reduce the ‘fight or flight’ feeling that stress can produce.”
Tip #2: Be aware of how long tasks will take, and use a planner.
According to study skills coach Susan Kling-Freeman, “It is important to understand how long assignments will take and when they are due…this way you can plan for homework more efficiently, which in turn reduces stress and anxiety.” Once you are aware of how long tasks will take, prioritize “first by when things are due, and then tackle them based on difficulty. You want to expend effort on the harder tasks when you are less tired and can fully concentrate.”
Kling-Freeman also recommends using a planner to stay organized. An effective planner “should contain other commitments such as sports and social events; your planner should help you time manage all aspects of your life, not just homework.” She continues, “Being organized and thus having a good handle on assignments and daily tasks allows you a lot more free time – it really is about working smarter, not harder.”
Tip #3: Limit distractions, take breaks, and reward yourself.
If you want to improve your concentration, Susan Kling-Freeman says, “Put your phone away. It is simple – put your phone on ‘do not disturb’…and see if you don’t finish your homework faster.” She comments, “You will improve your time management by actually taking small breaks; try taking a 5 minute break every 30 minutes or so. These small breaks will increase your efficiency while working, so you will spend less time working on an assignment and more time doing something fun. Think of that fun thing you like to do as a reward for managing your time well.”
Tip #4: View stress differently.
Christy Knott, Health & Wellness Director at d.tech, says that your perspective on stress largely influences how it affects you. Knott says it is crucial to view stress as something that “[helps] motivate you to get stuff done or [have] extra energy to get through a task, assignment, or event” rather than “something terrible”. The Upside of Stress, a book by Kelly McGonigal, helped Knott reach this conclusion: experiencing some stress has a positive impact if you view it as beneficial instead of harmful.
Tip #5: Have clear goals and time limits.
Joanne Conlu, Senior Event Manager at Stanford University, recommends having specific goals of what you will accomplish each day. She says you can improve your productivity on a daily basis by “being intentional about what [you] want done.” Giving herself time limits has helped Conlu to be more productive as well. “At work, I’m very good at time management because…I give myself time limits. I tell myself: for the next 30 minutes, just answer emails, then process 12 invoices, [then for] 15-minutes, connect with clients.” Conlu says, “I could easily get sucked into doing [one task] for hours, but I feel more productive when I divvy up my time with different projects…this way I don’t get bored either!”