“But how do I make time to study and complete homework?” A question asked of many of our tutors, by a wide range of students. These students are understandably overwhelmed: classes take up upwards of 35 hours a week, with most students also balancing hours of sports, extracurricular activities, home lives, and work responsibilities. For some students, making time in between these commitments for additional schoolwork can be extremely challenging. No wonder so many of our tutors are asked to help students develop work study habits such as scheduling and keeping up with assignment due dates.
When my students ask me this question, I take my answer directly from my own experience. As an adult living with ADHD, I have found online calendar apps and sites that save your events to the cloud for easy access and editing on any device to be a life saver. These programs come with a variety of options and are often included with school-assigned emails or student portals. Any application or website that allows you to create your own events and reminders can be used to balance your schedule. I will be using Google Calendar to demonstrate this practice, because their view of daily and weekly schedules allows for an easy visual with which to spot gaps and conflicts.
Lesson 1: Avoiding Conflicts
The first step to using these calendars to their maximum potential is to make sure that the calendar can accurately depict the events in your life. This means entering the largest and least flexible events in your day to day schedule into the calendar. Some users may feel that they will remember that they have class for seven hours every day, but entering those times are crucial to avoiding conflicts. Please see the picture below for an example:
This student has school every day and works twice a week, entered respectively in blue and red blocks. By having these set and dependable commitments on your schedule represented visually in the calendar, you can visually approximate how much free time you have in which to schedule your studying. These dependable events are also useful because they can be extended to include the time it takes to commute to and from them. This keeps you from scheduling events on top of each other, giving you no time to go from one to the other. It is also important, as a teen, that students schedule sleep, so they can be sure to stop in time to get a full 8 hours. This student has 73 free hours, if we include the 16 over the weekend.
If we assume that this student needs an hour every week to complete the homework from one class, this student could have at most 6 hours of homework a week. But, because this is a low estimate and additional time must be spent on studying and more elaborate projects, we will round this number up to 10 hours per week to be scheduled for homework/studying. Considering time is needed for family, socialization, and life in general, the following sample study event plan is one of many configurations that could fit into this sample schedule:
Lesson 2: Stay Reactive by Rescheduling on the Fly
This schedule has a repetitive feature, in that it occurs at a relatively same time everyday, allowing the student to be more intellectually prepared to work at these times. However, different students may need study times that occur at different times each day, to fit their schedule or work habits. But what if such an event were to come up during a previously scheduled homework/study block? Check the image below for an example:
This unavoidable event, printed in yellow, is going to take an hour and a half of study and homework time. Assuming that the work needs to be done by Wednesday, this time must be offset before this event. When offsetting homework and study time, I advise students to guard against overwhelming yourself by stacking too many events or work without break or pause. I also suggest that students keep in mind whatever events or routines have not made it on to the calendar when you place the offset study time, which is why effective scheduling requires that we make online calendars to accurately reflect our lives. Take this suggestion, as an example. The time has been offset by adding half an hour to Monday’s session and adding an hour to Tuesday before work:
Lesson 3: Use Reminders to Meet Due Dates
One of the most widespread struggles among students asking for help developing their study skills is the meeting of due dates. Due dates give us a specific time work must be completed by, but they don’t indicate how to allocate time to make sure the project is done. Complicating this, the more tasks we put into the forefront of our mind to remember and juggle, the harder it can be to focus. Remembering that a calendar is designed to do the juggling of our commitments for us, I recommend using reminders to judge the length of time we have to complete a project, and then allocating a projected portion of homework and study time to devote to the project well before that time. Making sure that projects are going to be worked on well in advance of due dates allows us to account for projects that take more time than we expect, such as when mistakes we can learn from are made, and this also helps our schedule adapt to events that must be scheduled when we would normally work. Please refer to this example reminder presented in a monthly view of the calendar:
Though this view is not as enlightening as a weekly view, we can see that this student has nine days to complete this project, which holds some 12 hours of homework and study time in which to do it. The next step, assigning a length of work time to the project, is tricky. Every assignment is different and every student requires a different frame of time in which to work. Only by reflecting on their previous experience with similar projects, can a unique student guestimate on the time that the project will require. Let us say that this student thinks the example project will take 4 hours. Here is a possible division of that time among available timeslots:
And there you have it! For more lessons on study skills, including studying efficiently and effectively with the time you have allotted, please call or email AJ to get fitted with a tutor who can help you take your studying even further.