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Key Takeaways:

  • Time management for teens is imperative for developing better decision-making skills, improving academic performance, decreasing overall stress, and becoming more independent.
  • Some teens struggle to develop good time management techniques because of low motivation, lack of time, perfectionist tendencies, or lack of rest.
  • Parents, caretakers, and teachers can help teens develop good time management skills through goal-setting, task prioritization, distraction management, helpful apps, and schedule structuring.

With academics and extracurricular activities on their mind, your teen may feel they don’t have enough time to tick off daily to-dos. However, time management for teens is imperative for avoiding procrastination, managing stress levels, and maintaining future relationships.

Imparting helpful time management techniques for teens can foster more productive school environments and allot time for relaxation.

The Importance of Time Management for Teens

High school may seem deceptively busy, but learning time management skills can better prepare your teen for adulthood. By mastering the art of time management, teens:

  • Make better decisions
  • Have more leisure time or opportunities to bond with family and friends
  • Perform better at school and work
  • Feel less stress and anxiety as deadlines approach [*]
  • Become more independent

Benefits of Effective Time Management for Teens

With limited time in their day, it’s natural for teens to want to make the most of their waking hours. By developing adequate time management skills, teens can enjoy these undeniable benefits:

  • Getting more done in less time: By prioritizing essential tasks requiring immediate action, teens can achieve their goals faster. Without the risk of mindless multitasking, teens focus on an activity at a time for a specified duration.
  • Reducing stress: Knowing what they need to do and how much time they have to complete a task can provide teens with much-needed perspective and help them cope with stress. In addition, they learn to gauge what activities are manageable and what may be worth an extension.
  • Preventing procrastination: Setting aside time to complete tasks prevents procrastination, a slippery slope typically leading to stress, frustration, and poor academic performance.
  • Improving decision-making skills: Teens who learn to manage their activities can determine how much time to dedicate to studies, friends, hobbies, and leisure.

Common Challenges Faced by Teens in Managing Time

Identifying teens' common challenges when improving their time management skills can inspire change. In addition, teens can learn how peers may have addressed similar conditions. Below are a few common time management issues your teen might encounter.

Low Motivation

Finding the motivation to complete a task can feel like an insurmountable obstacle, especially when your teen isn’t interested in a particular subject or activity.

What you can do: Encourage your teen to achieve a related goal. For instance, if they are unmotivated to complete a school paper because they’d prefer to engage in a hobby, emphasize how completing this paper will give them more time to enjoy another activity. Over time, your teen will develop self-motivation skills to pull themselves out of emotional ruts.

Not Enough Time

If your teen feels they have too little time to complete a task, they may be tempted to abandon it.

What you can do: Develop a to-do list, arranging tasks by priority. Consider what tasks have little to no consequences when postponed or left undone. For example, if your teen feels demotivated to complete a school project because they have household chores, consider eliminating their dishwashing or laundry-folding for the day.

Perfectionism

It isn’t uncommon for teachers to encourage attention to detail in class. However, teens who obsess over these details may develop perfectionism and experience task paralysis or an inability to begin their assignments.

What you can do: Help your teen integrate success measures on their to-do lists. Every time they complete a task, encourage them to ask: Is there anything else I can do to improve this task? Am I focusing too much on details that don’t matter?

Not Enough Rest

Distractions are everywhere. Your teen might stay up too late because they watched YouTube videos or scrolled on their favorite social media platform. Thus, they may feel less productive because of a lack of rest.

What you can do: Encourage rigid sleep schedules or more relaxing pre-bedtime activities, such as meditation or light reading. Use these tips to improve sleep.

Strategies for Effective Time Management

Most teens adhere to structured schedules—they attend school, attend an after-school activity or two, and do homework or chores. However, this rigid schedule doesn’t make managing time easier. Thus, developing reliable time management techniques for teens can help simplify their day.

Setting Clear Goals and Priorities

Talk to your teen about their personal goals. For example, maybe they want to learn to play a new instrument or join a specific after-school activity but don’t have the time because they’re struggling to perform well in their math class. In that case, you might suggest working with a tutor to improve their math skills and free up time for a new hobby.

For more directed and specific goal-setting, introduce SMART goals to your teen.

Creating a Structured Schedule

Encourage your teen to develop a feasible daily schedule instead of forcing one upon them. By giving your teen the freedom to create a workable routine, they’ll be able to consider what tasks matter the most to them.

For instance, if your teen makes it a habit to complete their chores as soon as they return home from school, they’ll have more time for homework and hobbies. Eventually, they won’t waste time obsessing over what to do next.

Prioritizing Tasks and Activities

If your teen has trouble prioritizing tasks, consider their values and commitments. Suppose their basketball has a game on the same day as a classmate’s birthday party. If they miss the game to attend the party, encourage them to consider how this choice might reflect on them as a team member. Perhaps they can make it up to this classmate later with a picnic at the park or tickets to a movie.

Avoiding Procrastination and Staying Focused

Many procrastinators benefit from using timers. Encourage your teen to try the Pomodoro technique, which involves working in focused intervals. The Pomodoro technique makes it easy to get started and helps teenagers combat distractions.

In addition, the Pomodoro technique makes teens more aware of where their time goes. Whenever the timer expires, encourage your teen to reflect on how they used their time. What can they improve on? Do they need to work in longer or shorter intervals? Keep it flexible.

Tips for Balancing Time for Academics, Extracurriculars, and Personal Life

Even with a rigid schedule, it can be challenging for teens to balance academics, extracurriculars, and personal lives without encountering a few hiccups. Here are a few additional tips for optimal time management.

Use Apps

Nowadays, parents, teachers, and students alike won’t fall short of hearing the phrase, “There’s an app for that!” Teens who are chronically online can still use their smartphones to their advantage with productivity apps.

Some applications block distractions, while others send homework reminders.

Avoid Nagging

As a parent or teacher, it can be tempting to nag your teen to complete chores or assignments they haven’t started. However, studies show that offering your teen repeat reminders can diminish their sense of responsibility and demotivate them [*].

Categorize Tasks

Break down tasks into the following categories:

  • Must do: the most urgent tasks
  • Would like to do: tasks with looser deadlines
  • Want to do: recreational activities to enjoy after completing other, more time-sensitive tasks

Then, see how these tasks fit into a regular school day.

Model Good Time Management Skills

Parents, guardians, and teachers set the tone for their teens. Your teen will likely follow suit if you’re constantly running late or missing deadlines. Practice managing your time wisely and set a good example.

The Bottom Line

When teenagers miscalculate how long a project will take or simply can’t find the motivation to move an essay along, they aren’t alone! Many teens would rather spend time with friends or enjoy their hobbies but must realize the importance of time management and academic success.

As with most developmental skills, learning begins at home. Help reinforce time management for teenagers with our collection of worksheets.

Sources:

  1. Häfner A, Stock A, Oberst V. Decreasing students’ stress through time management training: an intervention study. European Journal of Psychology of Education. 2014.
  2. Hong J-C, Hwang M-Y, Kuo Y-C, Hsu W-Y. Parental monitoring and helicopter parenting relevant to vocational students procrastination and self-regulated learning. Learning and Individual Differences. 2015.