How to Prioritize Your Schoolwork

Whether you are in high school, college, or graduate school, time management is essential for success. Whatever stage you are in, there will always be lots of assignments and tasks to manage. In the chaos of life, we don’t always prioritize schoolwork the way we should. Read on for some ideas to help with this.  

Make a schedule – and try to stick to it 

There are a lot of different ways to make a schedule. Some people like to use a digital calendar, like Google Calendar or iCalendar, to keep track of tasks and meetings, while others use a physical planner where they can write everything down. Both options can help you keep track of your schedule and avoid being overwhelmed. You can get started by adding the things you do every week (like classes or reoccurring meetings), so you know what times you have available. After that, fill in your days with chunks of time for work, extra curriculars, free time, and social events. Color coding different categories can also be a helpful way to see how much time you are spending on each type of task.  

Break down large tasks into smaller ones 

When making a to-do list, it can be helpful to break big tasks, such as writing an essay, down into smaller tasks, such as ‘write introduction’ or ‘find three resources for essay’. This will help you prioritize working on the assignment without getting overwhelmed by the size of the project.  

Work with friends for accountability 

Working with others can be a great way to make sure you stay on task. Consider going to a coffee shop, café, or library with friends where you can work together on an assignment or project. Sometimes having others by our side can help motivate us to stay on task. When you’re taking breaks, this can be a good time to catch up with friends too.  

Experiment with time management 

There are lots of ways to practice time management. One example is the Pomodoro Method. For this method, the goal is to focus on smaller chunks of time, rather than trying to work for hours on end. To do this, you pick a task and then set a timer for how long you want to work. To start, you might try 20 or 25 minutes. After that time is up, you take a 5- or 10-minute break. After a few sessions, take a longer break of 15 or 20 minutes. The goal with this method is to focus on the task at hand – so no checking emails or your phone during the working sessions. This method is just one example and may not work for everyone, so try it out or find a different time management method that works best for you. 

Learn how to say no  

We all balance a lot of different roles in life. While you’re a student, you are also a community member. You may also be a sibling, caretaker, or leader. Additionally, many students balance working while attending school. Whatever your situation, be sure to say no to things when you can. It’s important to make sure that you are taking care of yourself and making time for rest, as well as the activities that rejuvenate you.  

Find your flow 

Most importantly find what works for you! We are all different and require different settings or structures to be our best. This might take a while to figure out, but you’ll get the hang of it. Don’t be afraid to ask friends, family, teachers, mentors, or an academic counselor for help.   


Author: McKalee Steen is a member of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, and is currently a PhD candidate at UC Berkeley in the Environmental Science, Policy, and  Management department. She is passionate about studying Indigenous land  stewardship practices, providing resources for Indigenous youth, and the power of  storytelling.

Published: July 28th, 2023

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