Plan the year, plan the quarter, plan the week, and live the day. A simple mantra, but one that has a powerful application for academic and test prep excellence – and life. Most stress is caused by being in-between two events or ideas, like doing one activity while thinking of another. The more we can be present in all that we do, the more stress we can eliminate. One way to help is to declutter our minds through careful planning. Not the kind of planning that omits creativity or inspiration or spontaneity. To the contrary, the kind that liberates from making a thousand or a hundred decisions down to five or 10. Imagine your mind is like your bedroom: when it’s a mess, you can’t find anything, can’t fully relax, and it does not feel as large as it really is. Now, imagine it’s clean. You have room to move, to breathe, to relax, and you can find things. Same with your brain – but, clutter is disorganization, indecision, and uncertainty, which causes stress. So, what to do? Let’s reduce some stress in school by following these 5 steps:
- Plan the year: Create a plan for the year so you only need to think of milestones when they get close. For example, that AP test in May? Since you know when it will be, presuming it is some time from now, focus on your homework and tests for now. Prep time is for later.
- Plan the quarter: Every student should have a goal they are reaching for with each class, whether that goal is a 70, 80, 90, or 99. With a quarterly grade goal for each class, you have a reference point. Here’s an example: Let’s say you get a test score above that goal? Keep the status quo. But if you get a score below that point? See the teacher, look at how you studied, explore why you did not do well, and evaluate whether you were surprised by the score.
- Plan the week: Once per week, sit down with one of your parents and review the upcoming week. Schedule any tests, quizzes, and papers with the appropriate number of days in advance. Spread out the work. Parents, use this time to focus on executive functioning skills vs. it being lecture time. Make it productive, not instructive.
- Plan the day: This one is different. Since you have the same classes each day, or every other day, you will likely be able to repeat your homework schedule that you developed after watching the previous chapter on this topic. Although following a daily schedule may seem tedious, remember, we are reducing the number of decisions you have to make, and helping you follow a plan so that you know you did all you must, all you have to do, and can just focus on doing those tasks well. It works.
- Breathe. One of the most important parts of stress reduction is focusing on breath. When feeling stressed, we typically take short breaths, and feel constricted. Anytime you feel this way, take a deep breath. Try to keep everything in perspective. Work your plan, perfect your plan, and seek support when needed.
Together, these 5 ways to reduce stress will help you improve your grades while also feeling better along the way. If the above steps feel like they are too much, remember, we are reimagining student success. Unless you are getting all A’s in the hardest classes available to you and are not stressed, there is always room to improve your health, well being, and academic performance to be the best version of yourself. Success is not a destination, but a state of mind.