As a 17 year old senior in high school, I am fully confident in proclaiming: I have pretty much never done homework in my room. Ever. Instead, I have spent countless hours organizing my decor, tending to my social media, and pretending my cats are real people. I can’t study there for the life of me, and in part, it’s because I have some attention issues, but my procrastination also stems from the difficulty of studying in my home environment.
It’s easy to see the contradiction in that statement. Your room or your house is supposed to be the place where you come at the end of a long day, and start your homework. You sit in your chair, and the gruesome worksheets and problem sets are supposed to disappear as if they were nothing.
In general, I see nothing wrong with studying in your room. I get it. You are comfortable, no one is looking at you, and you are probably wearing fun pajamas. Studying in your family room while your brother is yelling at the dog can provide comic relief. Studying in your kitchen while your mom is making dinner can result in snacks that will fuel your brain to do more work. Studying in your bedroom while your cat steps on your computer or rubs against your pencil can relieve stress by lowering your blood pressure and making you feel less lonely.
But I’m not convinced that trying to focus on schoolwork in the same place where you come to sleep and relax is the best way to be efficient. I think there is something incredibly important about separating each part of your life. When things are compartmentalised, it allows for more focus: having distinct purposes for every space in your life, or every activity, makes it easier to maximize their impacts. I have a place where I sleep, a place where I eat , and a place completely removed from where I study.
A simple way to understand what it is like for me is to imagine everything that pertains to home life in one room. You have a large plate of spaghetti, your two dogs, a bed, a sibling, clothes on the floor, and your math homework sitting in front of you. How are you supposed to get that homework done in a good amount of time so that you can finish the rest? How can you deny petting your dog? Or eating your grandmother’s famous meatballs?
That is why I study in a university coffee shop almost every night. My extracurriculars all end at around 6:30, which means I have five and a half hours to study in the coffee house. And I really do stay till midnight, pretty much every night. You may be thinking to yourself: Bella, that is crazy. Do you ever see your family? What about sleep? Doesn’t it cost a lot of money to live like that?
To be frank, I don’t sleep as much as I should, I know. As for every other concern, I make sure to address them responsibly. I make my own coffee and bring it with me to study. My mom packs my dinner, and I dress pretty comfortably. If I do buy anything, I use my reusable cup (which lowers the long term cost) and purchase a black coffee for only two dollars; and you can refill it as many times as you want. It truly is an independent high schooler’s dream come true.
This discovery of studying somewhere that isn’t my house has been a revolutionary breakthrough for my compartmentalized theory of life. I wake up in the morning, meditate for 10 minutes to clear my head, and get ready for the day. I go to a 7:00 AM workout class at Orangetheory Fitness, and then proceed with my school day. I have two calendars, and one weekly agenda in my school planner. All of my extracurriculars are perfectly planned out so they don’t overlap, and I never have to worry about when things are, or what I am supposed to be doing.
When I go to school, I am there to learn. When I go to tutor 7th graders at the Boys and Girls Club, I put all of my stuff away and focus on only that. When I go to work, I never glance at my phone or think about my homework. When I go to dance practice, I am fully consumed with leading the team and practicing routines. When I go to the Coffee House, I am there to do homework, college applications, and organize my responsibilities. When I go home, I am there to sleep, spend time with my family, and relax with my pets.
What I have found for myself is that this way of splitting up your life makes everything less stressful and more efficient. It’s as simple as allowing your brain to do one thing for one purpose, instead of six . Some people probably don’t want this kind of organization for their life, and I get it. This lifestyle takes a lot of time, energy, and caffeine.
Another common trend in my life is doing unnecessary work, or doing things for others because they know I will get it done. People will give you extra work to do, especially in group projects, and most often won’t thank you. Additionally, I may think I can do more than I can handle, because it still fits perfectly into my schedule. While it might seem like I don’t have any time to just exist as a 17 year old, believe it or not, I do have time for more teenage social things as well. The clubs I am a part of mean I get to spend time with my friends, and I plan time on the weekends to go on hikes with them, or out to fun dinners.
Something else that keeps me sane, as well as enhances my day is meditation. Meditating every morning gives me time to clear my head and focus on my thoughts and feelings without getting overwhelmed. I can avoid getting upset by the little things that happen in a day and recenter my mind on what is really important. So while this way of life isn’t exactly normal, it really does work for me and I think others could benefit from learning about it.
Don’t get me wrong. There are times when I appreciate going with the flow and seeing where life may take me on a random Tuesday. But I’m the kind of person that gets overly excited by too much at one time, and gets easily distracted when a friend shows me a quality meme on her phone.
For me, organizing my life and having a clear structure preserves my mental energy and allows me to have a busy schedule without getting overwhelmed. I have certain activities built into my day such as meditating and exercising to balance stressful school work and long days. These are the habits that I have developed to help me in my life.
How you spending your time right now is very important. If you spend hours on social media when you should be doing homework, or relaxing when you should be helping with housework, or whatever you do after school is going to stay with you. Maybe you aren’t getting a perfect A in every class, but hopefully you are learning what works best for you as a person and developing skills for HOW to learn, because that is what will matter 20 years from now. These habits are what you will take away from high school and into your life down the road. Your grade in Modern European History will fade into the past, but your ability to adapt and learn new things will carry with you into the future.