Quarantine fatigue has resulted in steady increases in levels of stress and anxiety, as well as loss of productivity and motivation for all ages, but especially for young adults and teens. Teens have lost social connections, the excitement of team sports and other extracurricular activities, and the structure that comes from attending classes or going to work in person. Understandably, parents are struggling to find ways to boost motivation and build confidence in teens.
Have you heard the saying “Work hard, play hard”? It used to be that if you worked hard at school, extracurriculars, and work, you could at least look forward to rewarding fun by spending time with friends, going out to dinner or movies, or enjoying your downtime doing whatever got you energized. But the restrictions of the pandemic have taken away a lot of our opportunities to “play hard”. All of this combined makes it much more difficult to muster the motivation to get anything done.
In high schools across the country, parents, teachers, mentors and students are all worried about the impact of the pandemic on grades, engagement in school and sports, and mental health from the protracted restrictions. In the school district where our kids attend, the data reported a 2% increase in attendance rate, because it’s technically easier to attend school from your own house. But 5% of the high schoolers that attended class were marked as “not engaged” by the teacher. I hear stories from my teens and from other parents about how it’s much more difficult to stay connected with teachers and students in the virtual classrooms, because it feels distant. This issue is compounded by the many nearby distractions, especially with how easy it is to sneak a YouTube or TikTok video while “watching” a class. And to make matters worse, when students start falling behind, it actually makes them feel less confident in their abilities, which crushes their motivation and drive to succeed.
So is distance learning a lost cause?
Whether you are a teen or you support teens through mentoring, teaching or parenting, there are simple steps we can take to work through these challenges.
Did you know that being productive boosts motivation and builds confidence?
Experts agree that the best way to support students during this pandemic, especially those of high school and early college age, is by a routine that is driven by clear expectations. Harvard’s Graduate School of Education stresses that:
“Lowering standards to help balance out competing demands sends the message to students and their families that they are unable to keep up. Instead, communicate expectations clearly.”
Clear expectations can be easier to understand if they’re set as specific goals that are also meaningful to the person working on them. For teens, it could include better grades in school, healthier eating and exercise habits, increased involvement and contributions to the community, or maybe learning to play a musical instrument or speak a new language.
In my many years of experience as a manager and productivity expert, getting things done provides a much needed boost in motivation that is needed to keep working even though we may not feel like it. Taking action, especially towards a particular goal that is meaningful to us, is one of the most important components to building up self-confidence.
Simply taking the first action will result in improved self-motivation
My own teens, and many of their friends, have struggled with feeling unmotivated to work on the same things they used to love spending time on before. This long pandemic shutdown has affected everyone’s motivation and productivity. And it doesn’t look like our days will be going back to normal any time soon. So instead of sitting around and waiting for something to change, it’s important that we help them set the path for making change.
How can you support your teen to boost their motivation and build their confidence?
It’s easy to get caught up in our “new routine”, which is not serving us. With some simple, and proven, productivity tips, we can work with our teens and young adults to help them get out of this rut. Here are 5 steps you can teach a teen that will support increased productivity, and will reduce stress and anxiety.
5 Steps to Boost Motivation and Build Confidence in Teens
- Simplify: What’s the one thing that needs to get done that day?
The easiest way to get started is to divide the work into smaller, specific goals, with an action plan that is easy to follow. Larger goals like getting an A in a class can be divided into smaller monthly goals, with an action plan that can be followed week by week. As a parent or mentor, you can help them figure out smaller steps that will get them an improved grade: turn in all assignments, get B or higher in all assignments this week, prepare extra questions for the teacher if they need help. Then strive for A’s in all assignments the next week.
- Set a routine: Use block schedules to set what needs to happen during the day, and stick to it!
Just like adults, teens and young adults need to learn good organizational habits. You can encourage students to use their morning or breakfast time to plan for the day. In just 15 minutes, they can write down what needs to get done that day. In their calendars, they will need to separate time for school classes and/or work. They will need to take out distractions and stay away from tech while working. They can use time in the evening to review the work done, and make sure all assignments or work was completed. If they tend to forget turning in assignments, use available technology (phone alarms, calendar reminders, etc.) to set reminders and make sure all critical work is getting done.
- Build a daily “Got Done” list: Pay attention to the progress that they’re making and focus on that and daily accomplishments.
Sometimes we spend too much time focusing on what didn’t get done, and what we missed, which only drags down our confidence and motivation. I know lots of teens and young adults that struggle with recognizing any progress they’ve made until they reach the desired goal. But this just reduces motivation and makes it easier to procrastinate. Why work so hard if we can’t seem to get to our goal, right? Let’s teach teens to turn this around, and focus on their accomplishments by writing in a “Got Done” daily list, with specific information and special attention to the tasks completed that they’re the most proud of. And make sure they share that with you during weekly check-ins.
- Weekly accountability: Check-ins with a parent, mentor or teacher.
Studies have shown that writing down specific goals (like with SMART goals) have a 62% chance of success. But when people work with a friend, coach or mentor for weekly accountability, the chances of success skyrocket to 95%! All of us, not just young adults and teens, can benefit from weekly check-ins to go over the weekly goals. The commitment to work on specific goals, plus the clarity that comes from going over the action plan for every week, are incredibly helpful in improving our confidence and keep getting results! So set a specific time, once a week, to have a quick conversation to cover how it’s going, what got done, and what can be improved for the following week.
- Celebrate success: After all the hard work, during these difficult conditions, don’t forget to celebrate both progress and getting results.
Don’t wait until reaching a goal to recognize accomplishments! A great way to boost motivation is to recognize progress being made against a goal. When goals are measurable, it’s easier to track progress while at the same time seeing that following your action plan gets you closer to the desired end result.
Take Action -> Get Motivated -> Build Confidence
Daily life right now can be completely overwhelming. None of us have ever lived through these types of circumstances. It is completely understandable to feel out of sorts because everything is different, and because these modified school and work conditions have lasted so long. So our job as parents, teachers, and mentors is to gently guide the young adults in our lives through the steps needed to get through this, day by day.
Some days, they’ll just be able to take one simple action to move the ball forward. But the more of these simple actions they take, the more motivated they will feel. You’ll be able to watch their confidence soar as they realize how much progress they are actually making.
And through this process, these young adults will be developing healthy habits to help them succeed in life, no matter the challenge.
Let’s Help Each Other Out!
It’s bound to be a trying time for all over the next few weeks. Join our Facebook group Parenting Busy Teens, and let us help you with answers to any questions or challenges you may be having.
We hope to be a resource for you and your teens, by providing ideas and encouragement, and celebrating success together!Connect with Teen SMART Goals on social media!