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Time Management Tips for Kids and Teens

Updated on September 21, 2017
Joan Dragonfly profile image

Raising a family can be difficult, so moms like me need to work hard to make every moment count and to be as time efficient, as possible.

Parent Teaching Child Time Management Skills
Parent Teaching Child Time Management Skills | Source

Discovering How Your Child's Brain Works

Before expecting too much from your child or teen (as far as time management is concerned), it is important to understand two very important factors when it comes to their intrinsic ability to manage time. You may wonder why your child seems to have no sense of urgency, when you have always done your best to be deadline-oriented and punctual. You may be thinking that your great time management skills should have rubbed off on them by now, since they’ve been watching you do it their entire lives. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

The first factor you need to consider is your child’s Personality Type (A, B, C, or D). The second factor is what type of Learning Style they tend to lean toward (visual, kinesthetic, auditory, or some combination). Determining how your child thinks will help you to fully understand their needs and find successful ways to help them manage their time more efficiently.

I've often struggled with my own child's lack of time management skills, so I've devised this helpful list of time-saving tips and put this plan into action, with favorable results. I'd also like to add that since it took me a while to realize that my child is a "Type B Personality" and "Kinesthetic Learner" (and that was the reason why she was not born to have that great sense of urgency that I always had), I eventually let go a little more and more to allow her to discover her own way. I gave her a lot more slack over time because I understood that it is just the way she was and she would never change. I used to be that annoying helicopter parent that tried so hard to help her with her schoolwork and keep her on task, but now that she is older, I'm taking the sink-or-swim approach, since I realized that she was put on this planet for a far greater purpose and she would never find out what that was, if I was constantly in her way of succeeding. I was relieved to find that she did pick up where I left off, but not without a few minor hiccups along the way, of course. We all learn from our mistakes, but I had to allow her to make mistakes in the first place, in order for her to learn from them. She now gets terrific grades all on her own and teachers rave about her being such a wonderful student!

Learning Styles Chart
Learning Styles Chart | Source

FACTOR #1: Be Aware of Your Child’s Learning Style

Did you know that your child's learning style preference can significantly affect the way they manage time? It may not be a matter of teaching them to be better with their time. Some are born to only care about what is happening right here and now.

  • Kinesthetic Learners (Learn by Doing): Are individuals who learn best by taking a hands-on approach. They are typically best suited for technical schools (to learn a trade, such as electrical, hvac, woodworking, automotive, construction, etc...) and performing art schools (to study theater or dance), but they may also do very well in sports. They love figuring out how things work and have very good hand-eye coordination. They can learn while in motion and have a hard time keeping still. They may be accused of being too fidgety in a classroom setting, but unfortunately for them... that is how they learn and teachers may not approve of their ways and may find them distracting or disruptive in their classroom. The phrase, "Where do you see yourself five years from now?" is something they have trouble answering, since they only think about what is happening now and may have limited future planning capabilities. They don't mind learning in a group environment. Kinesthetic Learners don't seem to have much of a sense of urgency, so they may not do very well with time management.
  • Visual Learners (Learn by Seeing): These individuals tend to have a photographic memory and do best when something is visually explained, such as on a chart, graph, map, etc... They appreciate the phrase "Show... Don't Tell" and they may prefer to color-code their notes, since it is much easier for them to remember how things that are emphasized look on a page (to form that pretty little image in their mind). Since their brains think in pictures, it may take them a lot longer to process written or verbal information, which usually results in lost or only bits and pieces of the information being retained. Sometimes, if they've forgotten part of what was said, their creative brain may invent placeholders to fill in the blanks (without them realizing it). Authority figures may complain that this type of person doesn't listen well (even if they are trying their best to do so), but it is only due to their inability to quickly form pictures in their minds of everything that was discussed verbally. They do not like the phrase "Listen and Learn," because processing verbal instructions is difficult for them and onlookers may notice the eyes-glazed-over look of confusion on a visual learner's face after hearing what someone was trying to tell them that ended up being too much to take in. They are very good at remembering faces, but not necessarily names. They prefer working by themselves, rather than working in groups. Because Visual learners may feel pressured to work and think faster (since they have to compensate for their slower mental image processing), they may have a heightened sense of urgency, which may lead to better time management skills.
  • Auditory Learners (Learn by Hearing): This is the type of individual that most schools cater to and that most teachers expect every student to be like, but unfortunately that is not case for everyone. Auditory learners are very good at hearing verbal instruction and following it through to completion. They remember many facts that were told to them (even over the years) and might be better at remembering names, but not necessarily faces. They don't mind learning in a group environment. Because Auditory Learners are good at listening, they may be a bit better at following a parent's (or instructor's) suggestions for learning more efficient time management skills.
  • Learning Style Combinations: It is important to note that many individuals have a combination of learning styles. There are people who may be Visual-Auditory Learners (sometimes referred to as "Read & Write Learners"), Auditory-Kinesthetic Learners (who may also be known as "Auditory-Sequential Learners"), Kinesthetic-Visual Learners (also referred to as "Spatial-Visual," who may think three-dimensionally), and on rare occasion, a person can even be a combination of all three learning styles, which many of us might consider them to be a mastermind, visionary, or genius.

