As a whole, we’re a stressed-out nation. In fact, Gallup reported that 55 percent of Americans are stressed-out during the day. That’s actually 20 percent higher than the global average — I’d suspect that stress has skyrocketed since the pandemic.
While stress is a normal emotion, when not addressed, there can be serious repercussions. Stress can damage everything from your cardiovascular system to your nervous system. It can also contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety. And, it certainly will interfere with your productivity and relationships.
No wonder it’s been dubbed “the silent killer.”
What’s even more troubling? Teenagers are more stressed-out than ever.
“The American Psychological Association (APA) periodically surveys for stress in the American public, and since 2013, teens have reported higher levels of stress than adults,” says Diana Divecha, Ph.D. “In the 2018 APA survey, teens reported worse mental health and higher levels of anxiety and depression than all other age groups.”
“These findings are consistent with other surveys, and I have yet to see data that counters that trend,” adds Dr. Divecha. “A 2019 analysis by Jean Twenge, author of iGen and psychology professor at San Diego State University, showed that between 2005 and 2017, teens and young adults experienced a significant rise in serious psychological distress, major depression, and suicide.”
Furthermore, “a 2018 American College Health Association survey of more than 26,000 college students found that approximately 40-60% reported significant episodes of anxiety or depression during the year—an increase of about 10% from the same survey conducted in 2013,” Dr. Divecha states.
Why are teens so stressed out?
Some of the most common triggers include:
- Academic stress, such as grades and applying to college. This also includes keeping up with classmates and pleasing teachers and parents.
- Social stress like maintaining friendships and resolving conflicts with bullies.
- Family discord. This can be anything from marital problems to unrealistic expectations.
- World events ranging from COVID-19 to school shootings terrorism.
- Traumatic events, like the death of a friend or family member.
- Significant life changes, such as divorce or moving.
While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, one way to help the teenager in your life reduce stress? Help them improve their time management skills.
That might sound like a bunch of malarkey. But, this will help them avoid procrastination when it comes to meeting project deadlines or studying for an exam. In turn, this will make them less anxious and feel less overwhelmed.
Moreover, time management ensures that they follow through with academic commitments while also being able to hang-out with friends and family. Time management will also sharpen their decision-making skills and improve scholastic performance.
Best of all? Learning how to manage your time at a younger age is a life-long skill. It’s used throughout college, as well as in your professional. And, it will make it possible to live a happy and fulfilled life.
So, whether you’re a parent, guardian, educator, aunt, or uncle — here are eight, time management tips you can share with the teenager in your life.
1. Figure out their style.
The first step is helping them understand their own unique rhythms. “We all have times of day when we’re able to be more productive than others,” writes June Scharf for Your Teen Magazine.
“Helping teenagers identify their own productive periods is more effective than parents deciding when teenagers should do what,” adds Scharf. “A key to time management for teens is letting them be in charge.”
Suggest that they use time tracking to find out when they’re most productive. Let them pick the time tracking period. Also, recommend that they use a time tracking tool like RescueTime, Clockify, Toggl, or ATracker — and of course, Calendar. And, help them set up a time log so that they can maintain it on their own.
2. Map out the weeks.
“Every Sunday, take some time to discuss the upcoming week with your student,” suggests Todd VanDuzer, Co-founder & CEO of Student-Tutor. From there, generate “a list of things that fall into these categories:
- Need to get done (“Bottlenecks,” that need to get done immediately)
- Would like to get done (Can wait a bit longer)
- Want to do (Recreational things like watching TV)
Next, “have them write out Monday – Friday and note the number of hours they have for each.” They should have a general understanding of this after tracking their time. Also, advise them that there “should be a start and end time for every day,” adds VanDuzer. “Help them place the different tasks based on priority and time.”
How can they prioritize their tasks and to-do-lists? “Separate the “must-do” tasks from the “should do” or “would like to do” tasks that may not really be assigned a hard deadline,” advises Choncé Maddox in a previous Calendar article.
3. Give them the right tools.
As of now, your teenager is on the younger side of Gen Z with Generation Alpha right at their tools. Despite this, you may still want to hook them up with tried and true time management tools like timers, analog clocks, or academic planners/Calendars. They’re effective at keeping track of time without the distractions from devices like a smartphone.
At the same time, you could also steer them in the direction of online tools like Calendar. We’ve noticed that, at least in the workplace, Calendar has been able to meet the unique demands of Zoomers, such as;
- Helps them reduce screen time. As a result, this keeps them focused, without succumbing to FOMO.
