Balancing priorities in the VCE

I received an email from "Joseph" who is a concerned, yet conscientious student the other day regarding the perennial dilemma of how to balance priorities in the VCE.

His email read like this:

My question, or statement not sure is:- I'm having difficulties spreading my time out for VCE. I'm in year 12 this year doing methods, eng, bio, politics and history (my fav). I'm been working part time at a store for a couple of months now and this takes 12 hours off my week tues, fri and the other day sometimes changes usually mon or sat, 4 hours a shift. Whilst this job is not a priority against my VCE i feel I'll need to keep it. My father then wants me to play football(soccer) also, Thursday 2 hours training and skipping tues training because of work and game on Sunday for 2 hours or so. Mon: 4 hours, Tues: 4 hours, Wed: free, Thurs: 2 hours, Fri: 4 hours, Sat: Free, Sun: 2 hours.
My question is (again sorry for length) do I still have enough time for yr 12 VCE homework? As I have read some people doing 60 hours a week homework or near that. I have been freaking out because I'm afraid I might lose all leisure time eg.playing video games which i love doing. Another question is what can I do to organise my time better to complete all homework? Thanking you in advance, as this is something I've been worrying about, Joseph.
It can be hard to give advice considering I ...

don't know what your goals are and what you want to achieve
don't know your level of motivation and desire to achieve those goals
don't know your skill level required to achieve those goals
don't know how productive you are when you study
don't want to be the person who makes the decision for you - this is something that you need to do after weighing up some of the information below.
The short answer (and one possible solution) is - if you are starting to feel overwhelmed with everything you have on your plate (and it's not even the 3rd week of term yet) you need to make some serious changes.

I have previously written a lot about vce time management in previous articles and on working through priorities which is some supplementary reading for you however there are are some other guiding principles to follow:

1. Get clear on what you want to achieve this year in your VCE?

Now I'm sure many VCE students are already groaning and thinking "not another goal setting session" but without a goal or goals for this year how will you know what your priorities for this year are? You will always do what you value the most at that point in time. Your time (and therefore allocation and prioritising of the things that use up your time) will be used up on doing the things that you value the most. If that is playing computer games, earning money from a part time job, playing sport, spending time with friends etc where does studying end up.

2. How much do you value your time...literally?

In the email above Joseph works 12 hours per week and I speculate that he could be earning $10-15 per hour (it could be more or less than that). I had a job in Year 12 (working in a supermarket stacking shelves, fetching trolleys etc) but I made sure that it never ruled my life - and I never worked more than 8 hours per week unless it was school holidays.

What value do you place on your learning and education? As a graduate of a university course the average starting salary works out to be around $ 40, 000 which translates (over the course of a year; minus sick days, holidays etc) to aroun$ 20 / hour. Essentially for every hour you spend studying, you are investing in your future earning capacity. It is no secret too that there is a correlation between education and earning capacity.

You have to ask yourself if whatever you are doing at this point in time is worth $ 20/hour. Only you can answer that. Sure there has to be a balance between staying on top of your studies and earning some cashola.

Sidenote: perhaps Joseph may want to approach his parents and ask them to enter into a pocket money arrangement with them to provide some additional pocket money provided he meets certain guidelines for studying (or perhaps even sac performance) rather than doing his part time work? Just a thought...

3. Get balanced in the VCE.

After determining your goals and priorities set in place a plan of action. The VCAA recommends that students should be completing between 2-3 hours of homework per night. You also need an outlet, of which any sport or fitness activity is fantastic for you. Not just for fitness benefits but also for stress release.

You should have at least one night off per week (no study) of which I recommend Friday night. You should also have 1 full day off (24 hours b/w study periods) over weekend which includes Saturday night off as well. High achieving students will typically work a normal school day of study (Sunday). Try and keep active pursuits such as sport, fitness activities, socialising etc to a maximum 10 hrs/week. Passive leisure pursuits should be a maximum of 15 hrs/week (including watching tv, playing computer games, etc)

4. Efficiency, effectiveness or productivity.

To clarify each of these terms: Efficiency is getting more things done quicker. Effectiveness is getting the right things done (ie - working on a charity fundraiser which is important to you). When you are getting the right things done at a rapid pace you become productive which is the ultimate goal for anyone doing their vce or indeed working in a job.

In summary you could do more things in a shorter amount of time but if it ultimately doesn't lead you closer towards your goals why are you doing them?

5. Eliminate or reduce time thieves.

Time thieves are things that steal time away from us and are low priority, low value activities. Examples include excessive TV, internet surfing, reading trashy magazines, excessive cleaning (don't laugh - I know several people who do this!) etc.

To quote stephen covey from "The 7 habits of highly effective people": "Most people major in minor things" & "put first things (the most important things in your life) first".

In summary for the VCE (at the risk of stating the obvious) it is important to have:

Several goal about what you want to achieve throughout this year
A plan and study timetable
Get a balance to incorporate study, social, sleep and exercise.
Don't be afraid to say no to things that aren't important and don't fit into your big picture plan.
Remember the big picture - why are you doing your VCE and always try to look beyond the VCE...after all, it is a means to an end.
Interested to hear your thoughts below.



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