Time management. This is the #1 complaint I hear from parents in regard to their student's performance in school.
"They come home and waste time watching TV or playing video games."
"They wait until the night before to start their project."
“They don’t realize how long their assignments will take them.”
First off, I hear you, and I understand your frustration. Hopefully, you can take some comfort in knowing that this is a pervasive problem and you are not alone.
There is hope! According to renowned neurologist, Frances E. Jensen, MD, even though teenagers begin to look like adults, their brain is still developing and does not function in the same way adult's brains function.
The connections to the part of the brain that govern logic and decision making are not fully developed until the mid-twenties.
Adolescents need a structure, a template, a model for success. It is hard for them to decide to do this on their own.
1) Create a prioritized to-do list at the beginning of the week
At the beginning of every week, take 15-30 minutes to review the assignments, projects, and tasks that your student needs to complete that week.
Then schedule out time on a calendar to track the day and time that each item will be accomplished. Keep in mind the amount of time and effort needed to accomplish the task.
More cognitively complex or time consuming assignments should be accomplished first.
2) Stop multi-tasking
There is common misconception in our culture that you must be able to “multi-task” or perform more than one task at a time in order to be more productive.
However, humans aren’t computers and can’t parallel process information.
In reality, there is no such thing as “multi-tasking”, and it’s impossible for your brain to focus on two things at once. Instead, your brain has to quickly switch back and forth between tasks and continually “reload” information into its memory.
Create an environment for your student that is free of visual and auditory distractions. Close their email, remove their phone, turn off the TV, have them put on some headphones with classical music, and focus on one task at a time.
They will be amazed at how much more they can do if they eliminate outside distractions and focus their attention on one task at a time. A good recommendation is to work for 25-30 minutes, take a 5 minute break, and repeat until the one task is complete.
3) Exercise and eat healthy
There is an enormous amount of research that shows regular exercise and a healthy diet will benefit multiple areas of your life.
Productivity is one area that is impacted by diet and exercise. One study concluded that unhealthy eaters increase their risk of being unproductive by 66% and people who rarely exercise increase their risk of not being productive by 50%.
Aim for a diet full of vegetables and healthy fats, but low in sugar and processed foods. Encourage your student to try to get at least 30 minutes of movement per day.