Time Management Tips

Time Management in the IBDP

It is posited that there is a triangle of tradeoffs for any high school student. These are  sleep, academics and social life- one is to pick two of them. Unfortunately, as an IB Diploma Programme (IBDP) student, this shape of trade offs consists of far more than three sides. With the Extended Essay, Theory of Knowledge and subject specific Internal Assessments (EE,TOK,IA), subject content for written examinations, clocking hours all three elements of Creativity, Action and Service (CAS), not to mention non-ib related responsibilities and commitments, making it more like an (insert-prefix-of-very-high-numbered-poly)gon.

However, are these tradeoffs as inescapable as conventional wisdom suggests? Is there a possible scenario  in which the elusive 45 points and clocking a nightly 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep coexist? Striking a balance is by no means an easy task (I can attest to that, having achieved neither). However, I believe that with proper time management and planning, one can come closer to this ideal than the reality of numerous all-nighters and last minute clutching that is omnipresent amongst “risk-taking” IB learners. Inspired by my own suboptimal caffeine-filled journey of procrastination, I have compiled 4 tips to hopefully nudge you towards a more consistent, smoother path as you take on the IBDP. 

  1. Be structured with your time- Plan out a realistic timeline (and stick to it)
    • The human brain’s propensity to focus in a crunch. Such as rushing an Mathematics EE in 12 hours before the deadline, is truly remarkable. Yet what is perhaps even more incredible is that this same brain had left me in such a dire situation in the first place, putting off completing this same work for weeks before to binge through an episode (or ten) of Modern Family? Logically, there is no difference between the potential productivity of the time available months before and one day before the EE deadline. Yet the human mind has an extraordinary ability to procrastinate as long as humanly possible. Even when it is quite evidently an unwise decision.
    • This war against procrastination is especially pertinent in the IBDP due to the plurality of submissions and subjects involved. As such, to get ahead of the human mind, it is essential to map out a timeline for your EE, TOK, IAs and CAS journey. ‘’When should I brainstorm a topic for IA XX by?’’ ‘’Should I have all my Physics IA data collected by this date?”, could be leading questions for this map. Once each submissions’ final deadline is known, work backwards to create a timeline for various progression points. After this, be disciplined in following it closely- treat these deadlines as non-negotiable deadlines that the human mind cannot “Modern Family” out of. Also,don’t forget to include Common App/UCAS/your local university application variant in the map.
  1. Be smart with your time- save time by proactively clarifying doubts and expectations
    • Of course, to formulate a realistic plan, one must understand the demands of the project. You could say this is easier said than done. Especially given the highly specific nature of IAs. This is because they demand a greater degree of formality than an 8th grade lab report on photosynthesis. Yet they do not require that unrecognisable jargon in published scientific research. After all, would a formal scientific paper demand a mysterious criterion of “personal engagement” with the subject matter? As such, it is unlikely that one would initially have a good understanding of what exactly EETOKIA entail. Instead of wasting precious time shooting in the dark with a “totally off course” first draft (in my Math IA Supervisor’s words), I would instead encourage attempting to decipher the expectations and requirements for each of these components sooner rather than later to minimise the inevitable stress and confusion. Fortunately, here is a myriad of sources available to alleviate this burden. One has teachers, seniors, and of course the numerous IBlieve guides on the website. Don’t forget you even the IBlieve academic mentoring from alumnus that have overcome EETOKIA (like myself).
  1. Be careful with your time- Don’t neglect any of the (insert-prefix-of-very-high-numbered-poly)gon’s elements, but be especially mindful of subject content 
    • There will be points in the IB journey where projects and extracurricular CAS commitments will constantly live in your head rent free. And a serpentine voice will tempt you to “temporarily” overlook subject content in favour of completing your project work. This “temporary” pause on covering content will continue indefinitely, owing to the constant stream of points on the polygon. I empathise with the temptation to tunnel vision on EETOKIA, given the immediacy of their deadlines and the associated breakdowns. However, at the end of the day it’s crucial to remember that most IAs are worth only around 20%. While this is by no means insignificant, the 80% from examinations are more likely to make or break your grade. So even through busy EETOKIA periods, at least try to pay attention in class and keep up with homework if nothing else. After all, The IB written examinations are challenging and require high levels of conceptual understanding  and high volumes of memory work (Thank god that I did not take HL History or Biology) to be successful.
  1. Be intentional with your time- be aware of your habits 
    • My tenure in the IBDP unfortunately coincided with an addiction to the amazing sitcom Modern Family. The time spent watching the show quickly evolved to escapism and an unconscious habit. For example: a night where I was meant to complete homework or an IA outline would became hours with Phil Dunphy instead. This eventually became a habit that I struggled to break, forcing me to delete Disney+ to get my work done.
    • There are many similar habits which can rob us of significant amounts of time. Scrolling through meme videos on TikTok, or getting lost in the explore page of Instagram can unwittingly end up hours of unsatisfying escapism. I am not at all saying that one needs to go cold turkey from these things. Rather, they must be engaged in intentionally as a form of rest. And that we must be prevented from snowballing from a 5 minute affair into an unfulfilling, unrestful, and unproductive 5 hour affair. The time saved cumulatively from these low-return activities can be channelled into addressing needs on the polygon. 

While most of these tips may sound like common sense, and really they are nothing revolutionary, it can be difficult to be conscious of the bigger picture. This is especially when you are bogged down in attending to the elements of the (insert-suffix-of-very-high-numbered-poly)gon of trade offs. However, I am confident that with proper time management, as elucidated in the points above, one can have a fulfilling and stress-free (who am I kidding but less stressful I suppose) IB experience.


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