Work hard, play hard

Your studies should be a top priority for you but there’s one priority that is more important – and it will be the most important priority throughout your life: You!

In this blog post, we explore the importance of having a good balance between studying and relaxing and how to juggle everything you have going on in your life effectively. In a previous blog post, we wrote about how to set up a study timetable for your exam revision. In that post, we discussed setting aside time for relaxation and socialising, as well as time for exercising.

Stress is unavoidable. However, too much stress and stress over a long period of time can have a really negative effect on your health and wellbeing. It can also have a negative effect on your marks! Stress can make it difficult to concentrate, affect your sleep and it could lead to depression and anxiety.

It’s very important that you learn how to balance your studies with fun and relaxation so that you can keep your mind and body in tip-top health.

Being able to manage your time so that you have a balanced life is a life skill that will serve you well long after high school.

Get some sleep

Start with the knowledge that a good night’s sleep is essential for optimal health. Sleep can also have a positive effect on your ability to study harder and remember what you’ve learnt. Don’t be tempted to skip sleep for too many nights in a row. A refreshed and relaxed mind is much better able to manage stress.

Teenagers need between 8 and 10 hours of sleep per night. You should try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every night and morning.

TIP: If you are struggling to fall asleep, try cutting out caffeine (found in coffee, some teas and even chocolate). If you can’t sleep because you feel stressed, then try writing a to-do list for the next day before bed. This can help to put aside your anxiety for the evening because you know that you will deal with it in the morning.

Exercise – not only for your body, for your mind too

Not only is some form of daily exercise good for your health, it can also help to alleviate anxiety and stress. For many people, exercise is the first thing that gets cancelled when life gets busy. Try not to do this: it’s only 30 minutes to an hour out of your day. In fact, the break might make your studying more effective, and you’ll certainly feel better.

Find a type of exercise that you enjoy. It can be as simple as a 30-minute walk, or it can be an hour-long jog. If you have a gym membership, try out the different classes to see what you enjoy. Most gyms will have yoga classes if you prefer a slower pace, or you could do a fun dance/aerobics class like Zumba.

If you do an extramural sport at school or at a club, this absolutely counts towards your exercise quota for the week! Keep it up!


People who make time to be with their friends and family are generally healthier. Plan ‘dates’ with your parents, siblings or other family members, as well as your close friends. Try to plan activities that everyone will enjoy, such as seeing a movie, going for a long walk, going out for breakfast, etc.

Whatever you do, ensure that you put your phones away and focus on being together.

Spend time with people who make you feel good. It’s no use spending time with someone who drains your energy and makes you feel low.

…but also spend time alone

You also need to think of activities to do that you find relaxing and enjoyable, and that you can do quietly on your own. This is an excellent way to unwind. You could set aside an hour or two of uninterrupted time on a Sunday evening, for example, to relax and prepare yourself for the week ahead.

Some ideas include:

  • Reading a book (that isn’t a setwork!)
  • Reading your favourite magazine
  • Drawing/Writing/Painting
  • Watching your favourite movie
  • Cooking or baking
  • Giving yourself a manicure or pedicure
  • Meditating
  • Listening to a podcast that you enjoy

TIP: Try not to spend your alone time online (especially not on social media). Social media can cause a lot of negative emotions to surface. You should emerge from your alone time feeling refreshed and relaxed, not even more stressed out!

Of course, you do need to study too! Not doing the appropriate amount of revision will cause you more stress, so don’t put it off. There may be times when you aren’t able to schedule any time off for yourself. That’s fine for a short period of time (for example, if you have three assignments due in the same week or a very full exam week) but be sure to set aside a few days or a weekend to unwind once the crunch time is over.

Setting up a study timetable

When it comes to time management, there are three types of people:

  1. The procrastinator:

This person underestimates how much time they’ll need to study and so believes that they have plenty of time left. They’re usually cramming late into the night before the exam, and sometimes even just before the exam.

  1. The overachiever

This person does nothing but study. There’s no time for fun or relaxation. By the time the exams roll around, this person is so frazzled that it’s a miracle they can hold a pen, never mind answer questions with it.

  1. The disorganised

This poor soul tries their best but is so disorganised that they’re always underprepared. They’ll spend hours revising a section, only to discover that it’s not even examinable!

Recognise any of these types? They all have one thing in common: None of them know how to set up a study timetable.

A good study timetable will ensure that you are organised, prepared and even relaxed by the time you write your exam. Learning how to manage your time effectively is an important study skill and life skill.

  1. Choose your format

You may want to use an online calendar (for example Google Calendar) to do your planning, or you may prefer a good old-fashioned diary. You could also download and print this study timetable. Add colour and stickers and put it somewhere you can see it daily (like the fridge).

  1. Get your exam timetable

Your exam timetable should include details of the exam, for example the paper that you will be writing (i.e. English Paper 1 or Life Sciences Paper 2), the time of the exam and the venue. Fill in this information on your study timetable (include all of the specifics).

  1. Write down what you need to know

For every exam that you will be writing, jot down the sections that you will need to study. Remember to do this for every exam and not necessarily every subject. You will write more than one exam for some subjects and it’s important to know what each exam will be testing.

  1. Work backwards and plan your study sessions

This part will take a bit of time. In two or three-hour blocks, work backwards from each exam and write down the sections that you will need to study. Try not to do more than two or three study sessions per day. Also try not to plan to study a section the day before the exam. Rather block off some time to do some revision for that exam the day before. This will help you feel calmer and more in control.

  1. Now add the fun stuff

Now try to schedule in some recreational and relaxation activities. Start with family outings, birthdays, church gatherings, etc. and then add at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. Try to do something fun once a week, like see a movie with friends. Don’t try to do too much, as this will only make you feel more stressed.

Once you’re happy with your study timetable, and you’ve checked that it isn’t too demanding (or too relaxed!), make it as colourful or attractive as you like, put it somewhere you can see it and look at it every morning. If it’s electronic, set reminders and alarms so that you don’t forget to look at your to-do list for the day. Things may change and need shifting around sometimes but you should be disciplined enough to stick to your plan as much as possible.

Draw a line through every successful day so that you can see how far you’ve come. Before you know it, the exams will be over and you’ll have aced them!