The way I learned how to manage my time didn’t involve a serious sit-down-let’s-talk-about-it kind of thing, or even a kindly explanation. My parents don’t work that way; they teach gradually, over time, and in context. During my first year of Classical Conversations Challenge program, they encouraged me to figure it out for myself, and find what worked for me. That is the best way, because when you figure out managing your time by yourself (not without a few gentle nudges, of course) you learn how to learn, and take ownership of your own school work.
Time management, simply put, means the ability to use your time effectively and productively. Why do you need it during Challenge? If there’s one thing to know about the Classical Conversations Challenge program, it’s this: Challenge is a challenge, and Classical Conversations’ definition of that is an impossible amount of school work.
CC may seem impossible. There are days where you’ll wonder if homeschooling is right for you. You might think it’s too hard. But it’s do-able. The secret: good time management. That phrase time management sounds so freaky, I know. But don’t worry. There’s a way to break that down and make it work for you. It’s just a simple matter of making time, eliminating distractions, and creating structure.
1. Making Time
Making time. This is the first step to good time mangagement. Where are you losing big chunks of time unnecessarily? If you want to do Challenge to the fullest, it will dominate your week, including Saturdays. Some activities may not be worth the time they take.
For myself, sports made the Challenge years taxing, especially since I’m not the most energetic type of person. I did ballet during Challenge A and B, only twice a week for a total of three hours. This year, had I continued on to the next grade in dance, I would have to be at the studio 10+ hours a week, not including commuting time. For my personality, I found dance/sports a bit stressful since they take so much time away from the week and decided to find PE elsewhere. We decided to get a gym membership for our high school PE credits.
Music is an important thing to my family and myself. It’s something I can’t give up. I carve out time from Challenge for practicing and playing violin, my main instrument. I also dabble in keyboard/piano, singing, and other various instruments!
Find what works for you and what doesn’t. If sports are something you love to do, that’s fine! Remember, you are in control of your time. That’s the beauty of homeschooling. Just remember that more extracurriculars may mean more time working over the weekends.
Figure out where your priorities lie, and how far you want to go into CC. Are you okay not learning some subjects as well as others? Sometimes this includes paring down CC to fit you. I myself don’t do every single assignment in the Challenge Guide. It just takes way too much time. I tend to want to learn everything 100%, but that isn’t always possible; in fact, it’s unrealistic, unless CC is the only thing on the schedule.
2. Eliminating Distractions
Distractions. Great for procrastinating, wasting time, and never getting anything done. Which is why we need to get rid of them. How to say bye-bye to distractions and hello to productivity? It’s a simple two-step recipe of identifying and eliminating.
First, it starts with identifying. It’s pretty easy. Figure out what your main distractions are. For me, I’ll read anything in sight. Junk mail included (I’ve wasted probably several hours of my life doing that). Having a clear workspace helps me a ton. Maybe for you it’s a phone, a toy, a game, etc. Find out what you gravitate toward.
Second, eliminating. Remember those distractions you identified? Put it away. Out of sight. This is focus time. The act of hiding your distractions so you can’t see it does wonders to your thinking. That way, when you sit down to work on a lesson, you don’t have a reason to be distracted. It’s not completely foolproof, but it makes it harder to procrastinate. For example, when I’m on my laptop writing papers or even a blog post draft, I turn off certain sites on my browser that I know will be distracting. I like BlockSite for focus work on the computer.
3. Creating Structure
Despite how I sometimes feel, and contrary to what I think I want, I actually need structure. As a graduate of five years of Classical Conversations’ Foundations program, I can tell you that my favorite tutor was the one with most structure. People crave structure.
It works, which is why you need it. It’s a key part of time management. With no schedule, it’s too easy to “lose track of time” and “accidentally” spend all day procrastinating. When you give yourself scheduled work time and scheduled play time, you’ll definitely get more done.
There are a variety of ways to create structure, none of them more right than the other. I like to have a planner, a schedule, and a timer. This is especially helpful in the high school years, where hour-tracking is imperative. I’m still figuring that one out! I did begin practicing hour tracking last year during Challenge B and I discovered that a timer really helps.
My sister does the same with her timer. Set a time for focused school work: say, twenty minutes. When the timer rings, take a break for five minutes. And so on. It’s important to work hard and play hard, as the saying goes. By having a particular structure and list of things to do, you don’t have any excuses for procrastination.
Those are the three keys to time management: making time, eliminating distractions, and creating structure. Of course, it won’t work if you don’t make it work. It may be simple, but it isn’t easy. You have to actually do it to make it work.
In the end, you can do everything perfectly, but the real key to time management is yourself.
So go out and conquer your education! Own it, it’s yours! No one can care for you, as my parents like to remind me. This is your time to learn and shine.