Learning Styles & Personality Chart
Learning Styles & Personality Chart | Source

FACTOR #2: Know Your Child’s Personality Type

It is important to understand that there is another factor that comes into play when it comes to your child's time management skills. Look through the list below to form a better understanding of your child's potential personality type, so that you know where they're coming from.

  • The Big 5 Personality Traits: A theory stating that a person may be any of these five different personality types: Open, Conscientious, Agreeable, Extrovert, or Neurotic.

  • Personality Types A, B, C, D: Personality Types A & B were first introduced by Meyer Friedman & Ray Rosenman, but the idea has since expanded by other theorists.

    - Type A: leader, competitive, ambitious, goal-oriented, impatient

    - Type B: energetic, extroverted, lackadaisical, impulsive, self-important

    - Type C: likes rules & details, creative, diplomatic, introvert, conscientious

    - Type D: likes affirmation, anxious, fast-paced worker, compassionate

  • Myers-Briggs Personality Types: A theory that covers a variety of 16 personality types, including individuals who are analytical, detail-oriented, enforcers, natural-born leaders, diplomatic, or laid back individuals with a friendly and energetic demeanor. Which personality type does your child identify with?

    - INTP: Logical / Analytical

    - ENTP: Resourceful / Strategic

    - INTJ: Goal-Oriented / Independent

    - ENTJ: Enforcer / Implementer

    - ENFP: Opportunistic / Assertive

    - INFP: Adaptable / People-oriented

    - ISTJ: Loyal / Dependable

    - ISFJ: Deadline-Oriented / Considerate

    - INFJ: Insightful / Conscientious

    - ISFP: Neutral / Moral

    - ESFJ: Caregiver / Contributor

    - ENFJ: Leader / Motivator

    - ESTJ: Practical / Systematic

    - ISTP: Laid Back / Problem Solver

    - ESTP: Tolerant / Energetic

    - ESFP: Friendly / Fun

Take a questionnaire to determine personality type, best career matches, and possible leadership roles.

Time-Saving Techniques

There are many techniques that can be used to assist your child when helping them with there time management. Don't forget to use the right method for their corresponding personality types.

