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Kelly’s Hacks: Master Planning and Time Management in 9 Steps to Boost Your ATAR to 99.65!

Need help getting organised? In this post, Matrix alumnus and Conservatorium High School graduate Kelly Hou shares how to master planning and time management in 9 steps to boost your ATAR!

Do you need help, getting organised for your studies? Don’t worry, Kelly Hou’s hacks will teach you how to master planning and time management in 9 steps to boost your ATAR!


Me, Myself, and I


Kelly Hou



Conservatorium High School





Dream career:

My dream career is to be a healthcare professional, whether thats a specialist, general practitioner or a physiotherapist.

My passion is to continually learn in-depth knowledge about science and the human body through study and research. But I also love socialising, talking and listening to others about their interests and issues. So, I would really like to work with patients and help them achieve their journey from sickness to health!


My subjects


  • Music 2
  • Music Extension
  • English Advanced
  • English Extension 1
  • Chemistry
  • Maths Advanced
  • Maths Extension 1


As a recent high school graduate, my journey towards the finish line saw me juggling weekly tutoring at Matrix for Maths Extension 1, my exams, vice captaincy, sitting the UCAT, practising the piano for HSC Music, performing and teaching as an extra-curricular, the list goes on! Although it was a lot to handle, I remained sane while achieving marks I was happy with through the consistent planning of my day.

If you feel like your time management skills need work or you’re not sure about how to manage your study and commitments, you’ve come to the right place!

To help you perform well in your exams, I have summarised everything I learned about organising an HSC study schedule into nine neat steps.


How to master planning and time management in 9 steps to boost your ATAR!

Okay, here are my 9 steps for ATAR success:

Step 1: Use planners and calendars

Use a planner, whether or not that’s a small notepad, a full-blown bullet journal, electronic calendar or written diary. You might say that you can remember your upcoming events in your head, but chances are you’ll forget that dentist appointment or that social gathering as the HSC gets busier and busier.

It is really important to have a space where you can list everything that needs to get done in the day, your due dates and other events so you can allocate your time efficiently and cross them out when it’s done.


My weekly calendar for the post trial session. I colour-coded my subjects to ensure I was spending an equal amount of time on all of my final HSC exams.



My at-a-glance planner for the holiday period before trials. I wrote my timetable at the top of each week (which ensured I got 9 hours of sleep so I could be ready to study the next day).



Step 2: Break tasks into smaller tasks

With the Year 12 workload, things may start off overwhelming, but they don’t need to be!

List your tasks into smaller tasks.

Instead of writing “English homework” or “Maths textbook” or “violin practise”, ask yourself, what does the task actually entail:

  • Will you be reading an article?
  • Will you finish one chapter today and finish the rest tomorrow?
  • When will you do it: in your free period or after dinner?

Writing your tasks out in this detail allows you reflect on the task ahead, chip away at your exams, but most importantly, feel a sense of achievement when you have completed it.

The wave of accomplishment you will receive after finishing a whole list of tasks will be addicting and push you through those periods of doubt and stress!


This was my planner for the final HSC exams. In the bottom left square, instead of writing just “Mod A”, I wrote my task for Mod A in detail: mind map, cut more out, memory, practise response.



I mainly used this for maths to ensure I was completing the published HSC papers. This checklist is simple and easy to write out and also lets you see your progress towards the exam. Something like this can also be used for trials and any math exams before.


Step 3: Find the right study space!

Work in a neat space that motivates you to study, such as your room, the library or a café.

If you feel like your mind is cluttered or your body is tense with pressure, chances are your head is responding negatively to your paper covered floor or messy wardrobe.

Spend a day to Marie Kondo your room or find that ambient café that incentivises you to keep working for a stronger sense of tranquillity. If you find yourself walking to the fridge for a snack or water every five minutes, keep a stack of refreshments and drinks in your room to avoid interruptions!

I liked to study at the State Library of NSW because it was really quiet and you could book free study rooms for even more silence if needed.

If you prefer working in a team, find a space that works for all of you and organise your study with them!


Step 4: Find an effective time out.

This is a step that I found the hardest to Implement. I felt guilt every time I wanted to chill with my friends after school or watch an episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Instead, I would scroll through Facebook and Instagram as my break, but this was not effective at recharging my energy as this action was more procrastination than an actual time out.

Instead of studying until you fall asleep on your books, evaluate how tired your body is. Remind yourself that your brain needs a well-deserved break after a long day of school and a long period of studying.

In fact, it is a good thing because it ensures your study is efficient and productive.

