Time Management for Teens

June 24, 2014

Ask any adult what they often wish they had more of and the answer will often be, TIME. You've heard the following statements about time: "Don't Waste Time!" "Time is Money!" "Time's Up!" "Time Out" "You're Wasting my time!" "Take Time to Smell the Roses" "Time Keeps on Ticking." There are countless phrases about time.

Time management is a critical skill. Proper training on how to organize, prioritize, and complete assignments can make or break a successful high school and/or college experience, first job, work schedule, and even family life. Last fall my colleague and I taught a lesson on the realities of student athletics in college. Across the board, whether personal interview, video, blog post, or college website, time management came up at the top of the list of skills necessary to be a successful student athlete. Here are quotes from personal interviews with former college student athletes:

"The hardest part was definitely time management. Knowing I had papers or tests or reading that had to be done after practice when I was exhausted made for some tough nights." Jennifer, Division I women’s basketball

"I wish I had known how much time it would take and how critical time management was." Andy, Division I golf

"The hardest part was getting everything done in an unstructured environment (i.e., having to plan your day yourself to get practice, studies, and everything else done); frankly, I had more support in high school (structured day of school, practice right after, supportive parents). In college you are on your own to get it all done, and it's tough to do that first year in particular. Of course, the bigger the athletic program, the more structure and the more support you would have!" John, Division I football/track

"The time management struggle came down to self-discipline with all of my free time." Tim, Division I Track

Prioritizing one's time is not just for athletes. Solid time management skills are required for any successful student at any level of study--elementary, middle, high, or college. Google time management for students and you will find pages and pages of tips, to do's, helpful hints, parent guides, and student guides published by a plethora of people from college counselors to parenting magazines to school system websites. I could go on and on here with my own lists of planning, study skill guides, and time management techniques. However...

I think it is necessary to go beyond giving a list of tips and to do's to your teen. Explain to your teens WHY time management is important. What will happen if time is not managed well? How do you (as parent, teacher, mentor, friend) manage your own time? Why do you do it that way? Who helped you figure it out? Everyone has a story about a time they didn't manage time well. The stories are as important as the lists. Rather than delivering platitudes and "do this and do that's," engage your teen in negotiating the next step. Don't just hand your teen a blank planner. Whip out your iCalendar and show them how to enter an event, set the time, set a reminder. Talk about the difficulty of coming in early so you can leave early to make your teen's ball game or special event. In this way you share with your teen the essence of time management:

You are worth my time. I choose to spend my time with you. I worked hard today doing the things that had to be done, so that I could have time to do what I wanted to do - be with you! Listed below are a few suggested questions to start a dialogue about time with your teen. Ask yourself the questions and share your answers!

Who: With whom do you spend your time?

What: What do you do with your time?

Where: Where do you spend your time?

When: When does time slip away from you?

Why: Why do spend time doing what you do?

How much: How much time do you spend on certain things?

These questions aren't only about the nuts and bolts of a 24 hour day. These questions open the door to a deeper discussion about priorities, needs, wants, friends--the list could be endless. How we spend our times says much about us! Who we are. What we value. Why we do what we do.

Time Management isn't just an academic skill, it’s a Life Skill.