Have you heard the expression “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion?” This theory, officially known as Parkinson’s Law, can explain why teens are still up staring at their textbook around midnight even when they started their homework hours earlier. Sure, many kids have lots and lots of homework, but with some simple tips, they could spend their study time more effectively and get to bed before the late, late show.
Here are eight steps your teens can use to make Parkinson’s Law work to their advantage:
- Make a list. This should be a list of everything that has to be done that evening. And I mean, everything—from making a study guide in your StudyBlue app to quizzing yourself on Spanish vocabulary.
- Estimate the time for each item on your list. Be a little ruthless here. Building in buffer time can actually work against you, because you’ll find you will continue working on that subject for the time allotted. However long you think it will take, try shaving off 5 or 10 minutes. But, but realistic. You won’t magically become a speed reader.
- Have supplies at the ready. Gather everything you will need for the assignments you are working on. Getting up for supplies gets you off course and makes it that much harder to resume your homework.
- Turn off all your tech. The blings and beeps are going to make it impossible to focus on what you are working on. Switch off or silence your devices, or leave them in another room until it’s time to take a tech break.
- Time yourself. Noting how much time something actually takes will help you estimate better and plan your next study session. It will also help hold you accountable to the work at hand.
- Don’t get sidetracked. You know how cleaning one room often ends up introducing a tangential project? The same happens with homework. If you’re fact checking online, it can be so easy to surf on over to a completely unrelated site. A better strategy is to note what information you need to find online, and do it all at once at the end of the study session.
- Take breaks. Most of us need a break between subjects or while studying. Active breaks are a great way to keep your energy up. Tech breaks can be an awesome way to combat FOMO (fear of missing out) that might strike while you are buried in your work, but they also tend to stretch much longer than originally intended. Adhere to a break schedule of 10 minutes or so.
- Finish early? Reward yourself with that extra time! If you had allocated 30 minutes for reading and it only took 20, you can apply those extra 10 minutes to a short tech break – or just move on to your next task. If you stay on task, you might breeze through your work quickly enough to catch The Vampire Diaries.
The more you use this system, the easier it will become. You’ll be surprised when you see how much time you can shave off homework just by focusing and committing to a distraction-free homework session.