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  • Writer's pictureAlpana Shitolé

A Time Management Hack: How Top Performing Students Stand Out

Updated: May 31

“Hard things are easy things not done in time. “ - Unknown

A few months ago, I had to visit my cardiologist. As I entered the clinic, I was stunned by the paintings on the wall. When I looked for the signature on the paintings, I found that they were my cardiologist's work. I discovered that she is not only a cardiologist but also really good painter, a musician, and an entrepreneur. This discovery made me wonder:

Why is it that some people have multiple talents and excel in all of them, while others struggle to find time to juggle a routine job with something as basic and important as working out?

In hundreds of interactions with teens, I’ve noticed a similar trend. Some students struggle to keep up with academic demands, often finding it challenging to maintain high grades. In contrast, there are some who seem to effortlessly excel not only in their studies but also in various extracurricular activities. These individuals succeed in higher-level courses, they excel in sports, and also find time to serve the community or pursue a passion project. It is no coincidence that the most competitive colleges actively seek out such students, recognizing their ability to stay motivated and manage multiple responsibilities while maintaining high performance in each aspect of their lives.

Aspirations and Self-Discipline: 

Upon reflection, I realized that there are two primary factors that separate these two kinds of people: aspirations and self-discipline.

Being wildly successful has a lot to do with having aspirations and the self-discipline to work towards them. If you don't have aspirations, the drive, to be more than what you are, lack self-discipline is unnecessary. However, if you have high aspirations for yourself, self-discipline is a must in order to achieve your goals. Without self-discipline, you will only blame external factors such as a lack of time and it will beat you every time. 

While I cannot cultivate aspiration in anyone, I have discovered that the single biggest element of self-discipline is successful time management. The ability to achieve astronomical success often boils down to how well one manages the same 24 hours given to everyone each day.

A Time-Management Hack for Teens

Here's a time-management hack from our EQ For Leadership Program that helps teenagers stay resilient under time pressure, which you can also teach your child:

  • Step 1: Create a weekly timetable and block out all the activities that they are committed to (e.g., piano class, tutoring, school, etc.).

  • Step 2: List all the tasks to be accomplished for the week.

  • Step 3: Prioritize the list into four buckets (or quadrants) using the Eisenhower Matrix:

  • # 1: Urgent and important (e.g., preparing for a test that is scheduled for the next day)

  • # 2: Less urgent but important (e.g., tidying up their room or doing laundry)

  • # 3: Less important but urgent (e.g., getting school supplies)

  • # 4: Less urgent and less important (e.g., watching a show on TV)

  • Step 4: Schedule the tasks. Insert the items from the four buckets into the weekly timetable based on their urgency and importance

  • Step 5: Revisit and review this list every week


Here is the evidence of how this method plays out for teenagers who have embraced these lessons and experienced profound personal growth:

“I was able to manage 20 hours of gymnastics and take all AP courses in high school because I was able to prioritize my work and stay organized with time management. I credit this method for helping me get into the Harvard Pre-College program this year.” - Melody, Age 16 


Mastering time management is not just about finding more time; it's about making the most of the time you have. With the right organizational skills, anyone can transform stress into success and find balance in their lives. 

The quote, “Hard things are easy things not done in time,” perfectly encapsulates this idea. By prioritizing and organizing our tasks, we can transform overwhelming challenges into manageable steps, making the seemingly impossible, achievable.


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