Time Management for Teens

Does your teen really have time for all those activities? Or, are they totally overscheduled? Or is it a combination of too much to do, but also way too much time lost to electronics and other distractions? Time management is a constant source of discussions in most homes as we try to teach our teens to take ownership of their own activities and accomplish everything they are trying to do.

I know my teens find it challenging to fit it all in. And as much as we all agree that having downtime is valuable to recharge, sometimes their free time is wasted in things that don’t make them feel rested, refreshed, and ready to tackle school and extracurricular activities.  Plus it’s critical for teens to also have downtime that they can count on to relax and recharge.

Time Management

Assuming this is not the case of a teen trying to fit 25+ hours of extracurricular activities on top of their schoolwork, how do you know where all this time is going? And once you figure that out, how do you lay out a schedule that is practical and efficient?

Recently, at a meeting with my son’s tennis coach, they ran through a time management exercise that I found very interesting.  My son is a 9th grader, and has to learn to handle a challenging schedule of schoolwork, tennis, plus speech and debate team. And maybe sometimes also hang out with friends.

So while trying to figure out a reasonable schedule for tennis training, he ran through a 24-hour exercise.  Basically, they mapped out the normal activities for the day. Everything from school, to eating, to homework, to practices.  By running through this “where did my day go?” exercise, your teen will realize whether they are being efficient with their time or if they need to make adjustments.  This may trigger the “a-ha!” moment that will inspire a change.

How can you work with your teen to improve their time management?

Get together with your teen and map out their normal day.  More often than not, they will find time to work on all their school and extracurricular activities, plus have some “me time” of their own.

So where does the day go?

We all have the same 24 hours in the day… how do we make the most of them, and still get downtime or “me” time to refresh, refocus, and enjoy time off from all the demands of our day?

1. The Essentials:

Get your teen to start with a piece of paper or a table in a document and start talking through the time spent in some of the essentials.

Sleeping8 hours8 hours
Eating (breakfast and dinner)1 hour2 hours
Personal care1 hour1 hour
School7 hours
Homework2 hours4 hours
Time left5 hours10 hours

At this point, we’re at 19 hours, leaving 5 hours in the day for other activities.

2. Extracurriculars:

Once school is out, how will your teen spend their day? Most teens have between 2 and 3 hours of practice for any particular sport.  With multiple extracurricular activities, the schedule can get complicated. Here’s what a schedule could look like for extracurricular activities, on average per day:

Debate Club2 hours
Tennis Practice2 hours3 hours
Time left1 hour7 hours

Since we started with 5 hours on weekdays outside of the essentials, that schedule is looking a little tight on an average day. But with this type of schedule, your teen could still have an hour of downtime.

3. Downtime:

Teens schedules can be as busy as a working adult’s.  That is why rest, relaxation, and even time for a nap every now and then can be so important.  We’ve seen many recent articles about teens and tweens feeling anxiety and stress over their busy schedules.  Your Teen Mag also has a great article on 15 Ways to Fill Up Your Teen’s Tank, with ideas for parents to help kids feel support when they’re running on empty.

If there is too much time lost to procrastination, your teen can also do something about that. For some tips on dealing with procrastination, check out our article.

So, is your teen overscheduled?

This exercise for your teen to review their day and plan for the 24 hours will provide them a realistic idea of whether they are using their time effectively.  Maybe this helped you discover that they really do have too much going on, and something will need to give.  But, hopefully this helped them realize that they do have some downtime that they can use to relax and recharge, and start every week fresh and energized.


How do your teens handle their busy schedules?  Let us know your thoughts on our Facebook group My SMART Teen.



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Time Management for Teens: Is your teen totally overscheduled?
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