It’s 2 am and you haven’t gotten a minute of sleep. If you shut your eyes and go to sleep right now, you might be able to get a solid four hours of sleep. However, you also have an English essay that’s due in 8 hours and it’s worth a 15% of your overall grade. Why does this happen to you?

Chances are, you’re trying to do everything you have to do without fail. Realistically, this remarkable work ethic many students adhere to is, quite frankly, impossible to achieve without sacrificing a healthy diet, sleep schedule, and social life. In Korea’s competitive society, however, such sacrifices seem necessary to perform at an expected level; however, most students overlook a certain technique that could possibly spare hours of free time: selective negligence.

What exactly is selective negligence, you may ask? Selective negligence is the technique of purposefully neglecting certain responsibilities that do not demand as much attention and/or effort as others. Such cognizant neglect of lesser duties can and will spare you hours of work you’d have otherwise tried to complete wholly. In fact, dedicating more time to more important assignments while sacrificing less important work can improve your performance in school.

“Okay, I’m subscribed. How do I do it?” Selective negligence is easy! Most people already mastered the negligence aspect, now it is time to refine your selective skills. Within school work, there is always a hierarchy, determined by how crucial the assignment is to several factors, including time and effort required to complete, impact on grade, leniency (or lack thereof) of instructor, and, perhaps most importantly, effect in the long term. Taking these factors into account, you must order your assignments from most to least important and then determine which one of those assignments is worth omitting.

This is not to say you should always skip your least important assignment; too much selective negligence will come back to stab you in the back. In fact, it’s always important to strive to complete all that is expected of you. However, schoolwork should never be physically taxing; sleep and nutrition should never be sacrificed in the name of math and grammar. That being said, here is a crude list of common responsibilities of most Korean international school students ordered from most to least important:

  1. All administrative work (eg. Paperwork) and anything related to college applications;
  2. Short to medium length* core subject homework (Math, English, Social Studies, Science, Foreign Language);
  3. Short length elective homework (eg. Fine Arts, Coding, Bible/Christian Studies, Philosophy);
  4. Short to medium length club work (eg. MUN, Mock Trial, Forensics, Student Council);
  5. Long length** core subject homework (eg. Essays, Projects);
  6. Short to medium length extracurricular work (eg. afterschool activities, hagwon homework);
  7. Studying for core subject assessments;
  8. Long length club work;
  9. Practicing/refining personal skills (eg. instruments, sports, speech);
  10. Studying for elective assessments;

*Short work should take no more than 30 minutes to complete, medium work should take no more than two hours to complete.

**Long work should not be attempted to complete in one evening unless absolutely necessary.

Of course, every student is unique and has different schedules and interests. It is crucial to tailor your schedule to meet your individual needs as well as maintain a healthy lifestyle. School is important, but so is health; selective negligence is just one of many ways to effectively budget your time. Students, good luck in applying your newfound strategy your academic careers!

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