Striking a Balance: 3 Time Management Tips for Student Athletes and Busy Learners

Balancing the demands of academics, sports, extracurricular activities, and a social life can be daunting for students. 📚 🏀 ✍️ 🎺 🎶 💻 🏊 📓 🎭 🩰 📖 ⚾️

At MindBalanceSPORT in McLean, VA, Co-Founder and Sports Psychologist Brenna Chirby, Psy.D., helps support students through these challenges.

high school student athletes

“While many elite athletes manage their time well, common themes we hear at MindBalanceSPORT are physical fatigue, lack of sleep, not enough time for friends, and stress about grades,” she explained.

Struggles with time management are also often attributed to weak executive functioning skills. Here at Educational Connections, we see many busy students with ADHD who struggle with time management, and it’s not because they’re lazy or unmotivated; it’s because of this link to weak executive functioning skills.

“We help busy students implement systems for organizing their materials, assignments, academic responsibilities, and also their extracurriculars and sports,” explained our Executive Function Program Manager Kathi Gould, M.Ed. at a recent webinar. “When we can help students to get everything systemized and organized and make it all habitual and something that’s internalized, then you actually free up that precious bandwidth to access the curriculum.”

In this blog, we’re sharing three tested time management tips for student-athletes and other students with jam-packed schedules who are trying to manage it all.

Prioritize Tasks and Plan Ahead for Assignments

When students struggle with time management, their school work and responsibilities often pile up, and the enormity of work can feel overwhelming (and, in some cases, crippling). One of the best ways to avoid this is for students to prioritize tasks and plan ahead.

high school band practice

It can feel daunting to figure out when to squeeze in time to finish a science project or study for Tuesday’s Algebra test while still making it to daily baseball practice, band rehearsals, or an after-school job.

To address this challenge and help kids effectively prioritize responsibilities, our Executive Function Coaches teach students the art of “calendaring.” Often just the act of putting an assignment into a digital calendar, along with all of their practices and games for the week, is enough to set off a chain of events that leads to homework getting done on time and projects getting started earlier than the night before they’re due.

And Chirby says it’s essential for students to schedule some weekly fun, too!

“I encourage busy student-athletes to intentionally schedule at least one thing they enjoy into their week,” explained Chirby. “Our athletic coaches emphasize the importance of having relaxing/fun/low-pressure activities to look forward to, contributing to overall endurance and motivation.”

Establish a Routine

Humans thrive on routine. Setting a schedule for yourself is a valuable time management tip for people of all ages and can reduce a whole lot of stress for busy students.

“The stress of juggling sports and school can negatively impact focus. For example, when they’re unable to leave their school responsibilities behind when walking onto the court or field,” said Chirby.  

When students fail to create a schedule for accomplishing weekly goals, they’ll likely end up feeling overwhelmed and disorganized. While some students keep detailed calendars and notes on their phones or laptops, others prefer a traditional pen-and-paper calendar or planner.

Once your child determines which method works best for them, they should establish a structured routine for tackling their workload. They can start by choosing specific times of day to complete each task. They already have set times and days for practices and games. Why not do the same for their academic responsibilities?

Time Frame for Starting Homework

For example, they could study for one hour as soon as they get home from soccer practice. During breakfast, they could review their math or science notes.

Dedicating specific times of the day to individual academic tasks takes the guesswork out of when your child will get these things done and will soon become second nature. 

Our Executive Function Coaches also help busy students find “weird windows” in their day by teaching them how to map out their time.

“Sometimes when we make it a visual, they can actually see the white space on the calendar, and it’s soothing for the student,” explained Gould.

“We help students fill out a grid. Not just when is that assignment due, but when is hockey practice? When do you meet with your church group? Everything goes on the calendar. And then you can see the available windows of time that you have left. That’s when you can leverage that time for something else,” she said.

Utilize Time Wisely

While establishing a schedule is essential, what students do during those blocks of time will determine how productive they are. 

Starting the day by waking up early and having a healthy breakfast will fuel both their mind and body. Being productive, though, starts the night before. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the average elementary student needs 9-12 hours of sleep per night, while middle and high school students need 8-10 hours of sleep each night.

When your student sits down to student or complete school work, they should eliminate distractions as much as possible. This might require them to work in a quiet space, like a library or study hall. They can also create a study group (in-person or online) with friends or other students.

Most importantly, cell phones should be put away or in airplane mode, and TVs and other electronics should be turned off. Some students work best with music playing quietly in the background or other white noise. The key is figuring out what works best for your child’s individual productivity so they can make the most of their time. 

We’re here to help your busy student find balance

well rested student

Student-athletes and those involved in many extracurriculars can face a lot of pressure, but they don’t have to juggle it all alone.

Our Subject Tutors and Executive Function Coaches are here to help your students stay on top of their academic responsibilities while also managing their athletic and extracurricular commitments. Your child will learn the foundation for lifelong organizational and executive function skills by instilling effective time management skills early on.