Time Management for Middle and High School Young Adults

As Mike and I consult with parents one of the most frequently asked questions is

"How can I get my young adult to

manage his or her time?"

The answer is in the question.

Our goal as parents has always been for our young adults to manage THEIR time by the time they entered high school (though the means by which we've achieved that goal has changed and the progress varied from young adult to young adult).

(Read...I am not saying they did so perfectly or that it was achieved by every young adult (but the goal remains).

We figured out (by making mistakes) we would not be able to manage our young adult's time as long as we had thought. And, the young adult would not be magically able to flawlessly direct the minutes of his or her day after high school without practice. So, we purposed to start with what each learner was able to manage, allowing them to gain responsibility and confidence. 

We've made mistakes. 

Of course, Mike and I  manage (read scheduled play dates, library visits, and the like) schedules and routines when our children are young. In doing so, we are able to model time management techniques. In fact, I--and auditory external processor--became known for working schedules aloud.  I found out (by mistake) that my need to process externally actually helped my children. They saw and heard how I processed our days.

Mike and I also schedule family connections (usually on Sunday afternoons) where our family members come together to discuss the weekly schedule. During this time, family members bring activity requests and ideas to be added to the schedule. As our discussions about weekly schedules have evolved over the years, our children have come to learn that their desires and requests will effect other members. Hence, our family has to work together to plan the weekly schedule, to give and take if need be, to allow another person to participate in something necessary or something that has been prayed for over time (for example, music lessons). Though not always easy, we've learned how to problem solve and talk through challenging seasons. 

Modeling scheduling and planning prepared our young adults (little chunks at a time) for the season when they begin to manage their activities and daily schedules--experiential, real-life learning opportunities in time management. Again, we haven't done so perfectly, but we've definitely learned from our mistakes. Plenty of opportunities for apologies. Great learning for us a family.

However, we've learned there is much more to consider as our middle and high schoolers grapple with managing time on their personal daily or weekly calendar.

We've learned...

The biggest lesson we've learned...our children don't manage their time or decisions like we do. Different doesn't mean wrong. If they learn how they best manage their time--not just adopting how we manage time--they've learned an essential life skill.  Often learning styles and management tools weigh in on how our young adults manage their time. 

We've also learned that several life facets motivate middle and high schoolers to manage their time:

  • knowing they have skills to solve a problem bigger than themselves,
  • having a project to complete or a problem to solve, and
  • understanding they can use their skills to contribute to a cause.

When these aspects are discovered and fostered, managing time matters. It matters to them! And, if there is more to accomplish than there is time, time management becomes a necessity. For example, when our children hit the middle school years, they often begin to have aspirations--owning businesses, creating inventions, writing books. Interestingly, many parents we've talked with tell us their middle and high have the same desires!                                                      

  • Two children wanted to start businesses
  • One son wanted to become an Eagle Scout
  • One middle schooler wanted to learn to play the violin; a high schooler, the piano
  • One young adult wanted to self-learn art, an independent study I didn't see coming

We had to process, plan, talk. How would he or she proceed with their goal? How did he or she plan to complete other school work or fulfill previous commitments and add this new endeavor? Did we need to pray for a mentor? 

As our children began to forge their paths to personal planning--time management--Mike encouraged our children to use a spreadsheet as a visual tool to analyze their use of time. Usually, Mike and I and the young adult discussed priorities—appointments, classes, deadlines, practices, and special events—as well as why these items should be placed on the schedule first. Eating, exercise, and personal care were considered priorities and also added. After priorities, they logged less significant tasks and events--meeting a friend for lunch, perhaps. Their completed spreadsheets (whether paper or digital--depending on the learner's preference) provided a visual representation of how and where time was being spent. 

This tool helped our students plan and manage their days.

Did they mismanage time? Yes, especially when they first started planning. However, we encouraged them to keep trying, reminding them that adults make poor choices, too.

This Chart is included on the Time management Log Sheet offered below.

This Chart is included on the Time management Log Sheet offered below.

A spreadsheet is only one time management tool. Your student may prefer a single-page weekly schedule, a digital application, or a spiral bound planner. If one method is not effective, try another.

A young adult who is comfortable with a method will be more likely to use it efficiently.

We help our young adults look for wasted or dead time--when they ask. Oh, yes, it is hard to remain quiet at times. However, nagging never produced the fruit we intended. Personal motivation--an aspiration, an internal motivator--did. 

For example, our daughter had an extensive vegetable, flower, and herb garden. It was her idea. Every morning she would head outside to water her plants, standing while allowing water to flow from the hose. One day, I noticed she was wearing a cooking apron while watering. Watching from the window I realized she was using the apron to tuck her Kindle safely inside. While she watered, she listened to Anne of Green Gables. Amazed at her ingenuity, I affirmed her creativity, praising her when she returned inside. I learned from her in the process.

Part of being a good time manager is being organized so time is not wasted on extra steps or errands. For middle and high schoolers to be successful at managing their time, they must learn to manage and organize their resources, to put all the essentials for the tasks at hand in one place. That will be the topic of another blog post.

Until then, I am with you on the journey!

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children.