Skip to main content

Time Management - for High School Students

Check out these time management and study tips for teens!

Check out these time management and study tips for teens!

What is Time Management

You’ve probably heard a lot about time management and how important it is, but do you really understand the concept? Think about it this way: there are only twenty-four hours in a day, and if you’re a high school student, you need to spend at least eight of those hours sleeping. If you eat three meals a day plus snacks, as most teens do, that’s about another two hours or so that are accounted for. We’re now down to fourteen “usable” hours. The average high school day lasts about seven hours, so when you subtract those, that leaves you with just seven hours, and I haven’t even taken into account the time you spend driving or riding to and from school. If you have an after-school job or other after-school commitments like sports or clubs, the hours you can call your own are even fewer. And don’t forget – you probably have to spend a significant amount of time studying and/or completing homework assignments. Pretty depressing, isn’t it? How in the world is the average teenage high school student supposed to have any type of fun or social life at all? The answer lies in proper time management.

Make time for healthy meals.

Make time for healthy meals.


For effective time management, you have to learn to prioritize. There’s no way that you can do everything you’d like to do, or to do everything others want you to do. What activities are the most important to you? As I’ve already intimated, don’t skimp on sleep, as your health should be at the top of your list of priorities. Missing a few hours of snooze time here and there is okay, but you should shoot for at least eight hours of sleep almost every night. In fact, according to the National Sleep Foundation, teens need nine hours and fifteen minutes of quality sleep a night. You might be thinking that sleeping that much is wasting valuable time, but that’s not entirely correct. In the long run, getting plenty of shuteye can mean that you function more efficiently in your waking hours, so you might actually save time by getting adequate rest.

Eating well should also be at the top of your list of priorities. Grabbing a greasy burger on the run is not the way to eat healthy. Again, you might think that hurriedly wolfing down fast food is a good way to save time, but that’s another misconception. Your diet often has a lot to do with your overall health. Be sure to include lean protein, calcium, fresh fruits and veggies, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats in your diet. When you have a strong body with a capable immune system, you’ll be less susceptible to illnesses. And, of course, being sick in bed for a few days is certainly not a boon for time management. Also, when you get the right amount of nutrients and exercise, your brain and body will function more efficiently, so you could very well be able to complete required tasks more quickly, saving time in the end.

Your education should also be a high priority. Yes, I’m a retired high school teacher, and I think education is a key to your success and happiness as an adult. School isn’t a place where you should skimp. There’ll be a lot of times when you have to make important decisions regarding school. Should you go out with friends or stay at home and study? Should you play a team sport or devote more time to your schoolwork? Can your schoolwork afford for you to have a part-time job? In many cases, with the right time management skills, you’ll find that you have time for things other than sleep, meals, and schoolwork. No, you won’t have time to do everything as much or as often as you like, but you should have adequate time for work and play.

Make a list of your priorities, listing the most important first. Schedule adequate time for these must-do tasks. Look at your schedule and make time for your second most important activities. Continue doing this with everything you hope to accomplish. Don't forget to make time for some fun and relaxation, which can be important stress-relievers.

Once you have your priorities in order, you'll need to learn to say "no." It's easy to get overloaded with commitments, and when you spread your time too thin, some areas are bound to suffer. Don't let your most important priorities fall victim. If you have something important to do, but your pals want you to do something else with them, tell them you can't join them and explain why. If they're real friends, they'll understand.

Use a calendar to post deadlines and important events.

Use a calendar to post deadlines and important events.

Time Management – Classes

When you’re signing up for classes, keep time management in mind. Most high schools in the United States are now on block scheduling – four classes per semester. It might be tempting for you to get all your “hard” classes out of the way in the first semester so that you’ll have more leisure time in the spring, but that’s usually a bad idea. Every semester, you should choose a mix of hard, demanding courses and easier classes. Think about the work that each class requires. For example, if you’re taking an advanced literature class, you’re going to be spending a lot of time reading and writing. The same often holds true for advanced history classes, so taking two such classes in the same semester might not be such a great idea. A better choice is often to take a math class with a literature or history class. And then there’s the other “big” core class, science. Most science classes require far less reading than literature classes, and they usually require less reading than advanced history classes demand. They do, however, almost always require more reading than math classes require. With that in mind, a good strategy might be to take literature and math one semester, and to take history and science another semester.

Let’s talk for just a moment about AP, or advanced placement, classes. It’s pretty tough for most students to take more than one AP class per semester. Oh, it can be done, but if the classes are truly AP classes, you’ll spread yourself thin trying to be successful in more than one AP class in a single semester. If you have to choose between AP classes, pick the one that will be more closely related to your college major – if you’ve decided on one. For example, if you want to attend medical school, an AP science class will be more important to you than an AP literature class will be. If, however, you hope to major in journalism in college, an AP lit/writing class will be much more beneficial to you than an AP science or math class will be. Again, this all ties in to time management.