So, you need to:

  1. Delegate a set break for yourself such as fifteen to thirty minutes every two hours of study and organise a fun event for you to rest every week.
  2. Find something you can do in these periods of rest that is successful at making you feel rested such as a sport, shopping or cooking.
  3. Remove your distractions (phones, social media etc.) during set study periods to ensure that they are productive.

For me, this was hanging out with my friends, drinking bubble tea and decorating my bullet journal.

master planning and time management in 9 steps to boost your ATAR-bullet-journal-image

A page from my bullet journal that I drew before trials.


Step 5: Always use those small bits of time you have to spare throughout the day.

Although you’ll feel like you can’t get anything done because it’s so short, these mini time blocks build up over the year.

In fact, they actually build up to a few days of spare time by the end of your HSC. Imagine yourself, stressed for your final HSC exam that you couldn’t work on until a few days before and all you needed was a few days more to prepare!

My point is, use these small blocks of time to finish a few more math questions, clean your room or use it as another time out!


Want to Boost your ATAR like Kelly did?


Step 6: Care for thyself!

Yes, I am also going to jump on the bandwagon and reiterate to some of you that sleeping, eating healthy and exercising is SO important!!!

Your body needs to recharge, fuel up and build up stamina for the entire year that you will be studying for the HSC! If you don’t, your likelihood of burning out and having a mental breakdown will increase as your stress levels build up.

This is something I learnt myself as I found myself unable to concentrate, learn my courses efficiently and function normally after cutting my sleep hours short to around 6-7 a day.

To become an expert at managing your energy and time, find an amount of sleep between eight to ten hours which actually empowers you to learn and memorise content.

If you don’t like exercising (like me), even going for a twenty-minute walk is better than nothing, and this could also clear your mind if you’re feeling a bit stressed!

Eat healthy and treat yourself every now and then so your brain can use the energy needed for your study. This way, the HSC is also so much more enjoyable and meaningful!


Step 7: Use your support group

Establish a stable support group, whether that includes family, friends, a staff member at your school, or your Matrix tutors and teachers.

It is really important to have a source of help that you trust and feel safe talking to whenever you’re feeling down, stressed or not sure about a topic.


Banner taking to stress post

Talking to others gets whatever is bothering you off your chest, helps you overcome the situation, move on and return to a calmer mindset.

I used to talk to my Matrix teacher, James Kang, after my Matrix classes whenever I felt like I wouldn’t do well in my math exams.


Step 8: Learn from mistakes, don’t dwell on them

Don’t get hung up on bad marks!

There is so much chance for improvement throughout the HSC year and when you start from the bottom, the only way is up.

To improve efficiently, have a break and recover yourself. Then learn from your errors by reflecting on your performance and asking your teacher what you could have done better and what you can do for next term!

Use their advice and your planner to set out what you need to learn and study for the next exam!


Step 9: Plan your holidays ahead!

Planning your holidays for rest and study can boost your marks for the next exam period.

Thinking about what you need to learn and how you could improve from last term will push you to develop your marks for future exams.

However, your brain also needs time to think about things other than the HSC to avoid burnout and study efficiently. So have a few days off to relax, pre-organise some social meetups and do something completely unrelated to the HSC throughout the holidays!

Then, plan what you need to get done so you are ready for the next term.

a colour coded page of Kelly's BoJo with Holiday planning on it blog-hacks-kelly-hou-Master-Planning-and-Time-Management-in-9-Steps-to-Boost-Your-ATAR-bullet-journal-planner

My holiday priorities – colour-coded


During the summer holidays, I went on a road trip to Canberra, pre-organised social events so I couldn’t bail out of them from guilt. But I also ensured I finished my study plan by listing out everything I needed to do in the photo below.


This was my study plan for the two-week holiday before term two. You can also draw up something like this onto a piece of paper or your phone, and it only takes a few minutes!



My final advice

Although the HSC is an extremely long marathon filled with hurdles, bumpy roads and unexpected turns, it will actually go by very quickly because of how much you will be learning every day.

It is also a year to hone your time management skills, diligence and perseverance for whatever life throws at you after High School.

By organising your study, rest and your surroundings, this increases your preparation for your exams while creating a healthy mindset for you to power through the HSC without burning out. Start practising these steps early to find a schedule that works for you as quickly as possible.


Because the next thing you know, you’ll actually be sitting your final exam and it will all be over!


Want to Boost your ATAR like Kelly did?

Written by Guest Author

We have regular contributions to our blog from our Tutor Team and high performing Matrix Students. Come back regularly for these guest posts to learn their study hacks and insights!


© Matrix Education and, 2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matrix Education and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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