People assume that time is a strict progression from cause to effect, but actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff.—Doctor Who, British television series
Do you sometimes wish there was a magic box, like the TARDIS (time and relative dimension in space) in Dr. Who, that your teen could go into and learn how to build time management skills?
Sadly, there is no magic formula for teaching the important life skill of time management to teens. However, applying a few techniques can help your teenager better manage their time and become a more balanced and more focused individual.
When it comes to time management tools for teens, the best advice I’ve heard is to have your teenager make their bed every morning. It’s a small, simple task, but it teaches focus and a sense of accomplishment. Acquiring these traits at an early age helps teens become successful, resilient adults.
Benefits of time management and scheduling for teens
Teens who learn effective time management and can efficiently schedule their time enjoy benefits such as:
- Being able to do more during the day
- Less stress in school
- Improved relationships
- Less stress overall and more contentment in life
How to build time management skills in teens
The first thing you should do before approaching your teen about time management is to look inward.
- How is your own time management?
- Do your kids always see you rushing out the door and then having to go back because you forgot something?
- Do you have to do laundry at midnight so that someone has clean underwear the next morning?
Being able to show your teen what effective time management looks like can be just as beneficial as teaching them.
Here are key things you should know and the strategies to apply when teaching teens about time management.
1. Ensure that your teen can do it all
Just as adults have to decide what “get it all done” means, so do teens. The first thing a teenager should do is define their “all.” If yours is a full-time student, active in sports or arts, and volunteers in the community, then their day is already full. Add to this chores and sleep, and you have a teen already overwhelmed by their “all.”
Sit down with your teen and ask them how they feel about everything on their list. Is there something she doesn’t enjoy doing? Is there a thing or two he could do monthly instead of weekly?
Include everything—from getting ready in the morning to playing video games and even sleeping. Spend some time talking about the list and see if you can narrow it down. Help your teen decide what their “all” should be and work from there.
2. Find out how long “all” takes to develop a routine
Once your teen has their list, start figuring out how long each task takes them. This can be a long process, so be patient and remember that this is an important step. Teens need to understand the concept of time; otherwise, they’ll find it hard to manage.
For their daily routine, have your teen keep a record for at least a week of how they are spending every waking moment. This will be helpful when planning how long it will take to finish school assignments. It can really help them to start working by assignments, not by subjects. It’s much easier for a teen to see an assignment as complete versus thinking, “What do I have to do in math tonight?”
Practice doesn’t make perfect; it makes permanence. A teen knows he can’t excel at soccer if he doesn’t practice. Help your teenager see that the same applies to time management. Help him practice by using simple words. “Go do your homework” gives your teen the option to do something else. However, if you say, “Go spend 20 minutes working on your math,” you give him a better start because he can see an end. Remember, if your teen can see time, he can manage it.
3. Put it all on the calendar
When you and your teen have an idea of how long tasks take, start helping schedule the time. When it comes to beginner time management tools for teens, the most basic one is also the most productive—a calendar.
A calendar or an academic planner can be a teen’s best resource, giving them more control over their time. Guide your teenager on how much time to allot to their daily tasks with the help of a time audit.
Here is an example of what your teen’s day could look like on the calendar:
- 6:30 am-Get up, shower, get dressed, personal care, make the bed
- 7:00 am-Breakfast, gather lunch
- 7:30 am-Get to school (look over assignments from your planner)
- 8:00 am-3:00 pm-In school
- 3:00 pm-Head home from school (begin to plan assignments for the evening)
- 3:30 pm-Downtime (snack, social media, decompress, regain focus)
- 4:00 pm-6:00 pm-Extracurricular activities
- 6:00 pm-Dinner
- 6:30 pm-Daily chores (dirty clothes to laundry, do the dishes, etc.)
- 6:45 pm-Begin homework (assign practice for each assignment)
- 8:45 pm -Plan ahead for next day (set out clothes, backpack, make a lunch)
- 9:00 pm-Downtime (snack, social media, family time)
- 10:00 pm-Bed (no phone notifications during the night)
If your teen starts using a calendar to see how they manage their day, they will become more aware of obligations and get more done. Be flexible as sometimes they may have to spend more than an hour on one assignment, so let them off dish-washing duty that night. For parents of children with ADHD, there are some special things you can do to help them overcome the challenges they may face with time management.
4. Don’t get distracted by it all
We live in the age of distractions. Centuries ago, Plato said people dealt with “akrasia,” or the state of mind prompting a person to act against their better judgment.
For teens, the distractions of social media, relationships, and gaming are just external symptoms of internal triggers. Being bored, lonely, or depressed can all make teenagers susceptible to external distractions.
Here are some ways you can help your teen effectively control distractions during their day:
- Turn off social media app notifications. Trust me, they will live.
- Make sure your teen schedules downtime in their day. Remember, they need time to be teenagers.
- Let them experiment with different apps to monitor how they are being distracted. A fun one is Forest. To stay focused, you open the app and plant a tree. The tree keeps growing while you stay focused. If you leave the app, your tree dies. You can find it on App Store and Google Play.
Don’t automatically assume that the way to teach teens time management skills is by removing their distractions. Instead, try talking to your teenager on a regular basis. Engage with them and help them figure out what could be affecting their ability to focus. Pay attention to their mental health as well.
Applying it all: Key takeaways
Time management skills are important for teens. Building them will take some work, both from you and your teen, but it can also be a time of great growth and engagement for the two of you. Here are the key takeaways:
- Help your teen recognize the things they need to do, want to do, and don’t have to do.
- Your teen is unique, and how they manage their time should be, too. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.
- Start simple—they don’t need yet another app if a paper calendar will work just fine.
- Talk with them about their mental health management and be willing to learn how your teen functions best, then work to their strengths.