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Time Management for High School Students

Ah, time management!  That surprisingly elusive talent/asset that frequently feels integral to success.  It’s a critical skill to have and one that you should heartily encourage your child to develop.  After all, the further he gets into high school, the more important it becomes.  Indeed, he’ll most likely be juggling schoolwork, extracurricular activities, a college search and SAT/ACT prep all while he attempts to maintain a healthy social life.  It’s a tall order for anyone, let alone a maturing teenager.  So, how can you help your child learn how to best manage his time?

Push him to make a to-do list.  To-do lists are a fabulous way to help your child stay organized.  They’ll force him to take a mental count of everything that’s going on and offer a physical reminder of what needs to get tackled.  He can craft the list so that the most crucial and/or immediate tasks appear first.  And he can even decide to sprinkle a few fun activities throughout to keep himself motivated.  Plus, he’ll get the satisfaction of crossing off completed jobs and hold tangible evidence of his accomplishments.

Have him think about when he’s most productive.  We all operate differently.  Some of us are morning people who feel like crawling back into bed before the sun even sets.  Others are night owls who don’t feel fully conscious until at least 3:00 in the afternoon.  Certainly, there’s no right or wrong answer (though you probably hope your child’s optimal time is not 4:00 am).  Regardless of when it is, encourage him to focus on his work then.  He’s likely to be more focused and efficient and retain more information that way.

Make sure he maximizes his time.  Whether it’s a long bus ride home, waiting at the doctor’s office or having a half hour to kill between school and soccer practice, kids frequently have moments of down time.  Suggest that your child use those instances to his advantage, conquering a few Algebra problems or reading the next assigned chapter in The Great Gatsby.  He’ll have less to worry about when he gets home and it might even allow him to get ahead (or, at the very least, net more evening relaxation time).

Encourage him to keep a calendar.  It doesn’t matter if he uses his Gmail account, iPhone or a good ol’ fashioned desk calendar.  He can keep track of class schedules and assignments, daily/weekly chores, upcoming tests, social events, big sports matches, etc.  By (regularly) maintaining said calendar, he’ll know what to expect for each upcoming day.  And he’ll easily be able to prepare for what’s coming down the proverbial pike. A family calendar in an easily accessible place that merges all major events can help keep all family members on track as well.

Persuade him to figure out a time budget.  Tell your child to think about how long certain assignments and activities typically take.  If physics homework usually requires a full hour and jazz band is always two hours, he’ll know that he has to allow for that in his daily schedule.  Once he determines all of his commitments, he’ll be able to figure out a weekly agenda.  And he’ll clearly see where he can pencil in some time to kick back and relax.

Let him know that it’s okay to say no.  Unfortunately, there are only a finite number of hours in the day.  And sometimes you simply can’t accept every invitation that’s extended.  If he’s already attending baseball practice and a study group, he probably shouldn’t also agree to go to the movies.  He needs to recognize his commitments and priorities.  A trip to the local cinema can always be rescheduled.

Set a good example.  Though he’ll likely never admit it, your child takes his cues from you.  If he sees you constantly running around in a frazzled state, arriving late, completing tasks at the last possible minute, etc., he’ll begin to think that that’s acceptable.  Rather, if he witnesses you maintaining an orderly life, staying on top of your duties and keeping a schedule, he’ll begin to understand how to manage his time most effectively.

Step in when and help if need be. When learning any new skill, sometimes help is needed. If you see your child struggling with too many “to-dos,” be ready to offer a helping hand. This doesn’t mean doing his work for him, but rather help him prioritize and organize his work. It’s okay to let him work through some discomfort and anxiety; often, this is the best way to learn something. But, you don’t want to let him become completely overwhelmed.

Time management is an essential skill.  Certainly, it helps to alleviate stress and anxiety.  Perhaps more importantly, it helps to ensure that we’re performing to the best of our capabilities.  And while some of us might be more naturally inclined to organization than others, it’s an attribute we can all develop with guidance and practice.  



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