Time Management for Teens: “Scheduling is Power”
Teens have a lot to juggle between school and activities, but it can be made even more difficult if they are also managing ADHD. Learn how prioritizing what’s important, waking up on time, and even meditation can help.
DING-DONG. It’s 1:30 p.m. My phone says it’s time for Genesis. That’s not a reading assignment for Sunday school. It’s the gym where I swim. If I don’t put swimming on my daily schedule, something always pushes it aside. These audible reminders are like an electronic buddy hollering at me to do the right thing at the right moment.
Time management for teens and young adults with ADHD is tough, but not impossible. They need to manage their schedules closely to improve punctuality, proficiency, and respectability and make them more desirable employees and/or dating partners.
Good time management involves:
1. Prioritizing what’s most important now over what’s less important and can wait. It doesn’t help to get your science homework done three days early if you’re avoiding your history term paper.
2. Selecting needs over wants, especially with leisure time. Consider fun things like video games, Netflix, and Tumblr as you would a dessert, and consume them only after you’ve finished what needs to be done.
3. Meeting multiple deadlines by accurately estimating and setting aside enough time to complete a task. Scheduling things is more fun than actually doing them, so people with ADHD plug in too many events or under-estimate how long a task will take to finish.
4. Knowing where you’re supposed to be at a given moment, and allowing enough time to get there. People tend to judge one’s character by whether he follows through on obligations in a timely manner. Careful scheduling makes you look like you have your stuff together.
5. Keeping complicated projects in step-by-step order. If you think about how hard something is, you may give up. Chop tasks down into doable steps, and schedule each into your list or calendar.
Get in Sync
To keep myself in line, I synchronize my electronic planner between my office computer system and my phone through Google Calendar, so it’s always in my pocket. I even schedule dates with my wife this way. She used to think I was lame, asking, “What am I, just another one of your clients?” until she realized that using my calendar got me where I needed to be (with her) when I was supposed to be there (Sunday afternoon) 100 percent of the time.
When starting any new organizational system, take one step at a time until you get used to it. To get you going, here are a few events you should schedule every day:
SLEEP. Getting to sleep is pretty boring, unless you have fascinating, vivid dreams. That makes it too easy for people with ADHD to procrastinate over bedtime. So use your calendar to schedule the sleep you need. Did you know that lack of sleep makes every mental health condition worse, especially ADHD?
WAKING UP. Just when you’ve made peace with your pillow, you have to get up and face the day. Mornings can be hard for the ADHD crowd, even with good sleep. Try taking your stimulant before you get out of bed, and think about buying an annoying alarm clock that won’t shut off until you perform a certain task.
One clock shoots a spinning top into the air; you have to find the top and reinsert it to shut off the screaming alarm. Another clock jumps off the table and rolls around on the floor to force you out of bed to switch it off. Yet another alarm shakes the entire bed. These gadgets may sound ridiculous, but each one increases your chances of getting up in the morning — usually the most critical organizational task you’ll perform all day.
PROCRASTINATION. You’ll never be rid of it, but you can procrastinate more efficiently by scheduling your deadline anxiety. Create artificial deadlines in advance of the real ones, leaving enough time to procrastinate before the actual date, so you’ll be covered if anything goes wrong. If you do it right, this strategy is rewarding. When you are relaxing while your friends are freaking out in the days leading up to their deadlines, you’ll feel as if you won the time lottery.
PRIVATE TIME. People with ADHD need time to decompress, meditate, and refocus — especially if you also have sensory challenges. Schedule downtime into your day, so you don’t hit your breaking point.
YOUR PASSIONS. If you do this right, you’ll find more time for what you enjoy because your efficiency in doing what needs to be done increases. Plug in events and things you love. This also serves to limit your time on, say, gaming or watching movies, to what you can really afford to devote to those activities.
You may need a few months to make this a routine. Will you ever like organizing your time? Scheduling isn’t fun, even for me. It’s a chore. What is fun, however, is the satisfaction you will feel when you find you’re ahead of the game, productive, and in the flow of life. But remember, it may be far more interesting to put together a schedule than to follow it. So once you get good at calendaring, you may find yourself adding “just one more thing” to your day, then, at the last minute, blowing off several planned activities because you can’t do everything.
Scheduling is power. Use that power wisely, and you’ll find a new supply of time you never realized you had.
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