Time management can be a huge stumbling block for youth. I have witnessed this while subbing in the public schools, as a ministry volunteer and parent. Learning to balance school, activities, work and even downtime can prove to be a challenge. We need to acknowledge that this is a skill teenagers need to develop. We also need to remember that developing the skill takes time, guidance and practice.
This is part 1 of 2 in a Time Management blog post series. In this post, we will be looking at 4 Time Management Strategies. This is resource you can use to help the teens in your life with their time management skill building.
Training teens to write down tasks, homework, work shifts, practices, responsibilities, and things they need to remember is a great place to begin with time management. Whether teens use a calendar or a notebook doesn’t matter. The goal is to write things in one place that is consistent and kept safe.
The second part of this is to write things down right away. Relying on one’s memory or making the time to jot things down later, puts a person at risk of forgetting. Being intentional and consistent in writing things down as soon as possible strengthens one’s time management skills.
Now you might be thinking, “What about sticky notes?” I will be the first to admit that I LOOOOVE sticky. notes in all the fun colors, shape and lines. But to be honest, I lose them. Unfortunately, I stick them on a paper and then forget where I placed them. While I love sticky notes, I discourage training teens to use only these because they can get lost and smaller scraps of paper are easier to misplace. The goal again is to have a consistent and safe place to write things down that stay in one place.
You might also be thinking, “Can’t a teen just use their phone?” My answer is that they absolutely can use the notetaking features in their phone. I do it all the time when I am out and about or unable to transfer information into my calendar. But, what I have noticed throughout the years, actually writing things old school with pen and paper, helps me to remember things much better. It also keeps me more organized because I am able to look at my schedule and other to do lists I have created.
For teens, there will be trial and error in terms of figuring out what works best. One key to this strategy is for them to be consistent in terms of where they write things down and when.
After a teen has written a list of things that need done, they will want to go back and identify the top 3 things that will need to be done first. This is another reason why it is important to write things down in one place. There might be specific deadlines or schedules that prioritize things for them. That is always helpful in terms of figuring out where to begin.
Sometimes, it is those longer term projects or undated responsibilities that seem to never make the priority list. Helping youth to see that they can be working on these types of things slowly and over time, allows them to further develop their skills in time management. It also helps to address the obstacle of procrastination.
As a caring adult, my role is to help ask questions and guide a teen as they figure out what is important to do first. Asking about deadlines and other time commitments is a great way to assist teenagers. This helps them to see their bigger picture of tasks versus immediate tasks.
You will notice, I didn’t say it is my role to remind the teens in my life to do specific tasks. In order for young people to develop time management skills, they have to take the lead in monitoring their schedule and priority lists. My role is to encourage them and help them sort out priorities.
I love technology, but I realize not everyone does. I use my phone all the time to set alarms and reminders for me throughout the day. For my own time management, I take the tasks I have written down in my calendar and I add reminders and alarms for myself. And, I taught my own teenagers to do this too. Life gets busy and the pace at which things moves can be overwhelming. But an alarm going off can help to refocus me and remind me of what I need to be doing.
There are several reasons I encourage youth to use their phones in this way. First, almost all teenagers I encounter have a phone. Over the past 5 years, I have also noticed children getting phone much earlier than my children did. This trend in technology access is most like not changing so we may as well use it to our advantage. Second, most teens tend to have their phone on them at all times making it easy to access and easy to use as an active calendar. Third, I have found that most teens are incredibly tech savvy and can quickly set a reminder and alarm for themselves.
Last year, my community’s public schools made using technology a little more challenging during the school day. Students are not allowed to be on their phones during any classroom instruction times. As a teacher in the school district, this has positively impacted not having to compete with students’ phones for attention. So, in a situation like this, an alarm during the school day may not work. However, youth can still use this strategy in the evenings and on weekends.
Have you ever watched a pinball bounce around in the pinball machine? It moves and shifts directions constantly. Well, that same thing can happen to teens when they are not sure what to do and where to begin. They can find themselves bouncing all over. That’s why it is important to help teach youth to work and focus on 1 thing at a time.
I always encourage youth to pick one thing to work on. Repeatedly, I tell them not to worry about the other things for the time being. I try to help them see the significance of focusing in on one thing. Frequently, I share with teenagers how when we have a laser focus it allows us to accomplish more than starting and stopping on multiple things. When we get going, we find momentum and we are much more likely to complete one thing if we stay focused on it.
As a caring adult, I can become frustrated when I watch teens get lost for hours in Netflix or playing a game online, but then be unable to focus on only one task when it comes to schoolwork or a project. What I have learned is that our youth are constantly scanning, intaking information, and processing all sorts of images through electronics, that when we remove that pace and environment to just working on one thing, it can be challenging for them. Their brain needs to slow down and reset their focus.
I have also noticed in the schools when I am working with a young person, I have to continually remind them to stay focused on the task at hand. This was a reoccuring theme last year as well as so far this year.
For example, just last week I was helping a student complete a science worksheet on the computer in his study hall. Because of his distraction from the open tabs, I made him close them all to help limit his focus to his worksheet tab. Next, he started talking about his English assignment he still needed to do. As I explained to him, his science was overdue and that had to be our priority and that he could finish that first if he focused. His mind was moving in all sorts of different directions and needed gentle nudging to stay on task. And, this is common throughout my day at the school.
When we consider our role in helping youth with this strategy, we may find ourselves in the position of having to remind a teenager to stay focused. We will have the opportunity to help them figure out how to tune out distractions around them too.
More Time Management Strategies To Come
So far, we have looked at 4 of the 9 Time Management Strategies we embrace here at the #Jesusismyhahstag community. There are 5 more to come in next week’s post. Make sure you come back to read the second article and learn more about time management.
Time Management Tips For You, The Parent or Caring Adult
As you consider using this as a resource for your teens, I do want you to keep a few things in mind. First, not all teens will recognize the importance of building skills in time management. And, some of these same teens will fail to realize that they are struggling in this area. That’s okay. Our approach in working with teenagers is to acknowledge what they see and feel. We can do this while also sharing why we believe time management matters and how it can tie into their future success.
Second, not all teens will want to employ the strategies you share. There will be some teens that resist because it will feel like work or feel time consuming. Remind them that building skills and habits take time. The more they repeat a healthy habit, the easier it becomes over time.
Third, and finally, it is important to remember that all youth are in development. Teenagers are figuring out who they are and who they can become. They want seen as an individual with their own ideas. When we engage with teens, we need to remember that they have a voice and we have a responsibility to listen to them. Let them lead when possible and keep in mind that you are there to guide them as they grow and develop. Quite simply, they need space to develop and build skills in their own way and in their own time without our jumping in and taking over.