Supporting Your Teenagers : Building Serious Time-Management Skills

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Some teenagers will have a natural talent for organizing and scheduling and won't need much help. Other teens will need to be guided step-by-step.

Explaining the Basics

You'll probably have more success focusing your teenager's attention on time management if you keep the discussion as short as possible. Concentrate on the basics:

  • Outline goals. Explain how knowing what your teenager wants to accomplish—both now (get a B on the history test) and in the longer term (travel to Europe after graduation)—will shape the decisions he makes about how to allocate his time.

  • Schedule each step. Explain how to break down each goal into manageable steps that can be scheduled into a planner. 

  • Increase effectiveness. Explain the benefit of eliminating anything in your teenager's schedule that doesn't serve a purpose.

  • Increase efficiency. Explain how to figure out ways to accomplish tasks using less time, money, and energy.

Then make sure your teenager understands that being a responsible member of the family requires her to consider the family's schedule when creating her own. She should compare her schedule to the family's schedule and, if they are compatible, enter her activities into the family's planner. If the comparison reveals that a conflict may occur with other planned family activities, then she must cooperate to resolve the situation before finalizing her plans. It's only fair that other family members extend the same courtesy to the teenager if her plans have been entered into the family's planner first.

Selecting a Planning Tool

So much of getting and staying organized depends on matching the right tool to the person's organizing style. You can help your teenager select the right individual planning system by having him fill out the various self-assessment questionnaires throughout this book to determine whether he should opt for


Perhaps the ultimate in cutting-edge PDAs are PDA wristwatches. Their availability is spotty, but searching the Internet for one may be worth the effort if it will motivate your teenager to organize her schedule.

  • An electronic or hard-copy planner

  • A daily, weekly, or monthly format

  • A horizontal or vertical layout

  • The use of color

There is still an overriding factor involved in your teenager's selection of a planner that a parent can easily overlook: That's the trend factor. A planner can be the most highly functional system available and perfectly suited to your teenager's way of thinking, but if it doesn't match with the current style, your teenager will never use it. In today's world, being current when it comes to scheduling tools means that the scheduling device has to be on the cutting edge of technology. Even if all indicators point to your student benefiting from a paper planner, your teenager probably will want—almost need—to have a PDA. Along those lines, smartphones—cell phones that also include wireless Internet access and PDA operating systems—are growing in popularity.


If other members of your family also have PDAs, make sure that they all run the same operating system so that you can share software and synchronize some of your information. Plenty of smartphones run the Palm or Microsoft Pocket PC operating systems, but the majority of them run the Symbian operating system, which is generally not available for standalone PDAs.

Should you be frustrated if your teenager insists on a digital planner when you believe a paper planner would be a better choice? Not really. Because your teenager likes the tool, he'll spend the extra time needed to make it work for him. In the meantime, he'll be learning the fundamentals of time management that he can use no matter what type of planner he chooses to use in the future.

You can help your young adult get the most out of her digital device by encouraging her to use the features that work best with her learning style. Here are some examples:

  • If she's the type of person who remembers things better by writing them down, have her master entering information into her PDA using the graffiti writing tool. (See Figure 1.)

    Figure 1. People who remember things better by writing them down will want to make notes using their PDA's graffiti feature.

  • If she learns better from illustration rather than the written word, make sure that her PDA contains drawing software. (See Figure 2.)

    Figure 2. For some visual learners, drawing software will provide added functionality on a PDA.

  • If she forgets to look at her planner for information, teach her how to set the PDA's alarm to remind her to do things.


PDAsoftnet's Student Log V 1.0 software for the Palm OS includes a sketch pad for quick drawing along with the ability to sort the student's schedule by subject or day. Both PC and Mac computer users can download a free trial version. Suggested retail: $9.99. Website:

As a parent, you must accept that if a trendy organizing gadget wasn't a good fit in the beginning, its novelty will wear off and your teenager will need to select a scheduling planner that's a more natural match. Remember that, despite their name, middle school planners are often ideal through all of a student's school years. You can continue to support your teenagers in their move toward independence and responsibility by helping them understand that finding the right planner, despite peer and marketing pressures, is a personal choice.

To do list

  • Enter all applicable deadlines into your family's and your student's planners

  • Schedule and plan college campus visits

  • File your income tax returns as early as possible in your highschooler's senior year

  • Use the Internet to locate colleges and scholarship opportunities

  • Block out several days for packing and moving to campus

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