Friday, March 21, 2014

How busy students get it all done

I had a fun mash-up of my different worlds this past week or so when I interviewed several of the top finishers in the Intel Science Talent Search for my Fast Company blog on time management. You can read 7 Time Management Strategies From Some Brilliant Teenage Prodigies by following that link.

I've got a pretty full schedule now, but I certainly remember feeling about the most busy I ever have in my life during my senior year at the Indiana Academy, when I was taking various tough classes and applying to college and still trying to look like the sort of well-rounded kid colleges would like. I don't really remember how I got it all done. Some times I probably didn't.

Eric and Zarin had some great strategies that adults can use too. If we want to get big things done, we need to block in time for those priorities. Even if you don't know exactly what you'll need to do, blocking in 30-60 minutes for a big project every day guarantees that you will spend a lot of time on it. I'm kind of doing that right now as I'm working on a new novel. I don't know all of the plot or characters yet, but by forcing myself to produce 2000 words a week, I wind up spending time and mental energy on it, and as I do that, I figure it out.

They also pointed out that big projects can be broken into manageable chunks. And those chunks can often be done in bits of time. Eric would do his homework in the waiting time he'd have in the lab. Consequently, he didn't have a lot of work waiting for him in the evening or on weekends.

One thing I didn't put in the article, though, is also the importance of space in your normal schedule. Eric got to go to the lab during school hours frequently, which means it wasn't added time. When I was at the Indiana Academy, we had classes M-W-F, mostly, with more open time on Tues and Thurs. So there was time for studying and projects that just wouldn't be available with 5 full days of classes. Schools can arrange to make big projects possible if they want, and a lot of the schools that send people to Intel STS finals every year have just this sort of option available.


Nother Barb said...

It is nice if you have some control of your time. Many students don't have that luxury: their school has them fully scheduled from 7:45-3:15, and they have before and after school activities that must be done at a certain time and place. Our high school is working on flexing the school day, perhaps like Indiana academy, so that students have some built-in fkexible time. When my son was auditioning for a professional theater, we checked with the school first to see how he could coordinate school. They said they are accustomed to working with students whose activities, in the arts, sports, and academics, take them off campus. Formalizing the flexibility (is that an oxymoron?) is proving to be a harder sell in our traditional community.

I remember my son remarking sadly that many of his friends were "grumpy", when they were in the throes of the after-school play and looming AP exams/portfolios and honors music performances and Eagle projects. Some things just take a lot of time, at scheduled times and places. Oh, and your family might have some stuff going on, too, like wedding travel. But if you are wholly dedicated to a project, and can flex your other activities, then you have a wonderful opportunity to accomplish big works!

Amber said...


I'm a gifted girl, a 24-year-old senior in college. I'm taking a class in resilience and chose to study giftedness in girls. I confessed to my teacher I chose to study a topic that's personal to be, a topic that I'm studying for my own resilience. She said great, so here I go.

My teacher has asked us to do an interview with someone who lives the same stressor. We've done a lot of literary research on it, but she wants us to hear "the lived story," as it will prove a helpful and necessary element in the understanding of the topic.

Would someone be willing to do an interview with me? We could do it by phone or chat. Today is Sunday, March. 23. I would like to do it today or early tomorrow morning if that's possible.

Please email me at, and we can set up a time/way to talk.

Thank you.