  • Pomodoro Technique: Set a 25 minute timer... then a reward... plus a 5 minute break. Do this in intervals until the work has been completed.
    NOTE: this works best for “Kinesthetic Learners” (which can also be considered a person with a “Type B Personality”). These individuals are typically tactile-oriented, have trouble keeping still, and would rather be bouncing a ball or doing cartwheels than sitting still and concentrating on homework.
  • 80 / 20 Rule: 20% of what you do is more important than the remaining 80% (in other words, when you give 100% of your time toward something, only 20% of your efforts will be successful and the remaining 80% ends up being a waste of time). This seems frustrating, but it forces us to prioritize, so that we do the least amount of work in the most efficient way possible. This rule works best with a "Type A Personality" (or "Auditory Learner"), who tend to have a knack for knowing what could be considered a waste of time.
  • Strategic Angles: Try using quick blocks, smaller tasks, or do the hardest first. Chipping away at the smaller things is better than doing nothing at all. When your child has a heavy workload, ask them how they’d like to begin working by providing these three choices. Encourage them NOT to procrastinate (which a "Kinesthetic"/"Type B Personality" would tend to do). Instruct them to work on some part of their project every day until it is finished. They may feel overwhelmed, but starting with the small tasks (such as collecting supplies) can help to start the ball rolling in the right direction and provide a sense of relief and accomplishment. Perhaps your child likes a challenge and would do better by tackling the hardest aspect of the project, first (and if that is the case, then you probably aren't reading this article). If neither of those approaches work, then it is time to set that egg-timer and get them working on the project in short spurts. Make sure to get them working on the project during their most productive time of the day available (before burnout sets in).
  • Zeigarnik Effect: Figure out a way to use this idea to your child’s advantage, especially when studying for a test or quiz. This technique usually works best for "Auditory Learners," but really anyone can benefit from it, if done correctly. Example: Have your child record themselves reading (out loud) factual information from a book or study guide. Perhaps have them record a sentence such as, “The first president of the United States was George Washington.” Play the recording back and then click the pause button just before the last two words, which creates a fill-in-the-blank effect (the sentence would sound like this: “The first president of the United States was ________________).” According to the Zeigarnik Effect, after a few repetitions of the entire line being repeated over and over again, the listener(s) will finally be able to fill in the blank on their own, without assistance.
  • Meditation: For those who tend to get overwhelmed, meditation can help clear the mind to help them concentrate on the here and now, instead of trying to take it all in all at once. This method may benefit personality types A, C, or D, when they are experiencing analysis paralysis. Meditation may help to release unnecessary anxiety, pent up energy, or preoccupation, so that they can focus on what is really important. Example: Whenever I'm feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or on the verge of a migraine brought on by stress, I put in my earbuds and listen to meditation recordings to clear the mind and loosen tight neck and shoulder muscles. I find this very soothing, refreshing, and it helps to change the mindset and put things into perspective for the better.

Self-Evaluation Sheet (Learning About Yourself)
Self-Evaluation Sheet (Learning About Yourself) | Source

Have Your Child Evaluate Themselves

Instead of carrying on (as your child pretends to listen to your pearls of wisdom), empower them by asking them to evaluate themselves on their own strengths and weaknesses. Then ask how they can implement self-management strategies to get things done more efficiently.

  • Motivation: Ask your child to write a list motivators. Example: Incentives such as extra time with friends, money to go to the mall, make brownies, or allow them to stay up a little later.
  • Goals: Ask your child to list their future goals. Example: Good grades, become an astronaut, or to become a photographer.
  • Bad Habits: As your child to make a list of their bad habits. Example: Being unorganized, play before work, or over-snacking.
  • Good Habits: Ask your child to think of good habits that should replace the bad habits. Example: Take up a sport or club, instead of over-using their smartphone.
  • Reevaluate: Over time, have your child check their progress to see if they are on the right track. Example: Record the amount of time it takes to do a particular task and see if the timing has improved.

Encouragement Works Better Than Punishment

Although it comes naturally for parents to nag our children into doing what they are told to do, we must also realize that kids are far more likely to follow your lead when they are encouraged, rather than being punished for not following through.

  • Empowerment: Praise them for the great job they are doing while staying organized and on time! They will feel good knowing they are doing something well on their own.
  • Stay Positive: Don't always tell them what they're doing wrong. Tell them what they are doing right to keep them motivated!
  • Nix the Negativity: Negative remarks or punishments will only make your child feel even more unwilling to follow through with what they need to get done.
  • About Motivation: Watch the video on How To Motivate Your Child by Lee Hausner, PhD and discover why motivation can’t be imposed and must be a driving force that comes from within themselves. When dealing with teenagers, learn by watching the video by Michael Riera, PhD on How To Motivate Your Teenager.

