Teens and Time Management

Our teen has no clue about how to manage his time. He never seems to have enough time for the things he is supposed to do, or even the things he wants to do. How can we help him with this problem without doing too much ourselves?
Part of the problem may be the way your teen perceives time. Many teenagers feel that time is elusive and unmanageable. If you ask why they don’t make better use of their time, some teens might say it’s not their fault — that other people make all the demands and control their time.

To help teenagers improve their time-management skills, you must start by helping them to understand that they do control many decisions about how they use their time.

Teens decide how much time they need to get up and get ready to go to school or work. If they use the bus, they decide what they will do with the time they spend traveling on that bus. They decide how to use recess periods, breaks and lunchtime. It’s OK if they choose to relax and socialize, but the point is, they need to know that they are making a choice about the use of their time.

Each day, time is used up with eating, doing chores and doing homework. Help teenagers see the ways they control the time they spend on these tasks. Sometimes they spend two hours worrying or complaining about something that takes only 45 minutes to do!

Teens also decide what to do with their leisure time. They decide whether to spend it with sports, extracurricular activities, talking on the phone, surfing the Net or watching TV.

Ask your teenager to do a time-management experiment with you. Have him record how he spends each leisure hour for two or three days. You can encourage this by doing it right along with him, saying you want to know where your time goes, too. Then you and your teen can evaluate the logs and talk about how you might use the time differently or more effectively. Help him critique himself (and you, too) to see if too many activities or too few are being planned, or if there are blocks of wasted time.

Teens also need to have their own personal calendars and really use them. Ask them to put important dates and deadlines (school, family, social events, special projects) on the calendars. Teach them to work backwards from a deadline and learn to estimate how much lead time they need to do a certain project — school assignments, summer job research, college applications and so on.

Learning how much lead time they need before a deadline is an important life skill. Learning about good time management and practicing it is an even more important life skill because of its impact on family, jobs and stress levels.