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How Can I help my child manage their time like a pro?

As a professional success coach, parents ask me this question all the time. In today’s competitive high school environment, time management is key to being successful in the plethora of academic and extracurricular pursuits that your child is involved in.

It is unrealistic to expect your child to learn time management strategies on their own, especially when their world is littered with distractions such as Netflix, Snapchat, and Instagram. These media outlets are the black holes of success; once you’re in, it’s almost impossible to find your way out. Here are some strategies that you can implement as a parent to help your child manage their time and achieve their full potential.

#1: Have a routine

Your child should have a method for organization in their life, whether that is the time they go to bed, how they get ready for school in the morning, or even in what order they do their homework when they get home. Now, I’m not advocating for controlling every minute of every single day; there should always be some flexibility built in to help your child adapt to changing circumstance. But at a base level, your child should know exactly what they need to do, and the amount of time they have to do it.

If every day if random, unorganized, and has no routine, then your child is almost guaranteed to let things fall through the cracks. We hear this all the time; a student will have low grades not because they aren’t scoring well on exams, but because they are forgetting to submit assignments or complete projects on time. it’s because they don’t have an understanding of the amount of time they have, and how to use that time to effectively get their work done.

The simplest way to solve this problem is to get your child on a routine. Just like class schedules in school ar broken out into periods, your child should have periods of homework time, relaxation time, exercise time, and (we’ll talk more about this later) a bedtime.

#2 Use a planner

Today’s students have multiple responsibilities, all jostling for their time and attention. Sometimes there will be more than one assignment required in a single class. On top of that, high achieving students have deadlines for their extracurricular activities that require their attention. Many parents begin to worry when their child is over-involved and that they won’t be able to juggle so many balls in the air.

But like everything else, there is a strategy for learning to juggle competing responsibilities, and that is to have a planner that houses every detail and deadline for upcoming assignments. If your student knows that they have an exam coming up in a week, they will be able to plan some time to study. If they know that an essay is due in a few days, they will begin their brainstorming process well ahead of time. A planner allows a child to plan and be realistic about their time and energy requirements. If a student is struggling with their math lesson, they will know to allocate an extra amount of time to study for it before the actual exam date. If they don’t even know when the exam is, how can we realistically expect them to do well on it?

#3 Put a limit to social media and entertainment

It is unrealistic to expect our children to not watch any TV or avoid social media. Social media is a fact of the world we live in, and shunning it completely won’t bring any benefit. Instead, put a limit on the time your child uses his or her phone, TV, or personal devices.

A student should know exactly how much time they are allowed to spend having fun, versus how much time they need to be investing in their future. If they are allowed to spend time on social media unchecked, time wastage is almost guaranteed. Setting limits teaches your child another valuable skill: learning to be in control. The most successful children are those that can control their desires and make active, conscious choices. Success doesn’t just happen. It’s a choice.

You can help your student do this by talking to them about their goals and asking how you can help them get there. If they express that they are having a hard time focusing, gently suggest that you hold onto their phone during their study hours so that they can remain distraction free. Set guidelines with you children, rather than upon them, so that it is a team effort.

#4 Get your child out of their comfort zone

Expecting your student to study in the same area that they relax in is almost always a bad idea. The brain has a difficult time switching in between work and play when the environment is exactly the same. Try to create a designated area for your child to study and complete their work that is distinct from the place that they relax. For example, your child should not be studying in their bed.

Many students do well in areas where they are forced to focus and complete their work, such as a library or a study center. When your child is in that environment, they will be away from their friends, their TV, the kitchen, and every other place that draws their focus away from work. They will intuitively feel that they need to complete their work to leave that place, which will compel them to focus and get their work done in a timely manner.

The most recent national polls show that over 87% of high school teenagers get far less than the recommended eight to ten hours of sleep per night. Sleep deprivation is dangerous, and increases the likelihood of a number of negative consequences, including the inability to concentrate, poor grades, drowsy-driving accidents, anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide.

I share this with you because I am a firm believe in the power of sleep. With the number of distractions present in our children’s worlds, it is even more important that they receive an opportunity to recharge and rest. I have seen far too many of my mentees break down in tears without an explanation, and when I ask their parents how much sleep they are getting per night, most parents tell me that their child sleeps around 2 am and wakes up at 7 or 8.

That is nowhere near the amount of rest that a student should be receiving, and it is evidenced by the student’s need to come home and take a nap for two to three hours in the middle of the day. Daytime hours are the most effective for getting work done; in fact, most people find that waking up early and starting their work allows them to begin the day in an intentional and focused manner, rather than constantly bouncing between being rushed and feeling drowsy.

It’s no wonder that students (and adults) need to rely on stimulants such as caffeine and 5 hour energy drinks which are known to dehydrate and often times, cause heart palpitations. And all of this could simply be avoided if we knew that we have a certain amount of hours in a day to complete our tasks, rather than wasting those valuable hours at the expense of our personal health and safety.

I hope these strategies help you and your student find better ways to manage their time. Once they nail down this healthy habit, success is sure to be the natural result.

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