This post was written by Cupertino High School student, Sania Mehta, residing in Cupertino, CA. Sania is an advocate for reducing the stigma surrounding mental health in her local community. Neolth partnered with Cupertino High School students to share their stories and reduce stigma.
“There isn’t enough time in the day.” This statement remains constant in a considerable number of individuals’ vocabulary. While it may be spoken lightly, we often fail to balance the stressful elements of our lives with their more mundane counterparts. While it may feel good to be constantly occupied – and, in many cases, needed – too many commitments can lead to burnout, which engenders severe physical and mental health concerns.
Challenge Success, a nonprofit affiliated with the Stanford University Graduate School of Education, has surveyed over 145,000 high school students from high-performing high schools during the last 15 years. They have discovered that procrastination or time management is a major source of stress for 55 percent of high school students who took their survey.
Living in today’s reality, oftentimes, society equates being busy with a badge of honor, and too many of us place value on cramming “just one more item” into our already jam-packed schedules. This struggle of balancing time is often overlooked, and the reason behind this issue often eludes us. Are you busy, are you not managing your time well – or is it a little bit of both?
“I’m stressed out, exhausted, and my life seems to be all over the place. I have no work-life balance and each one of my commitments is consuming all of my time and energy. I have no clue what to do or where even to start to get back on track,” said a Cupertino High junior.
Time management is essential to combat these negative emotions. This skill helps you prioritize your tasks to ensure you have enough time to complete every project. The quality of your work is enriched when you are not hurrying to finish it ahead of a fast-approaching deadline. Each individual has a method that assists them in staying on top of their tasks.
Tasks can be broken down into long-term, short-term, and reasonable milestones. A sense of accomplishment surfaces once you arrive at each milestone, which can boost your self-esteem. The inability to tackle all tasks may indicate ineffective time management, negatively impacting your self-esteem and mental health. As stated in a meta-analysis on the effectiveness of time management, our ability to categorize tasks and manage our time can help mitigate anxiety, depression, and even problems in the quality of sleep every night (Aeon et al., 2021).
While it may seem overwhelming at first, there are many simple, effective methods for managing your time. You can utilize a combination of the following tactics and tools to achieve successful time management—and better mental health as a result.
“One piece of advice I like to impart on all underclassmen is the importance of time management. Once I realized that time management was the key to all my struggles, and actively took steps to improve upon this skill, my work ethic started to improve and in turn, my free time increased as well,” states a Cupertino High senior.
Prioritizing tasks based on importance and urgency: Create a to-do list & prioritize. Work on setting time aside to create a to-do list for the week, and then prioritize what is urgent and important so you know how to schedule the week.
Setting Boundaries: We all understand there are many tasks needed to complete in a day, whether work-related or family-related. Due to this, setting boundaries can be beneficial for managing your time. Make sure to set boundaries early on in order to separate your home, work, relationships, and social life.
Setting SMART goals: A SMART goal is used to guide goal setting. The acronym SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Therefore, a SMART goal incorporates all of these criteria to help focus your efforts and increase the probability of achieving your goal.
The Pomodoro Method: This time management method advises you to alternate pomodoros — focused work sessions — with frequent transient breaks to promote sustained concentration and stave off mental fatigue.
Self-Care: Life is overwhelming and stressful. Managing time is difficult, but self-care – at least once a week – can help you rejuvenate and feel refreshed to continue tackling your to-do list and anything else needing a portion of your time. Remember, the more efficient you manage your time, the more at peace you will be regarding your mental health.
Taking advantage of these strategies to enhance your time management will only yield positive results. Having better time management improves your self-discipline, which – in turn – enhances your competency and probability of getting a promotion and strengthens your self-esteem. It can also diminish your likelihood of experiencing burnout, as it ensures you have more time to rest and deal with other factors that cause mental, emotional, or physical distress. With plenty of time to attend to your work, you feel less overwhelmed and anxious. By scheduling your time out in chunks, you can boost your productivity and engagement. When you prioritize your tasks, there is less time for other concerns to weigh you down.
Aside from these tips, the first step comes from within you. You have to want to manage your time better. You have to want to change to better your mental health. You have to want to change and succeed. Change can be terrifying, but when you are struggling and feel as if your mental health is not where it should be, take the time to reevaluate how you are managing your time.