According to the American Psychological Association, teens\’ stress levels top those of adults during the school year. While the causes of stress are complex, researchers say one factor is that teens lack effective coping mechanisms for dealing with a mix of demanding schedules, academic pressures, and busy social lives. Parents can help by giving teens tools to manage their time more effectively. Teens with good time management skills experience less stress and have more energy for working toward the goals that matter most to them. These are our top six time management tools and techniques for teens:
1. A predictable routine
One of the best ways parents can help teens manage their time is to be a little boring. Researchers at the University of Georgia found that teens with consistent schedules at home reported higher levels of self-control and emotional well-being and were less likely to use alcohol and more likely to enroll in college. Teens with routines also tested for lower levels of the stress hormone epinephrine. “The big takeaway is to help your child navigate the teen years, make their lives predictable,” says the study’s lead author Allen Barton. To minimize pushback and make it work for everyone, parents and teens can create routines together. Try establishing bedtimes, mealtimes, after-school schedules, and limits on screen time, and balance it out with lots of unscheduled time on the weekends.
Two-thirds of teens say they are “constantly worried” about school and their workload is a major source of stress, according to the nonprofit Challenge Success. Academic pressure leads many teens to procrastinate and feel anxious and overwhelmed by their goals, instead of excited and optimistic. Parents can help teens break down big, potentially scary processes–think college applications–into manageable steps using micro-goals. Start by reducing the “barrier to entry,” or making the first step so simple there’s no fear of failure. Then sort the entire process into easily-achievable goals, put each task on a timeline, and schedule daily or weekly time for your teen to work towards their goals. Finally, make sure to celebrate their successes. Each micro-goal they complete is a milestone.
3. Time Travel
Teach teens to put themselves in the shoes of their future selves. The “time travel” strategy, developed by psychologist and researcher Fuschia Sirois, uses visualization to imagine how great it will feel to complete a task successfully or attain an aim. Teens can travel through time to envision the outcome of any goal, and visualization can also help them imagine solutions to problems and setbacks they encounter along the way. By engaging teens emotionally, visualization motivates them to stay aligned with their dreams for the future.
4. An award-winning planner
Digital calendars, tracking tools, and reminders all help teens stay organized, but for developing executive function skills, a paper planner may still be best. Writing things down helps teens organize their thoughts, visualize a plan, and feel in control. Academic and parenting coach Leslie Joesel created the Order Out Of Chaos academic planner specifically to help teens focus, prioritize, and manage their time and tasks effectively. The planner\’s practical design includes school assignments placed alongside extracurricular and weekend activities, a Next Week/Notes section to help teens track complex projects, and visual aids that make it a cinch to use.
5. Analog clocks
Besides paper planners, Joesel offers another old-school time management hack for parents: analog clocks. In this YouTube video, Joesel says analog clocks help kids visualize the movement of time, which better prepares them to manage it. “The problem with digital is that digital only gives you one time: the present, so you can’t see what came before it, how much time you have left, or (see)… time move.” Joesel encourages parents to put an analog clock in every room their teen spends time in, including the bedroom, bathroom, and wherever they do their homework. Time management strategists say analog watches are great for teens, too.
6. Reward Substitution
Digital devices and social media distraction are a huge hurdle for teens who are learning time management. Since limiting screen time is not always an option, parents also need to help teens develop internal controls to dial down the temptation. One simple but effective strategy is Reward Substitution, created by behavioral economics professor Dan Ariely. To practice, teens create a habit that links a long-term goal with something immediately fun or relaxing, like rewarding themselves with 15 minutes of game time for each hour of study completed. Experiencing immediate rewards while working towards a long-term goal helps teens stay motivated and get in the habit of managing their time wisely.