“I got it done!” exclaimed my sleepless, fatigued, teenage son who waited until the last possible minute to finish his research project. While my son may have thought it was fine to wait until the last second to complete his project, self-discipline is especially important for students and something we can all work on. 1

Beginning in their middle school years, teens can become lifelong procrastinators if they don’t learn time management strategies and skills. Waiting until the last possible minute can cause problems ranging from high-stress levels to low self-esteem. It’s important to help your teen get control of his time and learn how to work wisely without requiring constant reminders or assistance to get his work done. If you or your middle schooler are looking for ways to improve your time management skills, keep reading!

Middle school is the time to start using a planner the right way!

Benefits of Time Management 

Middle school can be very busy, whether you go to school in Joplin or anywhere else in the world. But the adult world can be even busier. So, it’s important to start helping your teen learn how to manage his time now. 

Good time management leads to:

  • Reduced anxiety when projects are due in school or test dates are approaching
  • Increased responsibility and independence
  • Better decision-making skills
  • More time for family and friends
  • Better performance at school and work
  • More opportunities to relax and unwind 2

7 Time Management Tips

Middle school students can have structured schedules. Their in-person, blended, or virtual school day and after-school activities are planned out for them. As a result, many of them don’t learn how to manage their time wisely when they do have downtime. So what tips are important? 

  1. Having time management tools. Help your teen find the tools that will work best for him. For middle school students, we encourage the use of a written planner where everything he needs to do is all in one place. Here’s a sample page used by Compass Academy students to hourly plan their week, https://bit.ly/3eUgiVF. Discuss the importance of creating a schedule, using lists to prioritize his time wisely, and work on estimating time. Every minute spent in planning can save as many as ten minutes in execution.
  2. Writing down the schedule. Your teen’s time can easily be taken up with video games or social media if he’s not careful. Teach him to focus and schedule his day in blocks of time to include homework, chores, exercise, breaks, and other responsibilities. Help him to break down large assignments or projects into smaller, actionable tasks. For example, reading an entire book in a week can be completed by reading a few chapters or 20-30 minutes a night. Encourage him to schedule free time as well to have some fun and stay motivated!
  3. Prioritizing activities. A soccer game, birthday party, and church activity may all coincide. Talk to your teen about how to prioritize activities based on his values and commitments using a favorite Compass Academy analogy – The Story of the Jar:

Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand

A philosophy professor once stood up before his class with a large empty mayonnaise jar. He filled the jar to the top with large rocks and asked his students if the jar was full.

The students said that yes, the jar was indeed full.

He then added small pebbles to the jar and gave the jar a bit of a shake so the pebbles could disperse themselves among the larger rocks. Then he asked again, “Is the jar full now?”

The students agreed that the jar was still full.

The professor then poured sand into the jar to fill up any remaining empty space. The students then agreed that the jar was completely full.

The rocks and sand in the jar are a metaphor for the priorities in life. The rocks signify the most essential student tasks like school, homework, and sleep. The pebbles represent things that teens would like to do such as extracurricular commitments or hobbies. The sand stands in for want-to-dos, like video games or browsing social media sites. The jar represents a day. The rocks go in first because they are things we need to do. Next come the pebbles. But there is still some room in the jar, so we pour in sand until our jar – and the day is full. 

If your teen starts filling his jar with sand, he will not have room for rocks or pebbles. This holds true with the things we let into our life. If we spend all our time on the small and insignificant things, we will run out of room for the things that are actually important. 

One of the many skills our free summer school program teaches is time management. In addition to time management, Compass Academy Network teaches Joplin-area middle school students important lessons in language arts, STEM, art, personal development and academic success, civics and character development, and team building. Our curriculum has been meticulously designed and written by local education professionals to ensure that our summer enrichment program for middle school students offers lessons that last a lifetime. 

1 It’s amusing to note that my son went on to graduate from a great college but still occasionally runs through airports to catch his plane because he didn’t prioritize packing in time.

2 Morin, Amy, LCSW. “How to Teach Time Management Skills to Teens.” Verywellfamily, 8 Nov. 2019, verywellfamily.com/teaching-time-management-skills-to-teens-2608794. Accessed 25 Aug. 2020.