Manage your time
Quiz: Are you organized?

By Ambar Martinez, 16, University HS
Print This Post

My junior year hadn’t started yet and I was already stressed. I was going to have to deal with challenging new classes, PSAT and SAT exams, an Advanced Placement exam—what if I couldn’t handle it? What if I got a bad grade in math like last year? What if I got bad SATs? I started having nightmares and snapped at my mom over stupid little things. All these responsibilities were overwhelming.

I decided that this year, I have to get organized and learn how to manage my time. I got a book from the library called Getting Organized by Stephanie Winston. I took the quiz at the beginning to the book (see quiz on this page) and my score was "Disorganized to the point of chaos."

As I read the book, I felt like it was describing me. Just as the book says, I make a list of things to do and schedule of when to do them. I start out with a lot of determination, but time goes by so fast I can’t get anything done. There are so many distractions, such as the phone, TV, the radio, the Internet and interruptions from my sister, neighbors and my chores. The next thing I know, it’s time for bed. I toss and turn, worrying about everything I have to do. I catch a few hours of sleep and get up, exhausted and freaked out over how much I have to finish. All day I’m on edge, frantically finishing my work.

I want everything perfect

The book taught me that part of my problem is that I’m a perfectionist. When I want things to be perfect, it makes me procrastinate because it’s such a hard goal to reach. Like last year, I had a big science project to do. We had to compile 13 newspaper articles, comment on them and put them in a theme folder with a table of contents. I clipped 21 articles, but I didn’t have time to finish, so I only included 12. That’s why I got a C.

Some of the book’s suggestions were impractical for me. The book says to select a place for my private office. Private office? I don’t even have my own room. I sleep in the living room and my mom, sister and aunt sleep in the bedroom of our apartment.

I could go to the library but I would have to take the bus—too time-consuming. I could go to sleep earlier and wake up at midnight, when I would be free of interruptions. But I’ve tried that. I don’t wake up or if I do, I just fall back to sleep.

This year, I want things to be different. I want to get up in the morning with enough time to do my sit-ups, eat breakfast and leave the house with all my homework ready.

During school I want nutrition and lunch to be for me, not my homework. When I come home, I want to focus on my homework and chores, and have spare time to talk to friends on the phone and help my little sister with her homework. I want to get enough sleep so I can have a calm, organized day.

I started getting ready days before school started. First I tackled my summer reading—about 600 pages of it! I read on the bus to and from work, during my lunch breaks, before going to sleep. I didn’t talk on the phone for three days so I could read.

The day I started reading Getting Organized, I finished it by isolating myself from distractions. I let my answering machine answer the phone and kept the TV and radio off. Although I was typing this article on the computer, I restrained myself from using the Internet. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but to me, this was progress. I did so much that day. I finished reading the book, started this article and continued with a second article, all in one night! I was proud of myself.

Later that week, I cleaned all the papers out of my storage boxes. My mom walked in, saw all the stacks of paper, and said, "Ambar, what are you doing? My goodness, what a mess!" I told her it was for a good reason. I was writing an article about managing time and being organized and this was one of my tasks. "In that case, keep cleaning," she said.

I’ve gotten more organized

The next night, my mom, my aunt and I set up my bed (I had been sleeping on the couch) and organized our living room and closet. We threw away what we didn’t need and neatly stored everything else. Luckily, I don’t have to worry about having space anymore because my mom bought me a spacious new desk. My old one didn’t have room for writing, the computer and my books.

Everything was ready when I started school. I have a daily agenda and it’s always full. I have been really good about keeping my desk clean, finishing my homework and staying away from the phone, the radio, TV and the Internet. I’ve also gone to church four out of the last six weeks.

I have to admit I haven’t met all my goals. I still feel rushed in the morning. I haven’t done sit-ups, eaten breakfast or gotten enough sleep. And my mom is already mad at me because I kept shushing her when she had company over last Sunday. But I had to do my homework and I couldn’t concentrate.

Overall, getting organized has been helpful. I’m hoping I’ll get good at it, finish my homework earlier and have more time for fun things. So far, I’m doing well in school, and that’s the main thing!