Thursday: Organize Your Life…


Organizing Life


How to Make Your Students See How Crazy Their Lives Are

By: Joe Cook

            Your student has school until the late afternoon, then lacrosse practice until 6, then homework, then… As parents and teachers, it’s enough to make our heads explode in some kind of synchronized burst set to Beethoven’s Fifth. But for the students, it may be even worse, relegating them to be reactors and/or firefighter level students (see yesterday’s blog post about levels of students; that’s right, I’m going to make you earn it!). I recently had success with a planning activity for one of my students and thought I’d share. (And there was much rejoicing: yayyyy!)

My example student is the type where time is an issue, but in the reverse of most of my students. scheduleMost of my students, for the most part, can’t visualize time and thus run into a time crunch just to turn assignments when due. To these students, time is nearly infinite until it’s not; then they scramble to get things done. However, my example student sees time as infinite as well, but instead of putting things off, he adds activities. A lot of activities! A teetering mountain of them. He adds extracurricular activities like the rest of us add bad habits. Part of this is because he is interested in everything and carries so much passion about things that it is truly a beautiful thing to see. But as we all know, time is not infinite, it is finite, and sometimes we have to make decisions about where to spend that time. I did not want to adversely affect his enthusiasm, but I (and his parents) wanted him to think about where he was spending his time.

I began by having him write down all the things he did during a week—school, travel time, friend time, girlfriend time, family time, all of his extracurricular activities. The list grew long. I then had him estimate how much time he spent doing these activities per week. I calculated how many hours a week actually has (168) and then subtracted sleep time (56 hours), showing him that if he only slept 8 hours per night, his available hours would be 112. Total. That’s it, well, until my unicorn army and I invent a time machine.

Wait, who said anything about a time machine? Forget I said that; that’s top secret.

I then added up his time estimations and subtracted them from the 112 available hours and he had…

[Drum roll echoes. Audience waits on the edge of their seats.]

3.5 hours extra per week. That’s right, 3.5 hours available total spread over 7 days. He then noticed he hadn’t calculated family dinners into his original computation. 30 minutes, 7 days a week. That left him with 0 free hours; everything was accounted for, every single minute of every single day.

If one day he decided to take a walk and gaze fondly at the budding leaves of spring, it would cut into an activity. If he decided to eat dinner a bit slower one night, it would cut into time already allotted to something else. If he decided to use the bathroom for an extended period of time, well, you get the point.

appt bookAnyway, here’s the important part: I then had him rank the activities from most important to least important. This was hard. This was excruciating. He had to make tough decisions and there was much furrowing of the brow. Finally, he did it. I then had him rank each activity as to how much effort he thought he was giving it, from 1-10. He followed this with ranking each activity by how much effort he wanted to give each. Not surprisingly, most activities were found wanting.

We then had a frank conversation about the finite-ness of time (that may not be a word, but I’m the writer…  ) We talked about how some things would have to be dialed back in order to let the others flourish. He nodded sagely, and then told me which ones he was willing to dial back and why.

By making time visual, by doing the math, and blocking it out, my student was able to see where his time was being spent and, shocker, why he was a little stressed and tired all the time.

Sometimes just seeing things differently is enough to create a change. reduce speed graphic

  1. Pam Iken
    Pam Iken04-05-2015

    Joe, you are so RIGHT ON with this process! I hear so many parents bragging about how their kids are involved with this sport and that hobby, this club and that activity. While I am a HUGE proponent of kids being involved in some kind of group/hobby, I think we WAY over commit our kids. Let’s help our young ones to not lead a life of RUSH RUSH RUSH and EXHAUSTION. Instead, let’s help them prioritize and have margin. Relaxation and rest are so important and under valued; we don’t get them unless we consciously decide what our days will look like. Great job, Joe!

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