The Delicate Harmony of “Free Time” and Schoolwork

In the wake of increased pressure at school, we seem to have lost our ability to have a hobby, which can have great benefits on our own mental health.



Increased stress from schoolwork can leaves many students feeling down.

It seems as if almost all high school students are living in constant concern for “what they got” on every single test, quiz, and project. When you think about it a little harder, though, you have to ask the question: how much of this actually matters? Why is everyone is so concerned with his or her grades and academic success? Twenty years from now, are you going to care what you got on any of your 9th-grade Geometry tests? When you view things in such a light, you start to realize that there’s more to life than school.

Some people think of “free time” as taboo, a mindless realm that has no intellectual benefits. But in fact, that’s not the case – if it is used correctly in a constructive way. Hours of messing around on your phone likely won’t benefit your health, but as the old saying goes, everything is good in moderation, and free time certainly applies to this adage.

Homework can often be long and confusing, but the key lies in how the student perceives it.

Something that has been lost in our modern era is the idea of a “hobby,” especially among young people. It seems as if everyone is so preoccupied with the rest of their lives that no one has any time to do something “extra,” so to speak. However, oftentimes the greatest benefits to our lives can be derived from us doing something we enjoy. Take a trip to a hobby store and take a look around. Even if it turns out not to be your cup of tea, give model-making, cooking, or reading a go; you just might find something that will become a beneficial lifetime activity.

To have a hobby, though, you need to have “extra time,” and although such a thing can be hard to come by, it is in no way impossible. A personal example that I’ve experienced occurred in seventh grade; I did homework in excess. Spending an average of an hour per subject on assignments nightly, I became weary with my nightly workload. After some time, however, this endless pressure and overwork resulted in me dreading my nightly homework, as I didn’t get free time to do the things that I typically enjoy. 

Basically, I dug myself into a hole of homework and refused to let myself out of it. Following several months of such overwork, I soon realized that I had control of this situation. I could consider my answers to questions to concisely get my point across while not losing substance. I also began to understand that there is more time in the day than we think. Use those dull moments of time that bridge events throughout the day – car rides are a chief example – and you will find yourself with more time for other activities that you like. It may take some extra effort, but in the end, it is worth it to exercise basic time management throughout your day. To my surprise, this method worked! Soon, I was cutting my total homework down to a half-hour or less a night. This changed situation gave me an important perspective on not only school but also life in general. I realized that you can change situations you find yourself in relatively easily if only you perceive them differently. You may think that you have a lot of homework, but most of the time you can lessen that load if you manage it correctly.

If you’ve done the very best you can, worrying won’t make it any better.”

If you’re trying your best in school, there’s really no point in worrying. This doesn’t mean that your mind has a “set limit” where you only have an intellectual capacity of a set amount. Rather, we’re all capable of learning new things and growing our work ethic and capability. Sometimes such growth requires a great amount of effort, but there is a point to which that effort can become too extreme. Walt Disney is quoted as saying, “If you’ve done the very best you can, worrying won’t make it any better.” If you have put in a reasonable amount of effort into an assignment, it’s okay to let sleeping dogs lie – school is not the end-all to everything in life, so there’s no reason that you should make it so.

In sum, you should pursue school with vigor, but such a pursuit should not be agonizing.

The obsessiveness over grades is something that strikes nearly every student at some point in time. The day after a big test, you get home and check the gradebook. If no grade is in, you’ll check it before you go to bed, then the next morning, then throughout the schoolday…

There’s something nice about having the ability to look at our grades, but we shouldn’t abuse the system. When you stress over your academic achievement every hour of the day, you start to care about nothing but your grade and that not only severely detracts from the purpose of school – to genuinely learn something – but it also becomes degrading to your own mental health.

There’s no point in living in fear every day in class that you’re going to fail the test; after all, school is a place to build our future, not to scrub our report cards clean with high As. If you’re making your lifestyle one where you obsess over every single detail of school, what does that mean for your future? 

The balance between living your life and getting good grades is a difficult one, but when you achieve that balance you will attain a higher quality of life that will be beneficial to you for the future. With a different mindset, we can all enjoy school – no matter how crazy that may sound – while still working hard all the while. In the end, this can practically all be summed up in one word: relax. Grades aren’t the end-all of life, and you should treat your life as such.