Get a Grip on Stress and Time Management

Managing your stress and your time go hand in hand. Often, stress is caused by not having enough time, and not having enough time can cause plenty of stress. So, how do you manage your stress? Simple: Manage your time better.

If you're feeling the stress, your first order of business is to get yourself into a frame of mind that will allow you to handle it. Just relax and take some deep breaths. Close your eyes. Imagine yourself in a special place where computers, term papers, and deadlines don't exist. Slow yourself down to where you can actually think and where you're no longer in panic mode.

The key to good time management is getting yourself organized. On a piece of paper, make a list of all your tasks, goals, and obligations for the semester. This includes all your classes, activities, job responsibilities, and so on.

Next, buy a calendar or organizer that suits you. Anything will work: a day planner, a wall calendar, a calendar program on your computer, or a portable handheld device. Even a huge desk calendar that you can scribble all over will work. Record all your test dates and paper deadlines; games if you're on a team; deadlines at your job; and holidays and social events for the rest of the semester.

Your calendar will give you an overall picture of the semester, letting you know ahead of time when you'll have busy and not-so-busy times, which will allow you to plan when you have to start working on your various projects.

Next, create your laundry list of tasks and prioritize them in the order of importance. The most important task is No. 1, like getting an A in Chemistry or kicking butt on the SAT.

After you've prioritized these tasks, take each one separately and estimate how long it will take you to reach each goal. If you want that A, you'll need to get an A on almost every test. Look at test dates, and estimate how many hours you'll need to study to do well. After you estimate the time it will take, double it. That's right - multiply those hours by two because, as the poet Robert Burns wrote, "the best-laid plans" often go wrong. Things take twice as long as you think, and accidents happen. So pad your schedule with plenty of time.

Do this for each task, goal, or event. Looking at the deadlines on your calendar, work backwards, blocking out the time you've estimated for each task. Do this day by day, week by week. Be sure to break stretches of time into chunks you can handle. You may be able to read a novel while you're on the bus to an away game, but can you do physics problems on that three-hour ride?

You'll end up with a master schedule of tasks for the semester. When you accomplish a particular task, cross it off. There's nothing more satisfying than a to-do list with a bunch of things crossed off as done.

Now, look at your master schedule, and look for ways to work in some break time. You have to schedule breaks from studying or training to give your mind or body a rest. And by looking forward to study breaks, or a party or weekend trip, you give your soul a break, too. You study better when you have something to look forward to.

If you have a problem getting or staying motivated for schoolwork, set up a system of rewards that works for you. If you hate math, do that homework first, then treat yourself with your favorite subject last. You may need to give yourself more rewards for finishing math: A quick video game or some of your favorite cookies might do the trick.

As you get more in tune with your schedule and yourself, you'll discover your weaknesses, and you'll figure out how to overcome them. And you'll begin to use your strengths to your own advantage. Soon you'll be able to finish your Algebra because you know you get to play around with your Nintendo Wii afterwards. You'll learn to juggle priorities, swapping Chemistry for an easier subject to work on during a bus trip. In the end, you'll be more confident when you stick to your schedule, you'll sleep better and won't be stressing about all those upcoming assignments and tests.