This article was written by BCCand published by
It is common for teenagers to struggle with stress. Many factors contribute to stress, including poor time management. This issue is amplified as of late 2020 due to how many teens who previously attended in-person classes are now doing their schoolwork online. The structures put in place in traditional schools are not always applicable to school at home. However, these are not the only teens struggling with time management. It is common to many.
There are a few things to consider when helping teens with time management.
It’s helpful to dig a little deeper into time management problems. One way to do that is to define what is really going on with the teen. Is it procrastination? Is it a distraction, or just wasting time? Is there a lack of self-discipline in any other areas of life? Is it laziness? Is there willful disobedience?
Going even deeper, are there apparent reasons for poor time management? For example, procrastination might be a clue that there is a fear of failure. Or, distraction might be due to boredom and not being challenged enough. Laziness can be a result of depression or illness. There are all kinds of reasons behind the presenting behaviors and problems, and spending time with the teenager can reveal these things. Observable behaviors are evidence of a deeper struggle. God’s Word directs us beyond the surface, to the heart.
“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Prov. 4:23).
The Bible commends hard work (see Prov. 12:24; 13:4) and warns against laziness (see Prov. 15:19; 18:9). One cure for procrastination is self-discipline. A Christian should be motivated to be diligent in his work since he is ultimately serving the Lord.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Col. 3:23).
If we put our hearts into our work, as this verse says, we will likely find it easier to manage our time well. Adults can and should model this for teens. They can also relate to the struggle!
In Light of Eternity
Many teenagers do not have an eternal perspective. An eternal perspective puts importance on how we use our time. As you work with teens, you can incorporate this perspective into your discussions about time management. Considering how many adults also struggle with time, these discussions are relatable teaching opportunities to share gospel truth. Regardless of how our sinful hearts take us down time-wasting paths, Jesus forgives. He also empowers us, by His grace, to change. When a teen gives up in frustration, further developing habitual poor time-management, God’s Word can intervene and motivate change.
“Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14).
Moses prays, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:12). One way to gain wisdom is to learn to live with an eternal perspective. Wisdom helps in all areas of life, including how we utilize our time. Teach teenagers about this through modeling and counsel.
There are natural consequences for poor time management. When a child is late, he misses out on things. When she doesn’t get schoolwork done, she gets bad grades. These natural consequences often seem to work better for younger children than they do for teenagers. As teens begin to transition towards adulthood, they are motivated less by natural consequences and more by their self-focused desires. This can bring more serious consequences, especially if a teen has not put some self-discipline and strategies in place.
Time management is time stewardship. How we spend our time requires wisdom to make the most of our days and carefully use our time. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul cautioned the saints to “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16).
Prioritizing is a challenge for all of us, but teens especially tend to struggle with discerning where their priorities are problematic. There are many responsibilities and pressures from the world that pull teens in different directions. Things that have eternal value easily get pushed aside. It is helpful to give a teenager practical, hands-on methods and tools for prioritizing and setting goals.
Tools that can be encouraged are calendars, planners, schedules, notes, and lists. These are found digitally or in paper form. There are items specifically designed for teenagers, easily found by doing a quick google search. For visually-motivated teens, tools like this are beneficial.
Tools and methods like these help teenagers to develop a good work ethic. It is a way to help set themselves up for success and good time management, which often decreases stress.
Some young people do not have a proper balance between work and real rest. Teens should be encouraged to work diligently at home, in school, and on the job. The primary focus in all that they do should be the glory of God.
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17).
Rest is a legitimate and necessary use of time. We must be careful not to misguide teens about balancing work and rest because a teenager can too easily make time management into an idol or a legalistic way of attempting to earn favor with the Lord. When young people neglect the refreshment God gives through times of rest, they become exhausted. Rest is not wasted time; it is a necessary blessing that prepares us to make better use of time moving forward. Rest also reminds us that ultimately God is in control and provides for our every need.
Most importantly, we all need to schedule regular, daily time with God. It is He who equips us to carry out the schedule He has given us. We should not manage our time as if it belongs to us. Time belongs to Him, so let’s teach teens to ask for His wisdom in how to best manage their time.