- Grants a more flexible schedule so that they’re able to follow through with their commitments, but still have free time.
- Allows them to put their mental and physical health first.
- Encourages social responsibility.
- Provides real-time feedback so that they can make adjustments quickly.
4. Discuss the consequences of procrastination.
In fairness, there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of procrastination. “When used the right way, procrastination can motivate you to get more done and remove unnecessary tasks,” explains Abby Miller in another Calendar article. “It may even help you make better decisions, stimulate creativity, and find insights on what’s most important.”
At the same time, discuss what it’s important for them to now always wait until the last minute.
“Procrastination can have a negative effect on students’ schoolwork, grades, and even their overall health,” notes Oxford Learning. “Students who procrastinate experience higher levels of frustration, guilt, stress, and anxiety—in some cases leading to serious issues like low self-esteem and depression.”
“The effects of procrastination can have an even bigger impact on high school students,” the article states. “Once students reach high school and start receiving more take-home assignments and larger projects, students who procrastinate until the last minute tend to receive lower grades than their peers.” Eventually, this can affect their self-confidence and even post-secondary opportunities.
It’s important that you don’t lecture them after explaining the consequences of procrastination. Listen to why they’re prone to procrastination. And, then come up with solutions together, such as;
- Breaking projects into smaller tasks.
- Making the project meaningful to them.
- Boosting their confidence by pairing work with rewards.
- When giving feedback, follow the 80/20 rule — 80% should be positive, 20% negative.
- Creating a dedicated workspace with them.
- Encouraging healthy habits, like eating correctly and getting enough sleep.
- Making a project and helping them stick to it like setting mini due dates.
- Developing better study habits. For example, focusing on the learning process as opposed to just grades.
5. Encourage routines and structure.
Up until the COVID, teenagers had decent structure — at least throughout the school year. For instance, they knew that from roughly 7:30 A.M. to 2:30 P.M. that they would in classes. At 3 P.M. they might partake in an extracurricular activity like playing a spot.
Even the pandemic has changed that because of virtual or hybrid instruction, there’s still a routine intact. But, you can also encourage non-school routines and structure.
One example, as recommended by Amy Morin, LCSW, is to have them do their chores right after school. Once they get “into the routine of doing things in a certain order,” they “won’t have to waste time thinking about what to do next,” says Morin.
6. Let them play games.
I’m not going to gloss over the risks involved with excessive video game playing. Children, in particular, may experience negative effects like anxiety, sleep problems, and obesity. Aggression, desensitization, and cyberbullying are also valid concerns.
However, since children do learn what they see on a screen, there are also benefits to playing video games. Games like Just Dance encourages physical activity. Video games can also promote critical thinking and prosocial skills, while “brain games” can enhance cognitive development.
Rather than banning video games, set up boundaries in your home. Agree on when they can play and for how long. We should also inquire about the game before it’s purchased by reading reviews or asking your teen to describe it to you. And, if they’re up for it, make this a family event, like having a weekly game night.
But, you don’t just need video games to practice gamification. Let’s say that they’re overwhelmed by a math assignment. Have them break it up into smaller sections that they must complete within a specific timeframe. When they do, they “level up.”
7. Model it yourself.
“Very few people enjoy being nagged,” writes time management and productivity expert Laura Vanderkam. “It’s at least somewhat easier to enforce things like no screens at dinner, or a reasonable bedtime, if adults in a household do these things too.”
“You could ask to see a child’s planner/calendar, but it might be just as helpful to show her yours and ask for suggestions about how you should deal with various big projects and potential conflicts coming up,” Vanderkam adds. “It’s the same skill but doesn’t involve you judging her.”
“Similarly, teens (like adults) need to exercise, and it’s easy to let this slide when life gets busy.” However, “it’s more effective to simply build in physical activity to required family events (e.g., we’re all going to bike on Saturday and go walk by the river on Sunday) than to harangue someone.”
It’s kind of like being your teen’s “gym buddy.” You’re there to hold them accountable, but in a supportive way. And, it’s also “a good way to build in extra time together,” says Vanderkam.
8. Encourage free time.
Regardless of your age, free time is necessary. It encourages self-care, creativity, and reinforces what’s been learned. Moreover, it gives us something to look forward to and makes us happy.
With that in mind, encourage your teen to not pack their calendar so tight that there’s no room for them to relax. And, most importantly, have a little fun.
Image Credit: ketut subiyanto; pexels