If you read the freshman year critical skills post, you know this is the third of five (check out How to solve problems and How to manage your time). At the root of problem solving and managing your time is prioritizing. Read carefully.
You probably think that getting started in high school is priority enough. How do you have time to think further than that. How? Because you must. If your goal is four years out, then you must plan that time frame to be sure you get there. Like the captain of that ship who wants to sail from New York to the English Channel, ‘Head east’ won’t work.
The most important by-product of prioritizing is that you don’t get distracted my minor goals. Keep your eye on the big things. Here’s how:
- Use an Excel spreadsheet. If you don’t know how to use Excel, add that to the list and start with a three-column table in Word, one for the item, one for a priority and due date, and one for completion (pg. 135 in Building a Midshipman).
- The title of your spreadsheet/table is your objective: To attend the USNA. Every item on the list is to help you achieve this result.
- Make a list of everything you can think of that must be done. It doesn’t matter if it’s not thorough. You can add to it as you come up with more items and delete those that are no longer relevant. Includes items like, ‘take hardest classes possible’, ‘participate in varsity sports’, ‘attend an Academy Night’. If you have the book Building a Midshipman, it has a pretty thorough list, but it’s fine if you create your own.
- The list should be long because there are a lot of items that must be accomplished for this long-term goal. Don’t feel intimidated by its length. We’ll chip away at it a little at a time in an organized fashion. Baby steps work very well in accomplishing goals.
- Now go to the ‘date’ column and add the due date and the priority level (you can add just a due date–that’s a prioritization–if you know it).
- Next, reorganize the list by priorities.
- From here on, add items according to their priority, before or after what’s more or less important.
- These prioritizations aren’t set in stone. Change them as need be and then move the line to its new position. Check often to see what changes must be made.
- Now, start with the first one. Is there anything you need to do to complete this by the due date? Are you on schedule? If so, go to the next item. Integrate these into your calendar (Outlook or Google Calendars–whatever works best for you) so you stay on top of each task every day.
This is an interactive, living document. Keep it at the front of your thoughts every day. If you do, you’ll find that getting into the Naval Academy becomes as simple as checking items off your list.
Next, How to Get Along with Others
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a tech columnist for TeachHUB and Examiner.com, Editorial Review Board member for ISTE’s Journal for Computing Teachers, and freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Currently, she’s editing a thriller for her agent that should be out to publishers this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office, WordDreams, with questions.