Students’ lives are busy – up to seven hours of school, five days a week, plus sports, co-curricular activities, jobs, leisure time, a good night’s sleep. How do they find time for study and homework? Are you worried about your son’s propensity to procrastinate or get distracted?
The key to managing study time effectively is good organisation and time management. If your son can master these, it will decrease the risk of stress and increase his success at school.
We recommend two formal strategies for managing study time that will encourage your son to get organised and manage his time better.
Getting Things Done (GTD)
Developed by Productivity Consultant, David Allen, the GTD system is based on the notion of moving planned tasks and projects out of the mind and recording them externally. This frees the mind up to concentrate on the tasks themselves, rather than wasting time trying to recall them after a busy day. As soon as the teacher announces an assignment, exam, or homework, or your son needs to remember something he needs to do, he should write it on his list immediately. Encourage your son to use a pen and paper, the notes app on his phone, or another app.
This system can be broken down in the following ways:
1. Make daily to-do lists
Consult your term calendar for due dates, and prioritise your to-do list. Your term calendar is date-specific (when is something due?) and your to-do list is context-specific (what do I have to do?).
2. Break down tasks into ‘actions’
The to-do list should be very specific. Don’t just write ‘History Assignment.’ Instead, write down the actions that need to be completed in order to finish the history assignment. This will allow your son to track his progress, manage his time better and stay focused. Below is an example of a to-do list broken down into actions:
• Review class notes 10/9
• Write Chapter 5 summary 10/9
• Self-test Chapter 5 10/9
• Choose supplementary text 12/9
• Plan essay intro and body 16/9
• Email group to meet up 18/9
• Search Library database 18/9
Remind your son to be specific! He also needs to be well prepared, starting work on assignments or study for exams several weeks beforehand, and he should make sure he works on more than just immediate priorities.
Crossing out actions as he completes them will be a positive motivator for your son as it gives him a visible representation of his progress.
Named after the shape of the kitchen timer used by its creator (a tomato), the Pomodoro technique allows your son to monitor how much time it takes him to do a task, such as homework or an assignment, and it will keep him focused.
Grab a kitchen timer, egg timer, or mobile phone timer (or download one of several Pomodoro apps).
As your son starts his study, ask him to set the timer to 25 minutes.
When the timer rings, your son has completed one Pomodoro timer. He should then write a tick on a piece of paper to track his progress and take a 5-10 minute break, before starting the timer again.
Four Pomodoro timers (four ticks) equals one set (equivalent to two hours of study with breaks).
Once your son has completed one set, he can take a longer break – anywhere between 15-30 minutes to recharge.
Start your next Pomodoro timer, or set.
The more your son uses this technique, the better he will get at figuring out how long a task or an assignment will roughly take, and the better he can plan his time.
If your son finishes a task and the Pomodoro timer is still going, he should devote the time to over-learning or review. If the timer goes off while your son is writing the best essay of his life, he should keep going! It’s a productivity system, so it can be flexible to accommodate periods of high productivity.
If your son is being distracted by his own thoughts or worries, get him to keep a worry pad – if anything pops into his head during the Pomodoro timer, he can write it down and come back to it in his break or at the end of his study time. This will allow him to have absolute focus.
Research conducted by Microsoft in 2015 discovered that the human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in the year 2000 (the start of the mobile revolution), to 8 seconds now.
Millennials are chastised for having digital lifestyles, however they are also better at identifying what they do and don’t want to engage with, as well as having more intermittent bursts of high attention.
Your son’s ability to hold attention (or the way his attention functions) hasn’t changed, it is just allocated differently.
How can we turn this into an advantage?
Together with the Pomodoro technique your son can use these bursts of attention to complete tasks more quickly, as his focus will be sharper. Taking regular breaks will consolidate the material, and then he will be refreshed and ready for the next burst of study.
Identify the times when your son appears to have the most energy – is it in the morning, during lunch, or in the evening before bed? Your son will get much more done in one hour of high energy than in three hours of low energy.
Have your son keep study notes or flashcards, or use an app on his phone to study on the go! He can study while waiting, on the bus, in the car, or at the gym.
Encourage your son to listen to podcasts or record himself speaking his notes so he can listen to them on his phone when he’s away from his desk.
At Trinity Grammar School, we go beyond merely teaching subject matter – we teach our boys how to learn and how to do it effectively and efficiently. With a variety of techniques, programmes and assistance we ensure boys are equipped to manage their time well to ensure they reach their full academic potential.
To discover more about the benefits of an all-boys education and to experience the Trinity difference, register for our Open Day.