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Manage those minutes, relieve stress in your day

By MIKE BEHL

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 1, 2001


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[Times art: Teresanne Cossetta]
The morning alarm goes off with a bright ring. You hit the snooze button and fall back into the comfort of your pillow as the sun attempts to creep over the horizon. While you lie there trying to engage your tired mind, your mother calls out, "You better get up, sweetie, or you'll be late for school." As you slowly inch your feet over the side of the bed and gently stretch your arms into the air, you realize a new day is suddenly upon you. Yes, like it or not, it is a new day, a new gift, and there are things that need to be done as your life moves forward.

You rush to the breakfast table to throw down a quick bite, hop into the shower and try to dry your hair while looking for something suitable to wear for school. You have a momentary dream of being an Olympic sprinter as you dash outside to catch your morning ride to school, dragging your backpack behind you. The bus shimmies down the winding road toward your stop, and you think of the exciting events that lie ahead at school. You do a last-minute check to make sure you have everything you will need before you leave home and step into the bus.

In the scenario above, one common thread links one event to another. It is time. Realize it or not, efficient time management is critical to success in school, work and life. It is also a common ingredient in individuals with a composed demeanor. After reviewing the previous example, you might reflect upon your morning routine and ask yourself, "Is there a way to make my morning less hectic and reduce daily stress?"

You might consider setting your alarm for 15 minutes earlier, or laying out your clothes for school the night before, so you don't have to rush in the morning trying to find something to wear. Or maybe do your homework the night before instead of waiting until the last minute in homeroom on the day it is due. The book report due in two weeks should have been started yesterday, not the night before it is expected. Your goal should be to stay ahead of schedule; doing so will relieve stress and help you become more organized. This will allow you to maximize the daily time you have been allotted.

You can make the most of your time each day if you will just take a few moments at the beginning of each day to go over your tasks and your wish list and organize it as follows:

Prioritize. List everything that must be done today, as well as those activities you would like to do, and rank them in order of most important (1), to least important. This will probably take you a grand total of five minutes to do. You can do it over breakfast.

Commit. Decide about how much time each task will take and write it down. Run out of time? Those items at the bottom of your list should go to the top of your next day's list if this happens. Be realistic about how long it takes you to get something done. Remember, this is your roadmap for the day.

Follow-through. Now you have a plan. See it through, and you will have a successful day.

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By being organized and using your time efficiently, you will be able to manage multiple tasks. Your best effort should be applied to any activity in which you participate in. Why not do it right the first time? If you have to repeat the activity, you waste time and energy by doing the task more than once. There is no substitute for quality on the first attempt. Strive for excellence, not perfection.

By design, your school day is well planned out for you. Coordinated activities are always happening throughout the day that you might overlook or take for granted. There are bus schedules, lunch schedules, class schedules, extracurricular schedules, school pictures, school dances and assemblies, just to mention a few of the obvious ones. After school, there are soccer, cheerleading and other various forms of extracurricular activities and entertainment.

Time is a factor in each of these activities. It is important to be punctual. If you are late for soccer practice, the team will not wait for you; if you are late to the movies, the film will start without you. If you have a job, tardiness is not appreciated and will eventually lead to dismissal. If you have a time-management problem, accept responsibility; don't make excuses or blame others. Just step up to the plate and consciously improve your time-management skills. The overall outcome will improve your daily outlook and make you more successful in your journey through life.

Money Stuff: Get it! Spend it! Keep It!

Introduction and previous chapters

Your teachers are examples of people who are good at time management. They must make lesson plans and unit presentations and deal with other issues in a fixed amount of time. As class begins, they hope to have all students in their seats ready for a warm-up activity when the bell rings. Time is then dedicated to review previous material or generate student focus on a new lesson. After a system is in place, students and teachers should work in harmony. Time should not be wasted gaining classroom control and taking attendance. Students need to do their part to make all of this happen, for ultimately it benefits them. The amount of quality work you do now in school will affect the rest of your life. Take this opportunity to use the vast resources available to you.

If your parents are still at work when you get home, you have some control on how you spend your free time. You should have prioritized your activities thoughtfully this morning. Your day's plan probably includes helping your parents prepare the evening meal or folding the laundry. Maybe it calls for studying for that math test, jumping on the Web to do research for the science project or helping your little brother or sister with their own school work.

Perhaps you just might enjoy the quiet time to pour yourself a soda and sit back to read a good book, or go outside and skate. Those are the rewards of following a good plan.

If you find yourself with free time on your hands, you might consider giving some of it to your church or synagogue, community, or favorite charity. Be a volunteer in a civic organization, devote time now to those who are in need. Down the road, you might need someone to generously donate his time to help you.

It only makes sense to control responsibly the time that has been given to you. Time is like money; you can never have enough. Unlike money, however, once time is spent, it is gone forever.

You can always earn more money, but never recover lost time. Remember to prioritize, commit and follow through -- then take time to enjoy some well-deserved rest.

* * *

-- Mike Behl is a Hillsborough County public school teacher.

About the Florida Council on Economic Education

Money Stuff was developed by the Florida Council on Economic Education and project director Fonda Anderson. The council is a statewide non-profit organization founded in 1975 to educate K-12 teachers and students about the free enterprise system and to instill in them an appreciation for a market economy. For more information on the council's programs for teachers and students, please call (813) 289-8489.

About Newspaper in Education

The St. Petersburg Times devotes news space to NIE features throughout the year, including this classroom series. The Times' NIE department works with local businesses and individuals to enrich the classroom experience by providing newspapers, supplemental guides and educational services to schools in the Tampa Bay area. To find out how you can become involved in NIE, please call (727) 893-8969 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 8969. For past chapters check out http://www.sptimes.com/nie and click on Money Stuff.

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