9 Time Management Strategies, Part 2

Time management strategies are something teens need to develop. As a parent or caring adult in a young person’s life, we want to help them to build these skills.

In last week’s blog post, we looked at 4 strategies. These included:

  1. Write things down in 1 place. Do this right away.
  2. Identify the top 3 tasks that need to be done first.
  3. Set an alarm & reminders in your phone to help you.
  4. Work & focus on 1 thing at a time.

This blog post will look at the last 5 time management Strategies.

Strategy #5

When teens are working on something, I have noticed they can become easily distracted. Setting a timer while working can help keep someone focused and on task. This simple strategy can have a huge impact. 

When someone knows that they have a certain amount of time versus an unending amount of time, it can lessen stress. It can also open the door for getting started as opposed to being worried about how much time something will take. Getting started is a great first step towards completing a task.

In our technology driven world, youth have immediate access to information they desire. They have access to entertainment, knowledge, etc. with a swipe of their finger.  And, they have so much coming at them all at once that they actually can become bombarded or overloaded with information. This overload can negatively impact their ability to focus.

I encourage teens to set a 10 or 15 minute alarm when working on something. It is a doable amount of time that allows them to focus short term while also having time to accomplish a step or a task.  When the timer goes off, the goal is to take a short 5 minute break and come back to another set time to work again.

This give and take between work and a mental break allows a teen to reset. Using an alarm keeps them focused on working and reminds them when to return back to work. I have used this method successfully in a classroom setting with a large group of teens, in a small group of youth, and individually with my own teens. 

A common thing I hear from middle schoolers is that they “forgot” to put something in their bag at home. In high school, the same thing is muttered. Being prepared is a part of time management and is something teens need to learn how to do. 

One way to grow this skill is by encouraging teens to review their to do list and prep what they can before bed. Basically, they can work to establish a routine of getting things ready for the next day before they go to bed. When they have a routine, they are more likely to be consistent and grow this into a habit. 

For example, if a teen knows they need their math notebook the next day in class, by packing it the night before they are already setting themselves up for success. We want young people to be successful and we need to help them learn how to plan for that.

The process of thinking through what they need to pack and get organized for the next day allows them to problem solve as well as take control. And, when a young person can feel in control, it boosts their confidence. It also removes some of the potential chaos in the morning.  When a teenager can problem solve, plan ahead and get themselves more organized, it impacts how they organize their time as well.

Teens need to learn how to use an alarm to wake up. And, they need to learn how to get up when the alarm goes off. That might sound obvious, but you might be surprised at the number of teenagers that still rely on their parents to wake them up. 

When teenagers can develop this skill, it has long term impacts on time management and on their future as it relates to school and jobs. It also encourages the development of responsibility and autonomy. This in turn can grow their self esteem and confidence.

Early on, when our children hit the preteen years, we provided them with an alarm clock so that they could wake themselves up. We did this to encourage them to start to take some ownership for their morning routines. Each one of our children figured out how much time they needed to have to get up and get ready for the day. They also learned how to adjust their schedules when things would change.

Yes, I would go check on them to make sure they were up. After all, they were still learning and developing this skill. One of my favorite things to grow out of this was that they were responsible if they hit the snooze button on their alarm. That meant they had the responsibility for what happened when they didn’t get up right away.

I realize many teens use the alarm on their phone to wake up. I always suggest to teenagers when they tell me they hit snooze several times to move their phone away from their bed so they have to get up to turn it off. And, having it across the room makes it harder to just sit and surf on it when you cannot fall asleep. It would require them getting out of bed to get it.

If your family has a rule of not having phones in bedrooms, introduce your teenager to a traditional alarm clock. The goal is to help them develop this skill of getting themselves up for the day so it doesn’t matter which type of alarm clock they use.

Have you ever watched a teenager run around crazy in the morning because they are running late? Or have you been blamed when they forgot something because they didn’t have enough time before they had to leave? Have you ever suggested to a teenager that they get up 15 minutes earlier to be less rushed in the mornings? Well, I have experienced all of these things and more. 

I firmly believe, part of time management is knowing when you need to adjust your routines to allow for you to have less chaos as you do things. Knowing when you need to get up in the morning to start you day in a way that sets you up to succeed and experience a peaceful morning is a skill that teenagers need to develop. 

I have 3 children, two are in college and one is in high school. And, all three have their own patterns of getting ready in the mornings. I don’t know about you, but I was raised to believe that if you aren’t 10-15 minutes early, you are late. This meant, I built that time into my day to make sure I was “on time.” And, I will be honest, I modeled this in our home for my children. But, they each have developed their own beliefs on this and what makes sense for them.

While they tend to have shrunk that window of being early, they have also figured out how much time it takes for them to get ready. Throughout the years, we have worked with them on this and would point out when we saw them unnecessarily rushed or unprepared because they didn’t plan enough time. These conversations sometimes led to them adjusting their schedules. Other times, the conversations seemed to be ignored and they repeated the same chaos. Encouraging your teen to manage their time in a way that allows them to get the sleep they need, get ready without chaos, and feel prepared is an important role for caring adults.

When we talk about time management, we also need to encourage teens to plan time for both distractions and down time. Distractions might include social media, watching Netflix, playing a video game. Down time could also include those things if they are using it as a way to disconnect and unwind. Personally, I always encourage teens to include hanging with family and friends as a part of down time too.  

Teens’ schedules can get so busy and full that they find themselves with no time to relax or be with friends. When this happens, their stress levels tend to increase. Over time, it impacts their mood, their sleep, and their relationships. Guiding them to include both downtime and distractions in their schedule is important and it helps them to build another facet of time management skills. 

In my experience, some teens are anxious about having down time because they are afraid they will look like a failure. I always explain how taking care of oneself allows them to do all the things they want to do. If they don’t take care of themselves, they end up struggling more.

More Time Management Tips For You

In our last post, I offered 3 tips for you to keep in mind. We talked about realizing not all teens will recognize the importance of building skills in time management, acknowledging not all teens will want to employ your same strategies, and remembering all youth are in development. Today, I want to offer 2 more tips for you.

First, be aware of what you are modeling. If you don’t schedule downtime for yourself, your teen won’t realize the value of it. If you have a habit of chaotic mornings because you haven’t given yourself enough time to get ready, it will be hard to convince your teen to wake up early.  Remember, teenagers are watching the adults in their lives to make sure they are living out what they encourage others to do.

Second, remember that developing skills takes time. It also means, you might watch your teen struggle or even fail at times. Be a voice of encouragement and tell them to keep trying. The more we are intentional in building up our teen, the more likely they are willing to hear us when they need to hear us. 

As you move forward with teens, I want to encourage you to introduce them to these 9 time management strategies. And, be there for them as they work to figure them out.

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