Monday, February 11, 2013

When Time Is A Limited Commodity, Something Has To Give

Dear Tazi:

I started high school this year and since my classes now start earlier than ever, and I live further than ever from school, I have to get up earlier than ever – by 6 AM to catch the school bus for 7 AM. If I want to take a shower in the morning instead of at night, I have to wake up at 5 AM. Because I am not getting as much sleep as I need, my grades have been slipping.

My report card just came in, and I got C-minuses in two classes. My Mom flipped out because I used to be a straight A/B student. She realizes that it is because I am not getting enough sleep, and has told me that I must go to bed earlier – no later than 9 PM.

Tazi, I play sports and need to keep a minimum of a C- in all of my classes, so it’s not like I am going to start failing. I usually have practice or a game after school, and I work part-time for my father on weekends. I can’t quit my job because I am responsible for paying my own future bills – like the price of a car with insurance and a college education – and I can’t quit my sport because I am hoping it will lead to scholarship money in college. Plus, it is the only time I get to exercise or spend any time with my friends. Because of my crazy schedule I am usually up until 11 o’ clock every night doing homework – some nights even later.
My parents don’t want to hear excuses as to why I need to cut back on work (I asked and got a lecture about what to expect when I am an adult); my teachers don’t want to hear excuses about why I can’t complete my assignments (they tell me I need to set aside an hour a night for homework for each class I am taking); and I can’t take a study hall instead of gym class (I already tried asking). I don’t know what else to do, Tazi, except resign myself to living like this for the next three and a half years and hope that it gets better in college.

Tired Teenager

Dear Tired Teenager:

I, too, would be tired if I had your schedule, but then I am a cat and am used to sleeping a lot, so I asked the humans in my life if your schedule is as backbreaking as it sounds, and they agreed that it is. Teenagers, like cats, need a lot of sleep. Sleep nurtures the growing body of someone your age, and you are simply not getting enough of it.

The pressures put on teenagers today are enormous. Your father is right that as an adult you will need to work hard in order to succeed, but you will at least be able to see some of the fruits of your labor in a more immediate time frame; being in school can feel like work for no pay, and that’s downright demoralizing.

You sound like a mature young person, having explored all of your avenues and tried to talk matters through with your parents before writing to me. As an athlete, I know you need medical clearance to play sports, so I am going to assume you have had a recent check-up and are in overall good physical health. This means that your tiredness is strictly related to your schedule and your lack of sleep; this means, I can help you!

I suggest that you work on your time management. Humans have a tendency to waste time without even realizing it – that is, until they write down how much time it takes them to complete tasks and they see chunks of unaccounted time in their day. A good way to plan your day is to make an Excel spreadsheet and fill it in with your various activities and the time they take. Across the top row put the days of the week; down the side, the hours of the day – you can use 15 minute, ½ hour, or 1 hour increments, whatever your preference, but start with the time you wake up and end with the time you would like to go to bed. Next, fill in your day!

Start with “morning preparations” and block out how much time it takes you to get ready (be realistic); next, block out your school day; your practice and game schedule; and your work schedule. In the blocks that are left over, block in time to do homework, and even squeeze in a little free time for yourself. Next is the most important step – sticking to the schedule.

If you block out three hours each evening to do homework, make sure you are doing homework during those three hours – not checking your email, not checking Facebook, not staring off into space, but doing three quality hours of homework, with a few 5 minute breaks – and no more than 5 minutes – thrown in every half hour or so.

Once you have blocked out your schedule, you will be able to see where you have been wasting time (we all do it) and improve upon your habits. Your parents and teachers will be able to see just how overscheduled you really are and, now that you have a case to present, you might be able to schedule a study hall session during the school day. In the end, if there is simply no way to get more productive time out of your day, something will have to give. Would you be able to cut back on your work schedule if you promise your father to work extra over school vacations and summer break? Would you be able to drop one of the sports you play in order to cut down on the commitment to practices and games? While such a decision may not be ideal, it will be your first lesson in being an adult: learning that you can’t always get what you want (but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need!).


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

No comments:

Post a Comment