Ask the Experts

Q: “How Do I Convince My Teen to Use a Daily Planner for Time Management?”

“Instead of focusing on using a daily planner, find a time-management system or strategy that feels right for your daughter and displays her time and to-dos in one big picture.”

A student making a planner for her work, allowing her to remain organized and manage her ADHD in high school.
A student making a planner for her work, allowing her to remain organized and manage her ADHD in high school.

Q: “How can I get my teen to buy into the importance of using an academic planner or at least writing things down? She thinks it is a waste of time and won’t listen to me when I suggest it.” — ProPlannerMom

Hi ProPlannerMom:

One of the most frequent questions I hear from parents is how to get their students to use a daily planner. And as an academic/life coach who works daily with students with ADHD and executive functioning challenges (as well as the creator of an academic planner that teaches time management), my answer may surprise you.

Using an academic planner is a terrific strategy for knowing what we need to do and when we have the time to do it. And that’s the critical point here. A planner is not just a tool, but rather a strategy implemented to achieve the goals of…

  • seeing tasks
  • planning the time to get them done
  • and knowing what may get in the way.

Try not to focus on getting your daughter to use a planner. Instead, find a system or another strategy that feels right for her that allows her to see the whole picture regarding time management.

Academic Planner Possibilities

I believe we lose students when we rigidly expect them to use our time-management and planning systems without regard for what works for them. However, I also believe that every student (and adult too!) needs some planning tool to… well, plan. And a proper academic planner is a time-management tool, not just a “list keeper.” When set up correctly, it helps you see your time and to-d0s as one BIG picture, so you can see what’s ahead and plan for it.

[Get This Free Download: Solving Disorganization at School]

You mention that she doesn’t like to write things down. Maybe it’s not the act of writing down that is the problem, but the location where she is expected to do it.

What do I mean? Perhaps she’s a techie and prefers to take notes digitally. So, using the Reminders and Notes apps on her phone combined with an electronic calendar might be the perfect solution for her. Or, if she is super creative, supply her with colored paper, markers, and/or sticky notes for inspiration.

One of my student coaching clients wrote his time and tasks on paper towels for his entire junior year of high school. He liked fun and bold things, so this strategy really resonated with him. Another client found using a memo pad attached to a clipboard incredibly helpful and easy to use.

The bottom line is that I’m never a fan of pushing any organization or time-management system on anyone. We learn by organizing our time, spaces, and everything in between. Different systems work for different brain types. I’m a paper planner girl; digital simply doesn’t work for me. (I will never change, no matter how much my husband would like to sync our calendars!)

[Watch: Practical Organization and Time Management Strategies for Teens]

Daily Planner Buy-In

You asked how I get buy-in from my students with ADHD. I get buy-in by asking my student coaching clients not what they have to do today, tomorrow, or even next week, but when!

Here are a few questions to try:

  • “Have you planned your time to work on that assignment?”
  • “Can you show me where you have the time?
  • “When do you have time to do that assignment or study for that exam?”
  • “How do you know you have that time? Can you see it?”
  • “Do you know what else you may have to do at that time?”
  • “Can you tell me what else may get in your way?”
  • “You have two tests on Friday and get home from play rehearsal on Thursday at 9 p.m. What’s your plan to study for those exams? Can you see your available time?”

I have also found great results when enlisting the help of a teacher at school. If your daughter is missing assignments, perhaps her teacher can ask her what type of planner she uses and when she says she doesn’t, she can suggest some ways to help her keep on top of her tasks and time. As you know, when the message is delivered from someone other than us, our children tend to listen with a more open mind.

Good luck!

Daily Planner for Time Management: Next Steps

ADHD Family Coach Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, will answer questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.

Submit your questions to the ADHD Family Coach here!

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