Time management is a really important life skill, but it is something that is rarely taught (at least formally) within the school curriculum.
And that’s a real shame, because understanding even the basics of organizing and prioritizing time could help young people become so much better equipped for adult life.
Many adults struggle with time management and teens are no different.
But the good news is that with a bit of commitment and discipline, the skill of time management can be learned, developed and utilised quite easily.
Common Time Management Issues For Teens
The fact is, teens today live in a world that is far more complicated, stressful and fast-moving than the world their parents experienced as teenagers.
And when it comes to staying focused on a task, we’re at a whole new level of difficult, because we now have more distractions in our lives than ever before in human history.
I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that we’re living in the Age of Distraction.
And the ability to remain focused on a task plays a big part in managing your time efficiently.
But that can be tough when the desktop, laptop or tablet required to complete an assignment is exactly the same piece of technology that is the source of some the biggest time-sucks and distractions in our lives.
You already know the ones I’m talking about, so there’s no point in listing them here.
Having multi-functional technological tools is wonderful, but often it makes being productive like trying to lose weight when you are permanently surrounded by your favourite desserts.
It’s hard to stay focused on the task.
But you can do it.
And I’m going to help you.
One size does definitely not fit all, so don’t go thinking that a single, simple strategy will necessarily solve all of your time management woes. (Although, it might.)
The best strategy is the one that works for you personally.
It may take a bit of time and a bit of experimentation to find exactly what suits your personality and preferred method of working.
But the key is to make sure that you actually adopt a strategy and don’t just try and wing it all the time.
Everyone has the same finite 24 hours each day. We can’t magically produce extra hours out of thin air.
But what we can do, is implement some methods to become more effective at managing that time and more productive in the way we use it.
I know that managing time and scheduling stuff may feel boring and restrictive, but actually, the whole idea is to find more time to spend on the activities you really want to engage in.
We’re not talking about creating some kind of military-style way of life and turning you into a soulless, task-focused automaton.
Trust me – you can do this and still have fun, still be spontaneous, still enjoy being a teenager.
Time management is about ensuring that you have complete control of your time and that you are allocating it effectively so that you can get everything done that you NEED to get done – but also get done the things you WANT to get done.
Don’t try to schedule too much too soon, or schedule too tightly.
You need “buffer periods”, which are small blocks of time in your day when you have nothing scheduled and you need to introduce a regimen gradually.
During your teenage years, daily routines are fairly structured in that your school day and extra-curricular activities are pretty much laid out for you.
With studies, extra-curricular activities and social life, it can be difficult for teenagers to achieve a balance. But a good plan can help with that.
An effective time management strategy needs to be:
~ Easy to plan
~ Easy to implement
~ Easy to maintain
The message here is, keep things simple and focus on the stuff you can consistently make happen.
Benefits of better time management
You might be thinking, “Why even work on my time management?”
“What are the benefits?”
“Will it create more work for me?”
Well, firstly, being able to manage your time, commitments and daily tasks have a whole load of benefits. For example:
- Less stress in completing assignments
- Less stress due to better prepared for exams
- If you’re organized, you can fit more into your life
- More time to do the things you would prefer to be doing over school work
- More balance and control in your life
- You’re developing a skill that can help you find success in adult life
So where to begin?
There are a number of useful actions you can implement to help you manage your time better and I have outlined ten things you can experiment with below.
By the way, if you’re approaching college, you might also want to check out this post for more time management tips.
1. Time Audit
A good place to start is with an audit of your time, so you can understand how you are spending your time currently and what is your time management is like now.
I have outlined how to do this here.
READ: How To Audit Your Time >>>
Auditing your time can be quite revealing and if you know where you are now, it’s much easier to work towards a goal.
However, I will be frank in saying that auditing your time can be a slightly tedious task, so if you’re not up for it, just skip it and move on to implementing some of the tips below.
If you do choose to skip the audit though, I would at least make sure you use an app like RescueTime that works on your devices in the background and will provide you with some insight into how you are spending time on your phone, tablet or laptop. Actually, most devices these days also have their own built-in app (e.g. Screen Time) that can give you this information.
2. Use A To-Do List
Getting stuff out of your head and down on paper or digitally is an important first step in managing your time and tasks more effectively.
Start by jotting down everything you need to get done and everything you want to get done this month.
READ: How To Write A To-Do List – Properly! >>>
3. The Eisenhower Box
Once you have a list of things you need to do, it’s time to sort them out. And for this, we can use something known as “The Eisenhower Box” or “Eisenhower Matrix”
This is a super-useful tool that will help you prioritize the tasks on your To-Do List based on urgency and importance.
I explain how it works in this post.
READ: What Is The Eisenhower Box? >>>
In a nutshell, though, this is about identifying the things that need to get done first and those that perhaps can be dropped.
People often waste their time on “low-value” and unimportant activities, so the Eisenhower Box will help you to focus on those tasks that are important instead.
