School and social activities are high priorities for young people, but balancing the two can sometimes be challenging. If you think this occasionally applies to you, here’s some advice on how to solve the dilemma.
1. Do It Together
People differ when it comes to the surroundings that make them feel relaxed and comfortable. Some prefer spending a quiet night in with a book or a movie, while others usually need external stimulation to feel good; they enjoy loud places, meeting lots of people, and being the center of attention. However, most of us fall somewhere in between the two extremes, sometimes preferring peace and quiet, sometimes bright lights and lively company.
But how does this relate to helping you with your homework? Well, depending on which end of the continuum you’re closest to, the solution to your problem with the homework-friends balance might be different.
If you generally prefer small groups, you might find it hard to choose between picking up a school book or calling a friend over or perhaps messaging them all day. Having one eye on your work and the other on your phone tends to be very distracting. So, do you perform your academic tasks or decide to have a fun time with your friends? Actually, there’s no need to always choose between the two. You can ask your friends to come to a study group with you. Just choose a quiet place, decide on a goal together (forty-five minutes of studying, fifteen minutes of free time, for example) and follow it. It helps to work together – you’re motivating as well as keeping an eye on each other. And after the homework’s done, you can continue to hang out.
Now, what about those who prefer to be among lots of people? Pretty much the same thing applies, except the surroundings are different. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone needs to be closeted away in a quiet room to make the most of their homework time. If you find it hard to concentrate this way, you might benefit from a different approach. Invite your friends to join you at a neighborhood coffee shop, or go to a popular park with a blanket and your books and get ready to work! You’ll be with your friends, and surrounded by the chatter and stimulation that simply doing your homework in your room doesn’t give you. You’ll feel comfortable and much more able to focus on your work.
However, for most people, the ideal work environment depends largely on their current mood. If this describes you, you might sometimes prefer quiet surroundings, sometimes lively ones. You know yourself best, so find out what works best for you at any given time. Be honest with yourself, though. It’s important to do the work as well as socialize, so if you notice you’re frequently distracted while with your friends, you might want to try the other approach.
2. Do It As Soon As Possible
Whether you decide to do your homework with friends or alone, tackling it as soon as possible after you’ve dealt with the material in class can lower the time you’ll need to retain the content successfully. When new information is still fresh in your mind, it’s easier to recall the small details and hints your teacher gave you as well as the overall material.  So, doing your homework first is a smart move. It means you’ll finish it more quickly and have more time for your friends later on. That in itself should be motivation enough.
And here’s something else that may help. It’s been shown that studying, as well as homework, is best done in parts.  That means that though you should ideally start doing your homework as soon as possible, if you feel your eyelids getting heavy and your yawns getting the best of you, it’s probably time to hit the pause button. You can use this time to clear your head. Listen to some music, make some coffee, exercise, or squeeze in a little quality time with your friends. The choice is up to you. However, the time you spend on your break should depend on the amount of time you’ve spent doing homework. If you only began half an hour ago, a break of ten minutes will do just fine. On the other hand, if you’ve been dealing with it for two hours straight, an hour off won’t be too much. This break helps you in two ways. Your brain will return to the task refreshed, yet still able to remember what you’ve been working on, and as a matter of fact, tasks you don’t finish from the get-go tend to be remembered more clearly than those you do!  So, having a break is nothing to fear, as long as it doesn’t turn into a vacation.
Now that you know these little tricks, there’s nothing stopping you from leading a fulfilling academic AND social life. So, enough procrastination and off you go!
by Jelena Jegdić
- Jung, C.G. (1987), C.G. Jung Speaking
- Geen, R. G. (1984). Preferred stimulation levels in introverts and extroverts: Effects on arousal and performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 46(6), 1303-1312.
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- Mace, C.A. (1963), Psychology of study
- Zeigarnik, B. (1967). On finished and unfinished tasks. In W. D. Ellis (Ed.), A sourcebook of Gestalt psychology