Organization is a must!

Organization is a must!


One of the best time management tools you can use is organization, and planning ahead is a crucial element with time management. I suggest getting a large calendar and placing it on the desk in your study area. At the beginning of each semester, go over the syllabus for each class as soon as you get it. Write down important due dates on your calendar for each class. You might want to use a color-coded system for this. For example, you can use a red pen for one class, blue for another, and so on. When the calendar is right there at your work space, it can serve as a constant reminder of when major assignments and projects are due. As a backup system, you might want to post reminders to yourself in obvious places that you're sure to see.

Of course, you can use the calendar for commitments and activities other than school, too. You might want to use it to jot down dates and times for appointments, meetings, sports practices and games, and social events. If you keep your calendar current, a quick glance will let you know when you have some free time and when you need to meet deadlines.

Organization is also important for your work/study area. Keep everything you’ll need within reach: pens, pencils,pencil sharpeners, gem clips, a stapler, an eraser, notebooks, highlighters, correction fluid, notebook paper, a college dictionary, a thesaurus, etc. Use a separate drawer or folder for each class, and use desktop organizers. Every time you have to stop to go get something you need, your train of thought will jump the tracks, so have items easily accessible. You might also want to keep a clock on the desk to give you an idea of how much time you’re spending on each subject.

Plan ahead for some fun activities, too. You know what they say about all work and no play. Engaging in enjoyable activities relieves stress, which is actually good for managing your time. A refreshed mind and body will be more efficient when it comes to schoolwork. I’ve found that I often have a “Eureka!” moment when I’m doing something enjoyable that’s totally unrelated to work.

With organization, it's also important to look at the "big picture." In other words, recognize your long term goals and what they mean to you now and what they'll mean for your future. Doing so will help keep you motivated and working toward your goals.

I like listening to classical music and Celtic melodies while I'm reading and writing.

I like listening to classical music and Celtic melodies while I'm reading and writing.

Time Management Tips – Study Skills

I’ve been a student and a teacher, so I know that using the right study skills can be important time management tips. First of all, use your time in class to your full advantage. Anything you can get done in class means you won’t have to do it at home. Listen carefully to the teacher, and ask questions when you’re confused. Take good notes so that you can review them later.

If you want to be a better student, you might not need to study longer – you might just need to study better. Good study skills can help you absorb and remember information better, which also helps with your time management strategies. Break large amounts of information into smaller blocks that are more manageable. Scan the chapter first and jot down any unfamiliar words or terms. Look them up and make sure you understand their meanings before reading in earnest. When you’re reading a chapter, pay special attention to headings, bold and italicized print, diagrams, and picture captions. These often emphasize key points. Oftentimes, a chapter will include questions at the end. Don’t skip these, even if answering them hasn’t been officially assigned. More than likely, the questions will provide an excellent review of the information presented.

Scroll to Continue

Review material a little every day. Doing so will keep the information fresh in your mind and help avoid long “cram sessions” before a test. If you’re studying for a big test or working on a big project, schedule in some breaks. Your brain can effectively process new information for so long, and after that, it might sort of “shut down.” This amount of time is different for everyone, so you’ll need to do a little experimenting to find your “magic number.” Let’s say your effective study time is two hours. If you need to study longer, take a break after the first two hours and give your brain a rest. You might be surprised at how much more efficient your learning is after a break. Also, it’s usually best not to study two different but similar subjects during the same session, as the information can get confusing.

Have a special place for schoolwork and studying. The spot should be quiet, comfortable, and well appointed with needed materials and supplies. When your brain is in “study mode,” you don’t need distractions. Many of my students swear they study better with some music in the background, and if this is the case with you, choose music that doesn’t include singing. Whether you’re willing to admit it or not, listening to lyrics can be a distracting influence. Use the work area only for work and studying. That way, when you sit at your desk or table, your brain will most likely go immediately into study mode.

Following are some special time management tips for writing assignments. Pay attention, as I know what I’m talking about. I taught high school and college literature and writing for years, so you can trust me here. Always start with a good basic outline – on paper. Jot down some headings or main ideas for paragraphs, along with ideas you already have for each. Leave the outline alone for a few hours. You’ll probably find that new ideas will pop into your head while you’re doing something else. Add these to your outline. Once your outline is complete, begin forming your introduction, including your main points. Next, begin crafting your paragraphs. Use transitional elements so that there’s a natural flow to your writing. One paragraph should lead naturally to the next. Craft your conclusion last, and be sure not to introduce any new information here. Once you’ve completed your first draft, leave it alone for a while. It’s difficult to proofread your own writing while it’s still “fresh.” I’ve probably made some mistakes in this article, but I might not notice them for a day or so. When your writing is “cold,” you can find your mistakes more easily and correct them.