In his video, procrastination expert, Joseph Ferrari, discusses how teachers should reward students for assignments that are passed in early, instead of punishing them for work that is turned in late.

Distracting Smartphone
Distracting Smartphone | Source

Avoid Distractions

Avoid anything that can distract your child or teen from getting their work done. Following the checklist below, will help to ensure that they use their time wisely.

  • Quiet Space: Have your child choose a room that is quiet, well lit, and comfortable (even temperature-wise).
  • No Devices: Have them leave any devices on the charger (out of their reach), unless they need it for their work or set the device on "do not disturb."
  • Supplies: Be sure they have all of the materials that they need before they sit down to work (pencil, sharpener, pen, ruler, calculator, pad of paper, notebook, book, highlighters, and maybe even a glass of water).
  • Designate Time: Give your child a certain time in the evening when it is acceptable for them to use their smartphones or devices (after dinner and homework, but not too close to bedtime). If they know they are able to use it later, then they will not long for it, while trying to finish their school work. However, sometimes children check in with each other via their smartphones when they have a homework question, so allow them to quickly check their smartphones during a short break. The extra peer help may come in handy for your own child too, someday, so allow them to pay it forward.
  • Set Parental Controls: Some students actually need their devices in order to do their homework (such as accessing Google Classroom, using Quizlet flashcards, or doing online research), so cutting out any unnecessary distractions by utilizing parental controls on the device itself will help to keep any straying from their work to a minimum.

Schedule 3 Weekdays
Schedule 3 Weekdays | Source

Encourage Proactive Thinking

If your child isn't already proactive by nature (maybe they're reactive), then you may have to explicitly ask them to anticipate the unexpected and determine what is likely to happen, if they don't plan ahead, otherwise the thought may never even cross their minds. It is best to talk them through it, with a hypothetical situation. However, if they begin to get overwhelmed, have a plan to steer them in the right direction, so that they can get started systematically or step-by-step. Remember that everyone thinks differently and your strengths may not be their strengths.

Ask your child the following questions to get them started:

  • What assignments or events are known? Write each item down in groupings of when you plan to get each one done (preferably on a calendar or quick days-of-the-week list).
  • What other things are likely to interfere? Write things that could pop up on the list with question marks next to each.
  • How long will each task take? Ask your child to take their best guess at how long each task will take and then have them add in padding time, for when things don't go as planned, which is usually the case.
  • Is there an after school activity to contend with for available time? Just when you think your child can’t possibly handle the workload that school can bring, there are always extra time-consuming activities that come along to mess with your carefully planned time management (such as soccer, karate, babysitting, group meeting, or maybe even chores).

Example: If a difficult Language Arts assignment isn't due until Friday, remind them not to wait until Thursday night to start working on it, since they never know what other assignments might materialize, as the week progresses. Remind your child about how drained they will feel by Thursday night (anticipating the weekend). They may also have after school activities that can hinder getting all of their assignments done in a timely fashion (without staying up too late). This was always a struggle for me and my child, since I was always the proactive one and she was always the live-in-the-moment type. She even got to the point where she would leave a schoolbook at school on purpose, so that I couldn't make her begin the assignment too early. She smartened up though, when I would drive her back to school the same evening to get the book that was purposely left behind. She began taking photos of the pages within certain chapters of her book, while she was at school, in case I asked where her book was, so that we wouldn't ever have to go back to school for it. That actually worked out better, since I was able to print out the book pages and she could use a highlighter to emphasize important information on the pages and keep it until test time to review it all, and then we would recycle the pages when she was finished. It was helpful that her teachers posted class assignments online, so I knew if anything was missing.

Utilize Technology

A convenient way to keep you children on track (when devices are allowed) is to use helpful apps that remind them of what needs to happen next.

