Grades, friends, sports, extracurricular interests – teens have a lot on their plates. All of these obligations can quickly go from fulfilling to overwhelming, especially during times of transition or in the midst of ongoing stressors like the pandemic

Connecticut Children’s pediatric psychologist Vanessa R. Laurent, PhD, has tips.

Want more articles like this from pediatric experts you trust?

Sign up for our newsletter.

1. Set goals and take stock.

Have your teen think about the following questions.

  • Determine what your goals are, and why you need to get better at managing your time. Will it decrease your stress? Improve your grades? Free up time to spend with family? Knowing what you’re working toward is a big motivator.
  • How are you currently spending your time? Take a moment to actually write this out, to make sure you capture all of your activities and the time commitment each requires. 

2. Identify barriers.

These are some very common barriers for teens – and of course, more than one can be true.

  • Easily distracted: The common culprits here are usually electronics (especially phones and computers) and socializing, including on social media.
  • Overscheduling and overcommitting: It’s all too easy to say “yes” to a lot of opportunities without being realistic about the time they’ll take.
  • Procrastination: Starting can be the hardest part. Putting off a project creates a lot of stress, and the very act of procrastinating can wind up taking a lot of time.

> Related: 10 Ways to Get Your Teen to Try a Digital Detox

3. Come up with strategies for each barrier.

Share these suggestions with your teen.


  • Take a study break. Teens have a short attention span, so dividing study time into shorter periods can ultimately help you get more done.
  • Use cellphone and web blockers to prevent playing games and using certain apps.
  • Use white noise or soft music to cancel sounds.
  • Leave the cellphone in a separate room.
  • Create a work environment based on your learning style. For example, visual learners may like having post-its and other items handy to doodle or draw on, to help guide their work. Social learners often benefit from completing tasks in groups or with other people.
A mother and daughter look at a tablet


  • Practice saying “no” to taking on more tasks or committing to more activities.
  • Create a weekly schedule. Review it daily, and make a daily to-do list.
  • Prioritize what’s most important. Look into the Eisenhower Matrix, a tool that helps prioritize tasks based on urgency and importance.
  • Schedule free time. And stick to it!
  • Use apps as reminders or notifications. Technology can help you stay on track. And knowing you’ve already set reminders can free up your attention for more important tasks.
  • Work on accurately estimating the length of time each task will take. We tend to think that most tasks take less time than they actually do, which leads to stress and missed deadlines. A simple way to get better at this? Time yourself.


  • Help your teen understand why it’s a challenge to start. Are they avoiding the task because they see it as too difficult? Do they lack self-confidence, or are they afraid of failure? Are they feeling paralyzed by anxiety or perfectionism?
  • Break big tasks into smaller tasks or goals. This makes an intimidating project feel more manageable.
  • Consider two different strategies for tackling tasks. Strategy 1: Try tackling the most difficult or important tasks first. Getting these out of the way early can help prevent procrastination. Strategy 2: Try tackling an easier task first. It builds self-confidence and belief in your ability to complete other tasks.
  • Use rewards as motivators. For example, maybe they enjoy 15 minutes of a favorite activity after completing a task or buy a reward like a new book or article of clothing once they complete their project.
  • Create artificial deadlines in advance. This allows for some time to procrastinate prior to the actual deadline.

Getting the hang of time management takes practice, but it’s a skill well worth mastering. It’ll serve your child well not only during the busy teen years, but for the rest of their life. Good luck!