As winter drags on and first semester is behind us, it’s easy to lose that motivation that you started the year with. It’s around this time that we start to see a breakdown in the homework routine leading to overwhelmed students that are struggling to catch back up or binders that started the year with perfectly organized dividers now exploding with papers just waiting to be hole punched. Sound familiar? As report cards are handed out for the first half of the year, students should take a moment to regroup. What went well? What didn’t go so well? What could be improved to finish the remainder of the year strong?

Here are a few of our best tips:

Don’t Forget to Take Five

How often do we feel the overwhelm of the tasks to be done that we think sacrificing those 10 minutes meant for a break will help us “get ahead”? I’m guilty of it myself. I pick up my phone immediately upon waking to see what emails are urgent before I’ve even allowed space to take in a new day. I often convince myself that it’s better to jump right in and skip the quiet reflection time of the morning, but taking a moment to do a meditation or sit on the porch with a cup of coffee in hand almost always sets the tone for a more productive day.

After a long school day and possibly sports or extracurricular activities, allow yourself time to recharge. Disconnect from cell phones and iPads and take a short walk or try a meditation. What you do to recharge may look different for you—maybe it’s exercise or playing the drums. The idea is to find something that helps you clear the stress of the day and help you face homework time refreshed.

Thinking you’d like to try a meditation but don’t know where to start? Insight Timer is a free app that has guided meditations that range from 1 minute to 1 hour to help you get started.

Re-organize

You can tell when I’m feeling busy by the state of my desk. As piles of papers grow, I swear that I know what’s in each pile, but the reality is that it can be distracting. Every time I need something, I have to hunt through my stacks. During my hunt, I’m often distracted by other things in the stack that pique my interest or need my attention leading me to increase the tasks on my to-do list without ever completing my initial task.

Are your binders or backpack in a similar state? Take the time to clear the clutter. Just like with the previous tip, having a clear physical space along with the mental space goes a long way towards productivity. Take an afternoon to go through your papers. Move papers from first semester out of the prime real estate spot of your binders. Don’t throw them away just yet as you’ll likely need them to review for finals, SOL’s, and/or AP exams. Save the critical notes, past tests/quizzes, and review guides in a file. This way, you don’t have to tote them back and forth to school each day and they’ll already be organized and waiting for you come finals time.

Stick to a Routine

As sports seasons change and the year rolls on, it’s easy to fall out of that initial routine that you set for yourself. I remember, as a student myself, I always did better with time management during my sports seasons. The structure of knowing I had cheerleading practice from 7-9pm, which left me with a limited amount of time after school for homework, kept me in line for completing my homework right after school. However, when the season ended, I suddenly had free time from 3 pm onward. It was easy to convince myself that I had plenty of time to hang with friends, watch some TV, etc. before getting down to business. This often led to scurrying to finish work well into the night and not completing work as well as I could have if I had planned better.

Don’t fall into this trap. Give yourself that break after school but then set aside a set time for homework. If you know you have a busy week with games or the school play, plan for that at the beginning of the week. Do more homework or studying during the weekend so you are ahead for the week. Take a look at your assignments for the week and take 15 minutes on Sunday or Monday to block out a realistic schedule for yourself. How are you going to accomplish everything on your list? At the end of the week, look at how your estimate of the time you thought an assignment would take compared to the actual time it took. This will help you decide if your goals were realistic and will help you continue to develop your time management skills.

It’s easy to feel the pressure of the year starting to weigh down on you. Give yourself some time to free up the mental and physical space that is currently being used up by the overwhelm of what’s left to be done. Take a close look at your schedule to see if you have too much on your plate. These are skills that will suit you well not just in middle school or high school but throughout college and into your career as well. What other tips are you using to help you stay successful this school year?