Dear Blue: Tips for the impossible–balancing work with sleep


Illustration by Angelina Chi ’24.

Dear Blue, I have been doing homework until 12:30ish every night. How do I balance completing my homework and going to bed at a reasonable time?

In all honesty, I am probably not the person that should be helping you with this scenario, as I am writing this at 11:53 p.m. However, we can fight this battle together, and, hopefully, I will be able to share some strategies and coping mechanisms with you that I have collected throughout the years.

  • First and foremost: Your health should always be your priority. While having assignments completed is very important, especially in an institution of such caliber as the Hill School, at the end of the day, we are all teenagers and young adults attempting to balance the weight of the future on our shoulders. It is a lot, absolutely, but know that you do not struggle alone. If you reach a point in the night when you are beginning to fall asleep while doing your homework or you just don’t feel in the proper headspace at the time: take a step back. It’s perfectly OK and reasonable to say, “I should get some sleep,” despite maybe not completing your work for the next day. You will thank yourself in the morning when you are well-rested and prepared to take on the excess responsibilities from the night before, as compared to being exhausted, which would only help accumulate stress. Give yourself grace; you know what you need more than anyone else.
  • Organize yourself. As cliche as this piece of advice is, truly, it works. Finding a specific organization system that works for you will significantly increase your productivity and quality of work. Personally, I strongly recommend filling out your calendar: phone, laptop, Outlook, Google – you name it. We all have access to some sort of organizational system across multiple devices. I suggest taking the first 10 to 15 minutes of your free period or time dedicated to homework to go through Canvas, emails, and Today On the Hill to organize yourself and to ensure you are aware of all responsibilities, commitments, and expectations. Write down any upcoming due dates or tests in a calendar with set reminders alongside any meetings that you may have to attend. 
  • Pick your battles. Scenario: you have an important math test tomorrow, but you also have to finish a reading for a history discussion. You don’t have enough time to do both. So what do you do? You decide. There’s always going to be days where you’ll be overwhelmed with homework and studying. But sometimes, you have to pick between one or the other if you can’t do both. Maybe you choose to study. You won’t be prepared for your discussion, but you’ll get a better grade on an important test. It’s totally OK if you can’t do both — whenever I’ve found myself staying up to work, it’s because I’m trying to do everything all at once. One of the most important time-management skills is cutting your losses based on what you can and can’t do in a reasonable amount of time. 
  • Do Not Disturb: Distractions waste time. Sometimes, the homework you have shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours; but instead of taking this opportunity to go to bed early or relax, you waste time scrolling through Instagram, TikTok, texting a friend, watching Netflix, etc. and prolong the time spent working. Of course, it is important and healthy to take breaks throughout working, but the frequency and the lengths of these breaks matter. My advice is this: set a 30-minute timer and focus on completing one task during that time. Be productive during this time, working on one specific class. Then, set a timer for a five minute break. This way, you decrease your distractions and increase your productivity. If you find yourself still struggling with avoiding distractions, turn your phone and computer on Do Not Disturb to avoid any notifications. You can also always put your phone away or simply just place it across the room– because, let’s be honest, we love our phones, but not enough to walk to get them.  

I hope these quick tips helped you out with your homework problem. Once you get into a routine that works for you, you’ll find yourself getting a good amount of sleep each night. If all else fails, you can always just delete your Canvas, and suddenly you’ll get a perfect 10 hours of sleep a night.