Michael Costigan is a 17 – year-old from Orange County, CA. He is a social entrepreneur, public speaker, and truly enjoys helping other’s better understand teen related issues.
Teens struggle with time management because it’s not until the beginning of adulthood that they have to really map out their own future and create schedules and goals that correspond to a successful alignment of both their ambitions and abilities.
The transition into this new way of thinking can, however, be made easier through some general best practices that both teens and their parents alike can benefit from.
1. Understand that Time Management should really be Self Management.
No matter what we do, there will always be 24 hours in each day. It’s not so much how we look at each hour, as it is how we look at what we are doing with each hour. Time management can become in and of itself a time waster. During school the bell schedule manages students’ time. At work, it’s a manager or series of zoning rules for lunches and breaks. Time is effectively managed for you, rather than you yourself managing your time. For teens, this then creates a problem. After school hours, weekends, and vacations all create voids of third-party time management. It is very important, then, that we set up structure for ourselves so that we adhere to our own pre-set time schedules. Learning how to empower oneself to stick to a schedule despite no one else holding you accountable is one of the most valuable, but most challenging things to do. Often this is the case because there is no one else to crack down on you or hold you to your duties but yourself.
2. Tackle the most uncomfortable or challenging tasks first each day.
I have had multiple mentors all tell me the same thing. Each day when you wake up, set out to do the things first that you least want to do. You will need to train yourself to do this, to the point where you embrace the uncomfortable thoughts so much so that they become second nature and part of a habitual routine for yourself. At first this is extremely challenging, but once you are able to master it, or at least make it a frequented pattern, it can be extremely satisfying because the weight of what ever unfavorable things you needed to do will no longer follow you around the entire day hanging over your head.
3. Prioritize like crazy.
Imagine that you were an ER doctor or police officer – you would have to prioritize on the fly no matter what, wouldn’t you? Prioritization is essential to self-management because without it you can find yourself putting off highly important tasks in exchange for more trivial or easier ones. Over time the consequences of inaction start to mount and you will find yourself even more underwater than you already were. If you learn to quickly assign something a level of importance and then act on the list of things you must accomplish successfully, you will be forever grateful to yourself and others will admire you for your quick and decisive action. So, start setting milestones for school projects, work projects, even things that you need to do around the house. This way it will be more obvious to you and clearer to others where your are on a particular task, it makes it so much easier to track your process for yourself and for those who expect you to finish the task.
4. Set routines and daily patterns that produce results.
This is one I am still struggling with. Ideally, you want to set a schedule so that you are waking up and going to sleep around much the same time each day so that your body adjusts and gives you the maximum performance that it can. Additionally, you should schedule in time for things specific to different tasks. For example, every Friday morning at 8 AM might be the day you want to wash the car, and every Wed at 7 PM might be date night. It doesn’t matter what it is, but I find that even when you set aside time for the simplest of tasks it is easier to cut through them and you don’t feel as though there is a whole list of things to you do because the specific time block you have has an actual actionable item assigned to it. This can actually help you have more free time. For example, if you decide Sundays are your relaxation day, you can schedule your entire week so that you don’t find yourself having to run around on Sunday finishing last minute things or things that you could’ve done earlier in the week but didn’t because you spent the time idling or doing something that wasn’t aligned with your priorities.
Now, obviously some of these things are very idealistic. Wouldn’t we all want to be this organized and productive? Even if you can adopt parts of these strategies, though, you will find yourself in a better position moving forward – hopefully less stressed and getting more things done!