Does your teen need help getting organised? It’s no surprise. Kids these days are busier than ever. Between a growing school workload, part-time jobs, extracurricular activities, and an active social life, the calendar is filled to the brim for today’s teens.
Luckily, the teenage years present a great opportunity in more ways than one. These years are the perfect time for kids to get a handle on being organised and learning how to minimise stress. It's easy to see how adolescents could find themselves overwhelmed with their many activities, chores, and social engagements. These jam-packed schedules can be a recipe for stress and anxiety. But learning how to manage those issues in young adulthood is an excellent step that can make the rest of their life that much easier. And while teens have genuine concerns, deadlines, and responsibilities of their own, these don’t quite match the intense responsibilities of full-on adulthood. Why not help your teens become masters of organisation and time management while they’re young---and relatively carefree?
Productivity is a major focus for all of us, and over the past several years, heaps of helpful tools and mobile apps have been developed with productivity at their core. For your tech-savvy teen, mobile apps especially could be a perfect organisational solution. Many small businesses and freelancers use tools such as these to keep themselves on-track, and there's no reason that high-school students can't take advantage of these same tools as well.
We’ll start with discussing the basics of time management, organisation, and prioritisation, and then move on to specific tools, programs, or apps you might want to share with your teen.
Buckle up and read on---it’s about to get organised.
Ways for Teens to Prioritise & Plan
To manage their time, teens need access to the skills and resources that will help them. Perhaps most of all, they need to adopt strategies that make managing their lives easier and occasionally those that are a bit ‘fun,’ too, or that include rewards for a job well done. When you’re young, these types of organisational tactics propel you towards achievement in your academic career and in the rest of your life as well.
Help them Set Up Their Own Reward System
As adults, we frequently plan prizes or celebrations for ourselves to encourage us as we strive towards a goal. Want to lose 10 kilos? Some dieters reward themselves with a massage or a shopping trip. Quitting an unpleasant habit? You might gift yourself a holiday when you’ve successfully cut the habit. The same system can be beneficial to teens. Assist them to implement their own reward system or method of tracking their progress.
They get to decide what their rewards are. It doesn’t have to be something they purchase, either. A fantastic idea could be a night of tasty snacks and binge watching their favourite show on Netflix as a reward for completing a school project. As a parent, you can assist with certain rewards (particularly those that cost money), but the point of this strategy is not to ‘bribe’ your children to check off their to-do list. It’s about helping them find ways in which they can self-motivate.
There’s something about a clean, well-organised space that can make all the difference. A fully-equipped desk with room to get down to work makes sitting down to work much easier. You can help your teen have a clear, focused mind by providing them witha quiet, well-lit environment and supplying them with the necessary items for an organised workspace.
A solid desk is essential, plus storage options for office supplies. This could include shelves, file boxes, drawers, or whatever best assists your teen to make a place for everything. Your teen will probably love space to spread out, so consider choosing a larger desk to accommodate their many school books.
Organisation can take place on the wall, too. Above the desk is the perfect space to mount a cork board, dry-erase board, calendars, and more. Let your teen personalise the space to make it their own. They can add decor, photos, whatever makes them feel happy and will encourage and motivate them as they work. Some teens might want to create a vision board for their wall, which can serve to inspire them towards achieving their goals.
Get Ahold of the Big Picture
Taking it day-by-day can be a very useful strategy, but it’s also important to have a sense of the big picture. Your teen should spend some time taking stock of the overall demands on their time. Is there anything that can be dismissed to make room for more studying? Does your teen need to add in an extra club or activity this year? Together, teens and parents can lay out the whole picture.
The next step is to determine what ‘to-do’s’ are essential and which are less important. Making lists is a great idea, here, as you’ll definitely want some visual aids to help you and your teen examine priorities. Use paper calendars, wall boards, whatever helps for big picture envisioning.
While each teen will have slightly different priorities, desires, and goals, it’s not uncommon that the list might boil down to something which resembles the following:
Academic Goals - pass classes, achieve good marks, school attendance, completing homework, major projects, etc.
Activities - sports practises, music rehearsals, club meetings, events, trips, etc.
Social Life - School-related fun events, time with friends, activities outside of school, time spent with family, personal hobbies, etc.
Other - Part time job, religious commitments, volunteer work, chores at home, leisure time, etc.
Having your teen’s ‘life at a glance’ so to speak, will help them make sense of where their energy is divided. Once the big picture has been grasped, it’s time to distil things down to smaller tasks.
Break Down To-Do’s into Smaller Tasks
It’s vital to have an understanding of the overall demands on your teen so that you can help them prioritise what is most important. This is likely to be their schoolwork and school-related activities, but it’s a great idea to teach them that taking time to relax and have fun is important, too. Help them prioritise a bit of self-care in their schedule so that they pursue a balanced lifestyle. This can yield success that is mental, physical, and emotional.
