“The best cure for procrastination is to have so much on your plate that procrastination is no longer an option.”
This is one of my favorite quotes by Tavi Gevinson. High school really is like a plate that students would (ideally) want to fill with healthy food. In this metaphorical high school plate, academics would serve as the main dish, extracurricular activities would serve as the sides, and anything extra would serve as the dessert. Before I continue elaborating on this terrible analogy for a high school student’s workload, all I’m saying is that nobody wants to eat too many side dishes and have no room to savor the main dishes (and desserts) that they came for in the first place. In high school, it can be extremely difficult to balance extracurricular work with academics and a social life, especially when you’re faced with a rigorous course load.
Try sticking to these 5 tips in order to avoid extracurricular work overload and ensure that academically, you’re always on the right track.
1. Commit to a schedule.
Extracurricular activities are important, but they should never be used as pathways to procrastination. Set aside 30-60 minutes each day to work on your extracurricular activities. Being under a time limit will motivate you to focus and eradicate the bad habit of starting with smaller and less important tasks. You’ll be less likely to distract yourself from homework and tests if you already know that you have time set aside for extracurriculars later on.
2. Have a calendar on which you can record all important due dates as soon as you learn about them.
If you can, buy or print the largest calendar you can find and hang it on a wall in your room. This will give you a birds-eye view of everything you need to do, and it will help you keep track of homework deadlines and extracurricular work. Knowing what’s in store for you in the next few weeks will enable you to plan ahead and make sure that you start working on a particular project or assignment at least one week before it’s due. This will ultimately help you avoid clashes between academic and non-academic work due on the same day.
3. Look for ways to divide group work with (reliable) people!
If you’re working on group projects, you really shouldn’t be working alone. (Even if you have trust issues.) Don’t let your perfectionism get in the way and end up adding to your workload! Just make sure to ask people who you know are hardworking and responsible. The last thing you want is to trust someone who will end up doing the work last minute or completely forgetting about it.
4. Reflect on whether or not your extracurricular commitments are helping you reach your goals.
Ask yourself if you really need to commit to all of your chosen extracurriculars. At the beginning of my junior year, I thought I could handle five clubs in addition to schoolwork and (some semblance of) a social life. I ended up dropping two, and only committing to three. Don’t join a club just because you think it will look good on applications, and don’t join too many clubs even if you really want to join all of them. It will show in your work if you stop taking a club seriously because you lose motivation or experience burnout. Make sure that the extracurriculars you join are related to the fields and hobbies you want to pursue, and don’t just serve as fillers on an application.
5. Adjust your priorities (or let them stay the same) in accordance with what you realized from Step 4.
If you know you joined a club just to put it on an application, it might be best to drop it. You should be joining clubs that you genuinely want to be a part of, and that won’t seem like a burden to you in the midst of all the academic work that you already have to do. Similarly, if you realize that your working habits are causing the problem (instead of the number of clubs you’re in), make an effort to develop a new schedule and work more efficiently. Remember that extracurriculars are called extracurriculars for a reason. At the end of the day, you need to be able to prioritize without letting your schoolwork suffer.
Extracurricular activities are opportunities for you to gain experience and recognition in the fields that you want to pursue. If you want to be a photographer, join a photography club and set up your own photography projects at school. If you want to be a lawyer, try your hand at Model United Nations. If you want to be an environmental scientist, join a health club and set up community and service projects to target local environmental concerns. Not everyone has to join student government just because “it looks good on apps.” There are so many opportunities for you to take advantage of in high school, and as far as extracurriculars are concerned, it’s best to be creative and fully immerse yourself in what you’re doing.