School/Work/Applications are Hard
As a student-led website at Heads Up Teens, we fully recognize some of the common struggles that come along with high school. To be perfectly blunt, I’d take it a step further and say that being a teenager, especially in today’s circumstances, is much more difficult than we give it credit. After an extended summer vacation, it feels like that grace period has finally ended and we now resume the chaos that ensues with school returning. Coupled with the fact that college application season is fully underway, standardized testing is more frequent than ever, and many of us continue to participate in extracurriculars, sports, or even a job, you can see why so many of us tend to feel overwhelmingly stressed. Yet, it’s not enough to just acknowledge this fact; it’s what we do from there on that will make the biggest difference. One way I’ve been able to regain stability is something I call ‘Getting in the Zone’ and I’ll share more about what that entails.
‘Getting in the Zone’ is really just a profound way of saying getting in the flow of our work. Too often do we know we have so much to do, yet we procrastinate or take a five-minute break that maybe runs a little longer than expected. Whatever it is, reaching the zone has been my recent lifeline for getting rid of the mountain of tasks that seem to pile up every week. When I’m in this working state, I can funnel out three hours of completely non-distracted work in one sitting. (Editorial: I’ve found that there’s a huge difference between distracted work and non-distracted work. Studying for an hour completely focused vs studying for an hour with TikTok open are worlds apart, and you’d be very surprised at the time wasted on trivial things like that. Anyways, back to the topic at hand.) Even right now as I write this article, I would classify that I’m in ‘the zone’ and am producing my highest-quality work that I can do.
While I’m sure you all love hearing me talk about how productive I am, I’ll digress and answer some of those lingering questions on how to reach this seemingly transcendent state. All of these suggestions are routines I actually do on a day-to-day basis and have found extremely effective. Taken from a person that is constantly distracted and struggles to keep my mind on a single task for more than fifteen minutes, I hope that by sharing some of my personal tips that you can find the same level of contentment it has afforded me. So without further delay, here is how I get in ‘The Zone.’
Create a Schedule
Before we do any of the numerous tasks at hand, organizing and delegating a plan is the first step. If you were anything like me, I’ve always been skeptical about creating an organized schedule to keep track of my day. Until my junior year, my entire planner was just a notes page on my phone where I wrote down an assignment until I finished it. The concept of a schedule seemed restricting and superficial like I was wasting my time on a useless task that only served to give the aesthetic of time management. However, having a more planned-out approach to our work actually decreases the chances that you’ll put off your work later. If you write out what you wish to accomplish before each day, then you’re going to naturally hold yourself accountable. This prevents those nights where our work seemingly catches up to us and we’re stuck cramming at the last second. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate or decorative calendar either; a simple sticky note for each day can be enough to keep you on track. If you want something on your computer, I recommend iStudiez Pro as a great free planner that is more than satisfactory. I know what I’m saying has been said a million times, and that’s why I didn’t really believe in it at first, but it has been such a crucial step in managing this current year.
Give Time for Yourself
This could’ve easily been included in the last tip, but I wanted to briefly speak on this specifically. Despite all that goes on around us, it’s still important that we prioritize ourselves and take some time to unwind. Nevertheless, nothing is worse than having some relaxation but being perpetually bothered by some undone assignment that sits in the back of our head. An easy solution to this would be to allot time for yourself so you can fully enjoy the moment. Rather than planning around your schoolwork, try to plan around the valuable time you have to yourself. That way, you don’t have to feel guilty for finally giving yourself a much-deserved break. That time is for you only, and you are entitled to have some fun once in a while.
Get Rid of Distractions
This is another cliche one, but please put away your phone while you are working. I know I am heavily guilty in this department, and it always interrupts my state of flow when I go to refresh Instagram every five minutes when I get bored. Nowadays, distractions are everywhere and they can be used as a really convenient excuse to put off our work. But remaining locked in on what is right in front of us and not allowing us to let our mind wander in the first place is key. One way you can do this is by designating a new window on your computer for school work that’s separate from your personal account. If it’s time to get some work done, just switch to your school window and don’t let anything other than school fill-up the tabs. This small change is surprisingly very powerful, and it gets me in the right frame of mind when I have to focus on up.
Fun fact of the day about me: I’m constantly listening to music. My Spotify report at the end of the year says that I average five to six hours of music every day, and I can’t deny the accuracy of those numbers. So as you can imagine, I regularly feel the need to plug in my earbuds while I’m working and press play on my favorite playlist. Despite that inclination, I still find it distracting when I listen to some upbeat song that drowns out all my thoughts that should be diverted to my work. What I’d come to realize about my dilemma is that the ambiance of my surroundings can actually play a major role in how productive I am. While “God’s Plan” might be great for a night out, it’s not exactly ideal for when you need to sit down and study. Creating an atmosphere that encourages serenity that gets you feeling focused is maybe the most critical component to entering ‘The Zone.’ What I highly recommend are those Lo-Fi Beats playlists that play a calming rhythm in the background (I’ll link some right below).
Another weird habit that I’ve also found helpful is getting dressed like you’re about to go to school or work, which is oddly effective. While my pajamas may be more comfortable and less of a hassle to get into, I find a level of readiness and alertness that comes to me when I put on a presentable outfit. It puts me in a mindset that is ready to carry out the rest of my day, and I can enter that state of focus much more easily from there. So take a short vibe check next time you’re working, and assess what your atmosphere is like and if it is either supporting you or holding you back.
I hope you’ve enjoyed some of my suggestions and look to implement them in your own lives! I do want to quickly disclaim that these are just my personal suggestions that I’ve found to work for me, and I don’t mean to generalize anyone’s situation. These times can be exceptionally stressful, and sometimes it takes a bit of a group effort to go through them. While these are steps you can take by yourself, don’t be afraid to reach out to someone you trust for support. We’re all in this together.