The big picture for your teen can look daunting but the key is to break each focus area down into smaller, more manageable steps. For instance, if your teen’s goal is to pass this year at school, how exactly do they get there? We break it apart into smaller and smaller pieces; things that are within reach. For instance:
Goal: Pass this year at school
Complete all assignments on Time
Finish major essay
Pick topic for essay
Brainstorm essay format
Find research resources
Edit and proofread essay
Turn in Assignment
And so on and so forth. Each big goal can be broken down into a seemingly endless number of tasks, but this is the best way to tackle the work in an organised, systematic fashion. You’re going to need lots of paper for this step----or, have your teen check out some of the productivity and organisation apps mentioned below!
Tools & Apps for Organisation:
Being an organisational wizard is as easy as the click of the thumbs. Here are some of the top choices for apps and programs that can help your student succeed.
Many professionals and students alike swear by Trello. This is a highly-visual organisation app that can essentially help you sort your entire life. You can use it on your desktop or on a mobile device, so it goes with you when you need it.
Trello’s approach is fairly simple. You create lists, which are displayed horizontally, and each list can be populated with cards. Basically, this is the idea of breaking down goals into smaller, individual tasks. Seeing it visually can be super helpful, and within each card you can go further with details like images, documents, due dates, colour coded labels, and much more. Officially, Trello is a project management app, but it works so intuitively and easily, it’s ideal for planning out your chores, holidays, school assignments, or anything else you need to organise.
This article from LifeHacker can show you “How to Use Trello to Organise Your Entire Life.”
Many teens may no longer be interested in old-fashioned paper calendars, but as always...there’s an app for that!
While there is an endless number of calendar-based apps, Google Calendar is the king. If you’ve got a Google account (and many of us likely do) you can use Google Calendar. On your phone, tablet, or computer, Google Calendar is there for you to write down upcoming events, get reminders for events, share entire calendars with others, and manage multiple calendars of your own. It’s extremely simple, and Google Calendars integrates with so many other apps and programs, too, that it’s a no-brainer to use. You can set it up to remind you when you have an appointment or an assignment due (very helpful for students). Or, if you’re planning an event in email or text, you can even get a prompt to add that event to your phone. Google Calendar is smart. It helps you stay organised without even having to think about it.
If your teen struggles to stay organised, Google Calendar might be the right solution for them. And since you can share calendars, this might be a brilliant way for you to keep informed. Time to start a family calendar!
A wildly popular organising app is Evernote--and it’s got a cute elephant logo, too!
Evernote is a spot to store “every note,” plus a lot more. It lets you keep track of many different things online by combining them into one place. Add photos, create to-do lists, link to relevant blog posts, scan documents, receipts, and other paper items. Evernote could be an ideal app for your teen to use when doing research for school or when putting together a project. The ability to combine multiple media and sources makes it a virtual file folder for all the things you need.
Tools for Mental Clarity and Stress Reduction:
Part of being at their best isn’t just being organised---it means your teens are healthy and happy, too. Since stress often goes along with the business of a high school lifestyle, it’s vital that your teen learns ways to decrease these issues. First and foremost, it is recommended that they pursue an active lifestyle with regular exercise, balanced nutrition, and plenty of sleep. But beyond that, here are some apps which can help release the frazzled mind.
Headspace is one of the top-rated meditation apps available and it makes meditation very approachable. Offering guided meditations, this app can help your teen (or you) relax and focus in just a few minutes per day. The meditations are short and to-the-point, so even during a hectic day, you can make time to center your mind. It never hurts to spend some time being quiet, still, and reflecting inward, and Headspace makes it completely easy for anyone to do this. There are basic, general meditations you can listen to, or you can choose options geared towards work/school, sleep, stress, and more. Encourage your teen to find a few moments of calm in their chaotic day and try out Headspace.
One great way to keep a positive mindset is to track progress towards goals. Habithub is a terrific, simplified app that lets your teen do just that. The basis of the app is to track your habits visually and build a chain. For every time that you complete the habit, you add a link to your chain. You can also access charts and other records of your habit growth. As your habits become second nature you watch the chains grow and grow. Habithub can track daily goals or customised goals built on your schedule. Visual proof of effort and success can be tremendously helpful for a teen. This can keep them motivated and excited about their goals, and all in such a simple, streamlined format.
Encourage Your Teen to Find What Works for Them
Remember that all of us are different and each person works best in a different manner. What helps one student may not be beneficial to another. Some teens love using apps, while others find pen and paper more worthwhile. And frankly, some of us are more disorganised than others. This is okay. You should encourage your teen to find what strategies and tools work for them and remind them that it’s perfectly fine to try lots of different methods until you discover what’s right for you. There’s no ‘correct’ way to be organised in life, but one a person has found out how they work best, the results can be amazing.