Your kids have known how to tell time since elementary school. But even with this background, as teens, they are late, don’t get chores completed, and may turn in assignments late to school. Time management is more than just knowing how to read a clock. It’s a struggle for teens to know what to do and how to get things done with time management.
According to Psychology Today, time management is just one of the four most critical areas for teens today. With the level of brain development, teens are not fully equipped for time management. Because brain development continues into the twenties, teens benefit from our coaching them with time management through high school and college. Teens are unsure of what to do first, how long it will take to complete, and how to get started. Teen time management includes coaching in prioritizing, initiation and procrastination, and duration of a task or project.
What’s important and should be done first? That’s a question not only teens struggle with. Parents don’t always agree on this between themselves. How do we know what’s most important? It can be a matter of focus for all of us. However, you can help your child make these decisions by helping them process what needs to be done.
- Encourage your teen to write down their priorities. For most kids that includes school grades, friends, church, and activities. If there are too many priorities, too many sports, or too many extracurricular activities, you can coach them to understand just how much time it takes for each activity.
- Grid out with your kids the time available and where their priorities fit on the grid. Time blocking works well because kids can see what they have to do and when they will be doing it. That includes time for self care like sleep too. Using a paper or digital planner makes time more visual.
- Set aside time to plan. Weekly planning time with their planner each Sunday or Monday gives your teen time to acknowledge everything that is on their plate and also record due dates. With so much information coming in by text and social media, they need time to consolidate it all in one place.
Initiation and Procrastination
Getting started on a task can be the hardest part of any project. Also known as initiation, those with executive function challenges find planning engaging but getting started more difficult. Procrastination can be from fear, lack of skill, or lack of motivation.
- Plan an initiation strategy. For many, the “warm-up” to the project is gathering the materials, reviewing the instructions, or checking online with others in the class. Creating your own “warm-up” strategy will help for all upcoming assignments.
- Make it fun to get started. Find an innovative way to start a project. You can add in technology or a gadget, work with a partner, or create a new perspective on the project.
- Schedule the time to start a project. At that time, use a timer, set for 15 minutes, to help you get started.
- Brainstorm the costs of procrastination. What’s at stake? What will happen? What are the consequences of not getting started soon enough? Coach your student through this process to verbalize the costs.
- Set up a compelling, organized environment. A clear workspace, quiet or white noise, and easy to access school supplies make it easier to get started.
We don’t know how long it takes to get a specific task done. But we do know that we can guess and set a time on our calendar to get a task done.
- Help your teen create routines that take just 5 minutes. Making their bed, placing laundry in the basket, and putting trash away are 3 small tasks that take less than 5 minutes altogether. Your teen might think these take much longer. Write out routines with only 3 steps so that your teen isn’t overwhelmed.
- Create more time awareness with more analog clocks. Clocks should be in all your spaces to be sure you are gauging your time.
- Your teen can set a timer when they start a task. Clocking the time will help them know how long a task takes.
- Break big projects or tasks into baby steps. Map out small sections of a project, and assign a time and date to accomplish them. Nothing seems as overwhelming when it’s broken into smaller chunks.
Building in transition time helps your teen be on time. That is the time that is between activities and moving from place to place. Your teen may not allow enough time to get ready, get to school, or clock in for a job. Coach your teen on how much time it takes to drive from home to school, then set use a timer to realistically learn the amount of time it takes. Having sufficient transit time helps your tee feel more confident and less stressed.
Tools for time management
On your smartphone
- Clock with timer for getting started and timing how long a task takes
- Pandora playlist for organizing or homework time
- Notes for making lists
- Reminders and more tech
It takes practice, practice, and practice to learn the skills of time management. Don’t get impatient with your teen about how long it takes. Every experience is a learning opportunity here.