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7 Time Management Tips for Teens: Helping Them Stay On Track

Most adults struggle with how to manage time effectively. Teens are no different. Their time is splintered by many demands—academic, social, sports, volunteer hours, family responsibilities. So when it comes to time management for teens, how do we help teens learn to set priorities and manage time effectively? Parents, you can be a helpful resource by stepping in and offering guidance.

When you understand the many factors involved with time management for teens, you will be able to make suggestions to help reduce your teen’s stress. Jennifer Hatfield, president of Therapy and Learning Services, Inc., details her best practices for time management skills for teens.

7 Ways to Teach Time Management Skills for Teens

1. Figure Out Your Teen’s Style

Start by helping your teenager understand her own unique rhythms. We all have times of day when we’re able to be more productive than others. Helping teenagers identify their own productive periods is more effective than parents deciding when teenagers should do what. A key to time management for teens is letting them be in charge.

2. Talk About How to Manage Stress

Because it can be so overwhelming, high levels of stress are not helpful when it comes to managing time effectively. There are two basic kinds of stress: internal and external. Internal stress is self-imposed (“I need to straight As!”). External stress is the result of deadlines and other pressures (“I have a math test tomorrow!”). If your teenager is feeling too much external stress, see if he can remedy the situation by starting projects and other assignments earlier, asking teachers for extensions, or dropping extracurricular activities. If your teenager is the type to put a lot of internal pressure on himself, then look for ways to help him keep a healthy perspective on what’s important (and what’s not).

3. Help Your Teen Understand How Priorities Work

“There’s a big math test on Monday morning, but my friends are all going to the movies on Sunday night. Can I go too?” While most adults will see a problem in this statement, teenagers — with brains that are not yet adept at understanding consequences — may not.  Parents can help improve this aspect of time management by talking with teenagers about their priorities, like, say, getting a B in math. “You want to do well on your test so you can get that B you’ve been talking about. Could you study during the afternoon, so you’ll be ready for the test before the movie?”

4. Learn to Start Early

Being late for activities, not completing homework on time, or waiting until the last minute to get ready for a family event … all signs of procrastination and poor time management skills. When parents see these kinds of choices impacting grades and causing drama, they need to step in and help teenagers learn to get assignments etc. completed on time. But parent should resist “telling” the teen what he/she “should” do, says Hatfield, and instead, try to offer some tools — like, say, using alerts on her phone or using a calendar to schedule out projects — to help your teen learn to plan ahead.

5. Focus on Time

Similarly, teach your teen to have an awareness of time. Some teenagers are just not adept at paying attention to time and so are always running behind. While wearing a watch or using a phone timer won’t likely solve all time management issues, it can be one tool to stay aware of the time at any given moment.

6. Help Them Learn to Manage Technology Distractions

While technology has a lot of upside, when it comes to academics, there are also downsides. Namely, these devices are highly distracting. Have teens make a list of the ways their phone serves as a distraction. Then encourage your teen to come up with ways he can control the distractions. This will teach him to solve problems by setting his own limits, which he will have to do soon enough in college.

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7. Lists Aren’t Enough

Having a to-do list is an organizational strategy, not a time management strategy, per se. Teenagers also need to learn how long tasks take, how to plan their schedule using strategies like blocking out chunks of time to devote to certain tasks, setting goals for the day, identifying the steps required to complete each goal, and most importantly, anticipating the roadblocks that might thwart their efforts.