Understanding the balance between leisure and work helps promote overall well being and quality of life no matter what our age (Goel, 2008). Teaching teens useful time management strategies equips them with resources needed to achieve that work/play balance and ultimately move towards overall well being. In my work with teens, I find that time management is an important conversation in session. Poor time management skills can lead to increased anxiety and frustration when approaching academics and emotional well being.
As a counselor, it is my responsibility to have many “tools” in my “toolbox.” Each client I work with comes with varied personality traits, abilities, and skills, and therefore, each client may prefer one “tool” over another when working towards treatment goals. When approaching time management techniques, my role as a counselor is to help the teen find the tool that is most effective for the specific situation and modify it as needed.
One time management strategy that I often use as a starting point with teens is the Pomodoro Technique. If you have a pre-teen or teen needing a bit more guidance in time management, this technique may be one worth implementing in your home as well.
The Pomodoro Technique is based on the premise that breaking large tasks down into smaller pieces helps make them seem less insurmountable. Just knowing that we only have to work on a large task (like writing a paper for our language arts class) for just twenty-five minutes before we take a break seems more do-able. The time management technique also limits distractions. For the twenty-five minutes that the timer is set, the only thing that can be paid attention to is the task at hand. If we are writing a language arts paper and an email comes in requesting something, it cannot be attended to until the twenty-five minutes is up. We do not check social media; we do not answer phones. In the twenty-five minutes that we have set to work, we are solely focused on one task. After twenty-five minutes, there is a five-minute break before the second twenty-five minute set begins. Pomodoro Technique guidelines recommend that four pomodoros (25-minute work sessions with a five minute break) are completed before taking a longer twenty to thirty minute break.
When working with adolescents in session, the goal of introducing the Pomodoro Technique is to increase resources the teen has at their disposal for time management. Ultimately my goal is to empower the teen so that they can not only identify their needs but feel comfortable implementing strategies to address the needs as well. As a parent, you can put these same ideas into practice at home. Introduce the idea of the Pomodoro Technique and explain the reasoning behind the strategy. Have your teen practice the skill and identify things that went well and things that need to be modified. Give your teen the opportunity to modify the technique to fit their own goals. When we let our teens be a part of the solution, we are not just teaching them one technique, but we are teaching them how to identify and solve problems, and that is a skill that lasts a lifetime.
Laura Waller, MS