4. Plan Your Week
Use a planner so you can see what is coming up weekly and monthly.
Taking just 10-15 minutes on a Friday afternoon or maybe a Sunday night is going to save you a lot of time and stress during the week.
You will have your own set of things you need to juggle personally and scheduling and thinking ahead will help.
For example, a big project or assignment doesn’t just come out of nowhere. Take time to plan. Work backwards from the deadline and set time in your schedule to work on it.
This approach is a bit like packing a suitcase.
If you fold everything nicely, you can pack more in than if you just throw it all in randomly. Same with your schedule – you can pack more in if you’re organized.
Remember also to schedule time for your passion and interests.
READ: Why You Should Schedule Your Free Time >>>
Classes, homework, dating, exam revision, part-time job, chores, band practice, team sports, hanging out with friends — daily life for a teenager can be pretty hectic.
So, how to use after-school hours wisely?
Simply put, limit the “low-value” activities, such as gaming, social media, TV, etc. Sure, there is a place for these things, but only when other tasks have been done.
This requires some discipline and will power – something which only you can control.
5. Developing routines
Yes, routines may seem boring, because you want to be free and spontaneous, but as wonderful and romantic as that sounds, it doesn’t work when the majority of your waking life is spent within the structured institution of school.
Having a routine and creating habits is the best way to get organized and manage your time well.
And routines can start in the morning by making your bed, which can set you up for a productive day. Check out the clip of this speech by US Navy Admiral William McRaven for some inspiration.
When you want to make lifestyle changes, you might start the year with good intentions, but unless you have instilled the habits required to maintain good time management, you’re going to fall off the rails quite quickly, so work on developing good habits.
READ: Tips For A Great Morning Routine >>>
6. Use technology
Technology can be a terrible distraction when you need to get things done. But, when used for the right purposes, it can also be tremendously helpful.
Use apps, use reminders, notifications, etc.
While the world can be a complicated place, the tools available on your phone can make life much easier than in the days when we used to have to carry a diary around all the time.
A general piece of advice though: don’t let your technology control you. Most social media apps are designed to steal your time and attention. Use your technology in a way that suits you, not Mr Zuckerberg, et al.
If you want to try a great bit of technology to help you manage your time and your daily tasks, I’d strongly recommend Amazing Marvin. Check out my review here. Students get a 50% discount on the paid plans, so worth a look!
7. Study environment
Find your best working environment.
I always concentrated best (and still do) when I had some music on through headphones, but others find it distracting. Find what works for you.
You also need a good “command centre”, so make sure you have a dedicated working space and that you’re not just working from the sofa or the kitchen table.
It should be clean and uncluttered.
Use a whiteboard close to your desk.
While there are numerous apps available to help you keep track of your schedule, there is nothing like having an organic list of stuff in front of you to help you manage time and projects. This is great for schedules, tracking assignments and jotting down thoughts and ideas.
8. The Power of ‘No’
Some people, both fully-grown adults and teenagers, find it very difficult to say ‘no’ when it comes to taking on more work and commitments, but learning to do so will help you manage your time much more effectively.
I have written a post about this, so check it out for some tips on how to deal with saying ‘no’.
READ: How To Say ‘No’ >>>
9. Eating frogs
When it comes to being productive, there is a school of thought that says that the first task you attack each day should be the one you most want to put off doing.
This is sometimes known as “eating a frog”, a term that was made famous by Brian Tracy in his book, “Eat That Frog!”, which I have reviewed here.
READ: Eat That Frog! Book Review >>>
Developing the habit of tackling difficult and important tasks first will help prevent you from procrastinating on things, which is one of the biggest time-wasters for most of us.
10. Asking for help
Asking for help is an important life skill.
But the fact is, many people, myself included, would sooner deal with stress and overwhelm than ask someone else for help. It is seen as a weakness.
But asking for help is not a weakness. It is not a sign of failure.
If there is someone else you can ask to make your life easier, do it.
That doesn’t mean dumping all your crap on someone else, but for example, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification from a teacher on an assignment question or ask friends for help with a project.
Time Hack Hero Takeaway
Organizing and managing your time as a teenager can be tough by any standards.
However, by implementing a few simple strategies, you can get much more into each day and achieve a much better balance between academic work and personal pursuits.
Of course, large chunks of your teenage years will be dominated by school, which can make it seem that very little of your time is your own.
But if you can learn to manage your time more effectively, you should find that you can do well academically and still have fun outside of school.
For some more tips aimed at those in their college years, check out “20 Time Management Tips For Students“.
Recommended Further Reading:
Seven Habits of Highly Successful Teens by Sean Covey (2014)
What’s The Deal With Teens And Time Management by Leslie Josel (2015)
Getting Things Done for Teens by David Allen, Mike Williams and Mark Wallace (2018)
[Featured image credit / pexels]