As a student-athlete, you’ve probably learned already that your schedule is not going to look the same as those of your friends who aren’t in sports. You don’t have as much luxury to hang out on weeknights or spend hours on social media. Your minutes are counted, literally, and each one of them counts. It’s not uncommon for student-athletes to feel overwhelmed or to suffer from burn-out. But with a few time management tweaks, you’ll be reaping the benefits of both work and play.
Use a Calendar and/or Organizational System
Get organized – your way! Get a planner to mark down your test dates, sports events, practices, and other events. Yes, coaches schedule practices 24 hours ahead of time. Yes, games get rescheduled. You need a way to keep up with constant schedule changes. Make To-Do lists every day to make sure you have that day’s commitments fresh in your mind.
Google Calendar – Sync to your phone; you can check, update, and add to your calendar from any computer, your iPad, or your iPhone or Android phone. (Free)
Remember the Milk – To-Do manager. Create lists of To-Dos for different parts of life (personal, job search, college apps, etc.) and create due dates, priorities, estimated time, and tags for each item. When you have 20 minutes to sit down and write emails, bring up your #email tag and crank away. (Free)
Evernote – Think of Evernote as your web-synced notepad. Jot down ideas and store them in organized notebooks. Create To-Do lists. Take pictures or record audio and store them in your notebooks for reference later. (Free)
Limit Social Media
Social media can be a huge time-sucker. Don’t lose precious hours browsing friends’ Instagram stories, checking Twitter for the 15th time, or group messaging. If you know this is a weakness for you, limit your time on social media to specific hours. You may want to delete or disable apps on your phone to make sure you only access them during your social media time.
Rescue Time – Track how much time you spend on different activities (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Word, browsing Reddit, etc.) on your phone, tablet, and computer. Once you see how much time is really going to unproductive activities, you can choose to create notifications or lock yourself out of unproductive apps after a preset amount of wasted time. (Author’s note: After I realized I’d spent 26 hours on Facebook over 30 days, I uninstalled Facebook from my phone.)
Limit Your Extracurricular Activities
If you’re a committed student and athlete, chances are you’re also involved in other activities. Though you may feel tempted to accept the role of captain of the debate club or secretary of the environmentalist club or the lead role in the school play, consider whether or not you actually have time for all of that. Stretching your time too thin is the quickest way to make sure your grades and athletic performance take a dive. Prioritize and say no to things you know you won’t be able to give your all.
Time Management: 168 Hours a Week
Get Enough Sleep
There’s nothing like sleep deprivation to weaken academic and athletic performance. If you’re managing your time well, not wasting it on social media, and learning to say no, you should have enough time to get a full eight hours of sleep most of the time. There is no substitute for sleep (nope, not even Red Bull or extra strong black coffee). Sleep allows your brain to rest and organize the things you’re experiencing and learning at school. It’s also the time for your body to rest and your muscles to recuperate. For a student-athlete, a good night’s sleep MUST be your new best friend.
“A Good Night’s Sleep for Student Athletes”
Make Time to Eat Healthy, Balanced Meals
It shouldn’t be a challenge for high school athletes to eat. However, you’d be surprised how many athletes skip meals (especially breakfast and dinner). Don’t skip meals. Eating three wholesome, balanced meals per day helps your body stay fit and energized and also helps boost your mental prowess. Don’t be tempted to eat junk food because you’re in a rush. Whole grains, lean meat (or another source of protein), vegetables and fruits are on the menu if you want to stay on top of your game. As a student-athlete, your metabolism is probably in tip-top shape. Yes, you can probably eat a cheeseburger without getting out of shape, but remember that what you eat is either making your body and brain more healthy or less healthy – there isn’t middle ground.
Get Your Work Done Early
Student-athletes cannot be procrastinators. Besides your daily homework assignments, teachers will be doling out long-term projects and papers. Don’t hesitate. Get started on them right away. You can use your calendar to mark the due dates of these projects and plan benchmarks for your progress along the way.
Make Use of Small Pockets of Time Throughout Your Day
Time in between classes, waiting for the bus, study halls – all of these are opportunities for you to get some work done. By the end of the day, those minutes spent doing homework might mean you’ve cut your nightly study time in half. All caught up on homework? Grab a book and read 10 pages instead of picking up your phone.
Develop Good Study Habits
Good study habits will be a time-saver when big tests and exams are coming up (and also great practice for college!). Take a moment to review your notes every day. Constant review and repetition make it much easier to retain information. It also makes it easier to recall it when it’s time for a semester exam.
Use Weekends to Get Ahead, Not to Catch Up
Don’t start using weekends as your catch-up time. If you’re not developing good time management and study skills during the week, what makes you think weekends will be any different? Instead, keep up the pace with your homework and projects during the week and use your weekends to get ahead.
Plan Some Me Time!
Nobody’s a machine, and you will need to have some downtime or you’ll end up burning out. By organizing your academic and sports schedules, you should be able to free up some time to spend relaxing however you choose.
Communicate With Your Teachers
Teachers are usually receptive (and occasionally lenient) to students who have the responsibility to communicate with them. If you have to miss a class or a test because of a sports event, communicate with your teachers ahead of time so you can plan when to make it up. Get in the practice of emailing. Written approval to turn something in a day late is far preferable to a verbal “Oh, sure” from your teacher.
Consider Getting the Help of a Tutor
If you’re really struggling to keep up with your studies but don’t want to throw in the towel on your sports participation yet, consider getting a tutor. Some schools offer free tutoring programs for struggling students. If yours doesn’t, there’s always the option of hiring one if it’s within your family’s means. A tutor can help you prioritize your workload and give you guidance on things you’re not understanding in your coursework. Don’t use this resource as a long-term plan. The goal is for you to be able to independently manage your academic and sports life. But, in an emergency, it can be a good way to avoid crashing and burning and get you back on track.
“Failing to plan is planning to fail.” There are enough things in life outside of your control already: parents, coaches, sports schedules, assignments, family responsibilities, etc. Take control of things you can control: your time, your priorities, your communication, your eating habits, your study habits. You’ll find yourself with a more balanced life, better school performance, and better athletic performance.