  • Use a Timer: Either an old-fashioned egg timer or device app will work if they need to do a certain task in a shorter amount of time. Example: This works well for how long a child or teen has in the shower, using a device for leisure, or getting dressed in the morning before school.
  • Set a Reminder: Reminders can be set on desktop computers or devices that will prompt your child to remember to do a certain thing before a certain time. Even a good ole' sticky note will work, as a reminder. Example: A reminder can help your child remember to bring a certain book home from school or make sure they remember you will be picking them up from school that day to go to an appointment.
  • Prioritization: There are many prioritizing task apps that can be downloaded and used to create lists of things that need to be done in a particular order with the ability to reorder when necessary. Example: At the top of my child's to-do list was a book report to finish and turn in by Friday, but then the students were given an extension. Shortly thereafter, my child learned about a last minute quiz that would be given on Friday, so she needed to reprioritize her list to push the book report out (to hand in later by Monday) and then added in study time for the quiz (at the top of the priority list) for Thursday evening. If apps don't work for you, then a typed or handwritten priority list will do.

Time Efficient Strategies

Here are some strategies parents can use to help speed up their child's desire to work more efficiently and make good use of their time.

  • Reward System: This method doesn’t work for everyone, but some parents believe their children work best when rewarded for their hard work. The reward doesn’t have to be paid in the form of money. It could be more time allowed for fun things or cooking a favorite meal or treat. Learn a little more about child psychology and listen to Scientist, Adriana Galván, from UCLA discuss how teenagers tend to have an exaggerated sense of excitement, when it comes to rewards).
  • When the Stakes are High: Instigate an adrenaline rush to get your child moving quickly in order to get their work done efficiently. Tell them ‘X’ won’t happen unless ‘Y’ happens, first. Example: A parent might say to their child, “If you don’t clean up the mess in your room by the time so-and-so gets home, then we won’t go out for ice cream.” In theory, the child should scramble around feverishly to straighten up their room, so they can get their ice cream.
  • Sense of Urgency: Get them to experience the feeling of urgency. Think back to a time when they did work faster because something they really cared about was time-sensitive. Focus on what the reason was that made them work so fast, and harness those feelings and redirect it for another desired purpose. Procrastination is one of the most difficult things that many kids and teens experience, which can be frustrating for parents and the child, as well.
  • When To Say No: Sometimes your child may feel obligated to help someone else, but there may come a time when you realize that the person is just taking advantage of your child’s generosity. Teach your child when to say no, so that they don't end up being a pushover. Example: Your child may be good at writing essays, but their best friend is not, so they expect help from your child for every single assignment (which takes up big chunks of your child's time and energy). Parents can tell their children that they may use them as the reason why they are no longer able to help out anymore, so they don’t feel so bad saying no. They may end up saying, “It’s not that I don’t want to help you anymore, but I’m just not allowed to, since it takes too much time away from my other priorities.”
  • Time to Delegate: Sometimes when your child has too much on their plate, they may need to sort out their workload and delegate to get the help they need. Example: If your teenager promised to rake the leaves in the neighbor's yard for $15 dollars and then finds out they don't have enough time to do it, then your teen may want to ask his or her siblings or friends to pitch in and help them rake for a share of the profits ($5 each divided by 3 rakers).
  • Inspiration: Knowing what your child is good at or is interested in can help you figure out what will inspire them to do their best work. Example: Let's say that a geography teacher wants each student to give an oral presentation about a favorite location. Your child may be terrified of speaking in public, but what if you could convince them to give their presentation about a special place they truly enjoy. Think back to all of the vacations and destinations you've been to with your child. Talk about each place and you'll be able to tell by the look in their eye, which one creates that spark for them. Let them know that talking about things that they know and care a lot about will come much more naturally to them, while they are presenting in front of the class.
  • Create a To-Do List: Have your child write down a to-do list of everything they'll need to do (or have) to finish their project.
  • Back-Track: In order to move forward, sometimes one must think backwards (starting with the goal) in order to determine how long each segment of a project might take, so that the proper amount of time can be allocated to getting the project done on time.
  • Make a Schedule: Once the goal, project segments, and time-table is established, your child should use a calendar to create a schedule for what days and times they will work on their project (with extra time built in for mishaps).
  • Break Time: It is just as important to schedule in time for your child to enjoy a little me-time, so that they can relax and unwind after doing everything that is expected of them all day, on a daily basis. Everyone needs a break and a time to look forward to each day. If they know when to expect it, then (chances are) they won't take extra random breaks along the way and hopefully be better at keeping their nose to the grindstone, until their break time comes along.

Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator by Tim Urban

Stay on Track: Morning Schedule

I’ve created a morning schedule for my child to practice getting ready for school by herself, which helped to give her a sense of pride, accomplishment, empowerment, and what it means to stay on schedule! When both parents have to get ready for work themselves, it is helpful to have the kids (and teens) be accountable for their own morning routines.

Fill-in-the-Blank Get Ready For School Schedule:

  • __ : ___ AM: Alarm sounds, hit snooze.
  • __ : ___ AM: Alarm sounds again. Time to get up!
  • __ : ___ AM: Use the toilet.
  • __ : ___ AM: Get dressed (clothes chosen and laid out the night before).
  • __ : ___ AM: Brush and style hair.
  • __ : ___ AM: Gather breakfast food, eat it, and clear it.
  • __ : ___ AM: Brush teeth.
  • __ : ___ AM: Make lunch (or get lunch money) and place in backpack.
  • __ : ___ AM: Check supplies (books, homework, lunch, phone) are in backpack.
  • __ : ___ AM: Wiggle room (for error, such as finding a missing school book).
  • __ : ___ AM: Put on shoes (and cold weather gear, if applicable).
  • __ : ___ AM: Wait for the bus.
  • __ : ___ AM: Bus arrives for pickup (give or take a few minutes).

NOTE: Times will vary depending on school level. If the student needs to walk (or be driven to the bus stop), then the process will have to begin that much earlier. Use this as a template and plug in your own child's time accordingly.

Social Media is a Time Suck, But May Be a Necessary Evil

As a parent, it can be extremely frustrating to watch your child waste so much time on seemingly needless things, such as checking out what is going on in their social media outlets and then run out of time to do the important things, like studying for a test or getting ready on time. Remember that even though it seems useless to some adults, today's social media teaches children important lessons in success that will benefit them later in life. As much as we think we need to teach our children, there is also a lot to be learned from them. We can not stop technology, so we need to embrace it. It is interesting to watch children and teens interact on social media in a way that comes second nature to them, while many adults struggle to figure out how to gain organic traffic and followers on social media for their work-related business accounts. However, it is widely known that social media is a time suck and needs to be somehow scheduled into our busy lives (for kids, teens, and adults as well). However, there has been research on the effects of limiting a child's amount of screen time, which can actually have a reverse effect to make them long for their devices even more and can make kids and teens feel addicted to it.

  • Social Media Calendar: Have your child create a social media calendar for themselves to help them figure out what days and times are best for keeping up with what they love to interact with on social media.
  • Delete Unnecessary Accounts: Many kids and teens have what they refer to as "spam accounts," which means that they might post things that are a little more goofy on this separate account (with smaller amounts of followers), than they would on their regular social media accounts (where most of their friends and relatives see what they are up to).
  • Monitor Their Use: It is an unsettling fact that schools, police, and even after school activity leaders find themselves dealing with negative content posted on social media by kids, teens, and even other adults. Teach your child to stay neutral and only post positive content, while leaving out or disregarding anything negative. Bullying on social media isn't tolerated and they may find themselves in a lot of trouble over something that may have been misinterpreted. Parents should routinely monitor their children's use of online devices and let their children know the problems and the dangers that can arise from improper use.
  • Online Predation: Teach your child or teen the dangers of online predators that may seek them out through the personal information they post online about themselves. Remind them that the photos that they see representing individuals may be fake and to go with their gut instinct, if something doesn't seem right and let you know about something they need advice about. It is better to be safe, than sorry.

QUIZ: How Does Your Child's Personality Type Affect Their Time Management Skills?


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POLL: Name Your Child's Personality Type & Learning Style

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© 2017 Joan Dragonfly

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