The options were: School, Sports, Social Life. I bought into the logic then, but how does it compare to our students now?

School. Sports. Social Life.

If only life could be categorized so easily! When I was in college I chose Sports and School as my main focuses, and I gave a great attempt at a social life too. I loved the simplicity of that choice presented to us as incoming freshmen. Clean and easy. Just pick 2. Done.

As a high school teacher, I now wonder what this choice looks like for my students. How many options are there and how many of them can they do effectively? To paraphrase Paula Pant, “You can choose anything, but not everything. So choose wisely.” No one can do everything in their life at a high level. We don’t have the time, energy, or mental capacity for it. Here’s a list I compiled of the areas my students typically have to choose between:

  • Academics
  • Sports
  • Clubs and Societies
  • Social Life
  • Romantic Relationships
  • Family Relationship
  • Part-time jobs
  • Chores
  • Volunteering
  • Personal Health (Mental and Physical)

I’m sure there are more things that belong on this list, and my privilege is probably showing based on items missing from that list. However, you get the idea. How many of these can a student do well? How many can they do at an acceptable level? How many need to be ignored to allow the others to flourish?

It does depend on the individual and the situation of their life. How much support do they have? How many factors are not high need due to their socio-economic situation? How has their past education experience and upbringing prepared them to optimize, automate, and balance many of these areas?

As Simple StartUp guides, we are going to attempt to add in another focus point, starting and running a business. Many students don’t have the space in their lives for something extra, so what do we do?

I can’t tell you the right answer, but I can share what I do. I approach it like a budgeting exercise. Start with a very simple exercise where you ask your students:

What are the top 10 things or activities that bring you the most joy in your life?”

Try it yourself. What brings you the most happiness and joy in your daily life?

From there I ask my students to complete a time budget for a typical week. They attempt to fill in a 7-day schedule broken down in 15 minute increments and identify what they did to fill those moments in their day. I also ask them to try and track the coming week as accurately as possible. We then compare the two with their top 10 list. I guarantee that if you do this, you will find that you spend an extraordinary amount of time on tasks that are not in your top 10. Yes there are some things we need to do such as work, to keep the lights on and food on the table. Or sleep which is just necessary for a healthy life. But in the discretionary time where you have a choice, are you picking things that align with your values?

A quick look at the “Screentime” tracker in our phones can often give us the answer. The majority of my students will not list being on their phone or social media in their top 10, yet that is where they spend an overwhelming amount of their time. Same with video games, though that is a source of joy for many students. By identifying this area that is not aligned with our values, we can return to the list above and try to re-prioritize our time with something that matters to us.

I ask my students to use it for their new business. A Simple StartUp can be as low or high maintenance as you want. It is important to identify the amount of time and energy you want to give it before getting started, and then choosing an idea that fits into the desired lifestyle. Buying and reselling candy bars in school takes a negligible amount of time. Same with picking up coffee orders on the way to school in the morning since you were going there anyway. Challenge students to pick businesses that fit. Is it a high priority for them? Are they interested in starting a business or pursuing a passion? If not, don’t pick something that requires a large amount of time. All the lessons in The Simple StartUp can be learned in a short period of time with minimal effort on the participants part.

Obviously the more time and energy put into a business, the higher the potential reward and the more learning experiences that will happen, but it’s not always the case. Encourage your students to take charge of their time and make intentional decisions about how to spend it. If you have any great lessons or experiences doing this, please share them in our Facebook Community!

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