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Time Management Tips for Busy Students: Step 1

Posted on 01/24/2017, by Dr. Ellen Fithian (0 comments)

“If you want something done, ask a busy person.” This quote, attributed, oddly enough, to both Benjamin Franklin and Lucille Ball, expresses a paradoxical truth. Some people are such masters of time management that no matter how many tasks they’re juggling, they can always find a way to effortlessly toss one more into the mix. Some teenagers are like this, easily balancing the demands of school with those of multiple extracurricular activities. Others, however, are frequently working into the wee hours of the morning to finish projects that were assigned weeks earlier.  Should this be considered a problem worthy of parental intervention?

Does Your Teen Have a Problem?

Most high school students feel that it’s no one’s business but their own how and when they do their school work as long as it eventually gets done. I tend to agree, but with an important caveat. In my view, a parent should allow a teenager to set her own study habits as long as those habits are not adversely affecting her grades or her parents.

Even if your teen is getting B’s, I’d argue that she has a problem in need of  your assistance if she would be getting A’s but for the homework assignments she lost and the paper she left to the last minute. Here’s a second scenario justifying parental intervention to enhance a teen’s time management skills.

Imagine that it’s ten o’clock on the night before your tenth grader’s world history quiz. He’s just begun to study and has spent the last fifteen minutes scouring his bookbag for the review sheet his teacher handed out at the beginning of the week. Dog-eared papers litter his desk, bed, and floor, but none of them is the elusive review sheet. Now he begins texting friends to see if one of them has it. Jackpot! Luke has it but he has also just started to study. However, if you could drive your son over to Luke’s house he can borrow the review sheet, return home to make a copy, and then bring it back to Luke.

In your son’s mind, the problem has been solved. No harm, no foul! However, since your last minute assistance was critical to the success of this maneuver, I think you’ve earned the right to weigh in on his study habits.

Where Do You Start?

Step one is organization. In the hour and a half it took your son to procure the review sheet for his quiz, he could have memorized it. To prevent this from happening in the future, he’ll have to develop a better system for keeping track of his papers – and you’ll have to help. Start by helping him organize his notebooks, which will require an initial inventory of the contents of his bookbag.

Have your son remove all the papers and sort them by subject. Next, check out his notebook for each course; ideally, he should have a binder with sections for class notes, homework, and returned quizzes and tests. If his binders don't have such sections, you may have to use dividers to create them. Then place the papers for each subject in their appropriate place.

When you're finished, he’ll have a place to put future papers as they are returned—so he’ll be able to find his review sheet for the next quiz.

Unfortunately, those of you with seriously disorganized kids know that completing this exercise will be futile unless you follow it up by designating a supervised time each week  - say Sunday afternoon - during which your teen cleans out his bookbag and puts his notes and homework from the previous week in their proper place in his binders. Otherwise, the overwhelming likelihood is that three weeks after the initial purge, the bookbag will again be crammed with crumpled tissues and papers that have been randomly jammed inside.

When Do You Back Off?

When my youngest son was in high school, one of his biggest gripes concerned teachers who issued copious instructions on the organization of students’ notebooks and then graded students on their degree of compliance. I could see his point. There is no one correct way to organize a notebook; what makes sense to one person may seem unnecessary or downright counterproductive to another. Which brings me back to my earlier point and the stance I took with my own kids - use any system of organization you please as long as it doesn’t harm your grades or require my involvement in a midnight salvage operation. 

While organization is a key component of time management, it’s only the beginning. In Time Management, Step 2, we'll tackle some other strategies to help your teens make efficient use of their study time so they can succeed in school without sacrificing their extracurricular activities and free time, so stay tuned.

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Posted on 01/24/2017, by Dr. Ellen Fithian (0 comments) « Previous Entry    Next Entry »




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