From a Teen’s Perspective: Building the best homework plan

by Dylan Lanier on September 12, 2023

Homework is an unfortunate fact of teenage life. We all know the feeling of re-doing the same math problem over and over, or struggling to read one more chapter of a dense book when all you want to do is sleep.

While homework may never become an incredibly enjoyable experience, you can maximize your efficiency to reduce the amount of time it takes and lessen the discomfort. The key to optimizing your homework sessions is creating an environment that helps you focus and perform at your best.

The way I see it, there are four key preferences when it comes to homework, and taking the time to understand where you stand on each one will help you develop the prime conditions for speedy and engaged work. Here is a list of those four factors, as well as how you can pursue each one:

1. Study buddies: First and foremost, you should determine whether it’s valuable for you to do homework in a group. Ask yourself, do my friends distract me from my work or encourage me to complete it?

For me, I often find that I spend most of my time chatting with friends about everything but school when we get together for homework sessions. However, my sister can get twice as much work done when she’s studying with her friends because they keep each other on task.

If you’re like me, it’s much better to clearly separate your time between social activities and homework. In my opinion, it’s better to completely focus on your work, get it done quickly, and then hang out with friends than it is to hang out with friends while doing homework. But if you’re like my sister, you should consider creating a study group with friends that regularly meet to help each other work, and if you can’t meet in person, consider using FaceTime or Zoom to hold each other accountable.

2.  Location: Where you study can greatly impact your focus. Some people prefer to work at home because it’s more peaceful. Others like to leave the house because it has too many temptations (i.e. a cozy, inviting bed).

If you would rather work at home, find a spot with minimal distractions: no TVs, materials for hobbies, or anything else that could easily captivate your attention. I also recommend picking a location that you don’t use for other activities. For example, if you do homework on the same couch you use to watch TV, you might connect the two and remain fixated on watching Netflix while studying. On the other hand, if you work in a quiet place outside or in a room you rarely use otherwise, you can keep the non-school-related activities you do at home separate from homework, which will help keep you on task.

If you would rather not work at your house, decide whether you want an energizing or calming environment. I like Coffeebar on Oak Grove Ave. because the bustle of people makes me feel productive and encourages me to work hard. However, the constant stream of customers might also be a distraction for some people. In that case, libraries are great places for completing homework in a quiet atmosphere.

3. Intervals: Some people like to churn out all their homework in one sitting. Others prefer breaks in between. At a certain point, everyone needs a chance to rest their brain for a little bit during long homework sessions.

One method for interval studying is the Pomodoro Technique. You work with complete focus for 25 minutes and then take a five-minute break. You repeat the pattern until you have completed four 25-minute sessions and then you take a 15-minute break before you start again. Personally, I dislike this method because I can never hold myself to the five-minute breaks and I always end up getting carried away. However, for those with more discipline, the Pomodoro Technique can be highly effective.

Another common strategy is simply known as “chunking.” You make a list of all your assignments and schedule breaks in between every other assignment or so. You can also detail subtasks to break up each assignment. I like this method more because you fully complete an assignment or two before resting, so you don’t lose the motivation and focus to do whatever you’re in the middle of.

4. Technology: These days, the majority of our homework is often online. As such, we must work with the same devices we use for communication and entertainment. I know from firsthand experience that technology, specifically our phones, can be extremely alluring when we’re trying to focus, so it’s important to recognize how much technology you can handle while completing your work.

Some people can keep their phones within an arm’s reach and remain completely engaged in their work. Others need to keep their screens locked away in another room. Either way, it’s important to experiment with where you put your technology while you work so you can discover what allows you to be the most efficient.

Again, it’s better to get your homework done and then have guiltless screen time than strike an unproductive blend between the two. If you still need to use your devices while studying, consider setting time limits for iPhone apps and employ similar restraints on your computer using Chrome extensions like “Limit.”

Additionally, while listening to music while you complete homework is extremely common, studies have proven that it’s quite literally impossible to multitask; your brain is just constantly switching between doing your work and listening to the music at a lightning speed. Consider turning off the music for the most important work and then switching it back on for busywork-type assignments.

Alright, I know that was a lot! But understanding how you can complete homework in the most efficient and effective way will help you do better in school, free up your time, and hopefully lower some of that stress we all know too well. Consider each of those preferences and build a homework plan fit for your natural personality and work ethic. Best of luck!

Got any topics you want me to cover? Email with your request!

Dylan Lanier is a senior at Menlo-Atherton High School. His column appears weekly on InMenlo.

Image by Freepik

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