Time Management is easier when you combine activities.

Time Management is easier when you combine activities.

Time Management Tips – Combining Activities

You’ve heard of “killing two birds with one stone,” right? Employ some time management tips that allow you to do just that. For example, you can study while you’re sitting down to a nutritious meal. How? Ask your teachers if you can bring a tape recorder to class and tape the lectures. If he or she agrees, take advantage of the situation. While you’re eating, you can listen to the tapes. If you’re an auditory learner, this is a great way to study. Even if you aren’t primarily an auditory learner, hearing the material will still give you a better understanding and a good review. You can use the taped sessions while walking, jogging, running, and working out at the gym, too. If you’ve been assigned a book to read, order an audio version. If you’re chiefly an auditory learner, you’ll understand the book better by hearing it.

If you enjoy jogging or running, and it's your job to take out the dog, take the pooch on a jog with you. Instead of walking or driving to the library or to a friend's house, run or jog, instead. Combining activities to better manage your time is really just a matter of common sense.

Studying or doing homework doesn’t have to be a solitary activity. Invite a classmate over for a study date. During breaks, the study session can also serve as a social occasion. Before a big exam, you might want to have several friends over for a group study session. These can be productive and fun. Have each participant come up with some questions from the material to be tested, and turn them into sort of a Jeopardy game.

I’ve already mentioned the importance of eating healthy meals. Why not turn dinnertime into a date? Clear it with your parents first, and then invite a friend over to share a meal with you. Afterwards, the two of you could have a study session together. Doing something like this is like killing three birds with one stone. You’ll eat, study, and get to spend time with a friend all at the same time. You can use similar time management strategies for other activities, too.

Time Management at a glance:

HealthPrioritizeOrganizeStudy Skills

get adequate sleep

make a list of priorities

plan ahead

create a quiet work/study area

reduce stress

schedule time for the most important first

use a calendar

preview reading material

eat healthy meals

schedule the second most important next

use notebooks and folders

define new words/terms


schedule some fun time

use desk organizers

break large blocks of info into smaller ones

engage in enjoyable activities

choose your class load wisely

study the syllabus for each class

pay special attention to bold/italicised words


learn to say "no"

have all needed items at your work/study area

pay special attention to headings


don't get overloaded

combine activities when you can

read all captions, diagrams, and tables


identify long term goals

post reminders in obvious places

use audio tapes when possible

Time Management Skills Can Make Your Life Easier!

If you think time management sounds like a lot of needless trouble, think again. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll find that managing your time wisely will make your life a heck of a lot easier and more enjoyable. With the right time management skills, your schoolwork will improve, and you’ll still be able to have some “down time.” Remember to manage your health by getting good nutrition, some exercise, and plenty of sleep. Plan ahead whenever you can, and get organized. Whenever you have the opportunity, combine activities, and use good study skills to get the most out of your study time. Honestly, you’ll discover that the time you invest in time management skills and strategies will pay off big in the long run. And, by the way, it’s never too late to start using time management strategies, even if you’re in the middle of a semester. You might want to incorporate the strategies gradually, if you think that will work better for you. Once you learn to use effective time management, you’ll kick yourself for not using it sooner!


kbdressman from Harlem, New York on May 05, 2015:

Great post for people of all ages! The man or woman that can use the clock to his or her own ability finds much more success than the man or woman who can't! Thanks for the tips and the explanations. This is definitely an area in which most people could do better!

Howard Schneider from Parsippany, New Jersey on May 01, 2015:

Excellent Hub, Holle. Time management is key for everyone of all ages but especially for energetic and unfocused teenagers.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on July 03, 2013:

Lena, maybe when he/she gets a little older, you can teach time management skills. You can always come back to this hub - hopefully! lol

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on July 03, 2013:

Rose, thanks so much for your vote of confidence!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on July 03, 2013:

Yes, Doc, I think Time Management Classes should be required. Maybe they should start in the 7th or 8th grade, with a refresher course in 9th grade.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on July 02, 2013:

Excellent, detailed instructions which anyone can apply. Thanks for this very useful and thoughtful article.

Lena M. Christine from Winchester, KY on July 02, 2013:

Great information, if only I could get my middle schooler to listen to these and use them. lol

rose-the planner from Toronto, Ontario-Canada on July 02, 2013:

What an excellent article with useful information and tips! Well done! Thank you for sharing. (Voted Up) -Rose

drbj and sherry from south Florida on July 02, 2013:

Wouldn't it be great, Holle, if our high schools, both junior and senior, offered a class like this in Time Management to every student. Imagine the positive difference that could make. Yup, I know, I'm dreaming again.

Related Articles