Time Blocking and How to Help your Teen
“Time blocking” is an organizational technique that can help plan out what and when you plan to do an activity. This is a highly efficient and popular way to navigate time management.
For teens and preteens, with their hybrid or virtual learning model, many if not most are falling behind in assignments and losing their motivation to stay on top of school work. They have been given this higher level of independence by not having the accountability of a full-day classroom schedule. It has created even more havoc on their already developing time management techniques.
This skill of navigating and setting boundaries with time is essential in today’s world of distraction and constant access to more preferred sources (see Tic Tok.) With social media availability, streaming services, and connection to peers, it is very difficult for teens (and most adults) to navigate and prioritize their work and commitments.
The first step is helping them plan and organize their long-term and short-term tasks. By assigning a color to each subject, they first make a list of all assignments given. Each assignment should be color coordinated by subject.
Once this list is given, they need to break it down into tasks, so for example, they have a research paper in history due April 15. They would need to break down the assignment into steps; research, read materials (2 hours), outline (2 hours), write the first draft (3 hours), proofread( 1 hour), final draft( 1 hour).
Now that the list and tasks are broken down and organized, the time blocking part comes in. Looking at a schedule of their daily 7-9 schedule, they should first block out any school or weekly non-negotiable and consistent commitments.
After doing this, they should have time from 2-7 most evenings available to work with. Most students want/need a break after school, which ideally would be a snack, social check, and some form of outdoor movement break (ideally).
At this point, they can start homework hour around 4/5 and block two hours. Looking at their daily tasks may take up their entire time or go over, depending on your child. They would look to work on their existing long-term assignments on any days that they have less daily homework due. For example, they have one math worksheet and no other homework on a Thursday afternoon; this would be when they can spend the rest of the 2-hour block researching that history paper coming up, studying for a test, getting ahead of reading, etc. Check out our past blog on helping kids with homework http://www.behavedbrain.com/tackling-homework-together/
The idea here would be that they can set boundaries around their day, and really in the long term, they can have more time socializing and doing things they enjoy because they have been able to stay on top of their assignments.
This time blocking level has many levels of implications and can be used in various ways; this is simply an example of how it can benefit your teen. By utilizing visual tools and strategies, we really look to increase and build blood flow into their prefrontal cortex and help them feel more in control of their day.
Helping with control can really mitigate a large amount of school-based anxiety and depression. When our children, or even ourselves, can see what is in front of us and have a plan, we really thrive in feeling in control and have less of that worry feeling.
There are several guides and resources out there that can help implement time blocking; one example is https://www.float.com/lp/time-blocking?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Time-Blocking-US-Exact&gclid=Cj0KCQiA7YyCBhD_ARIsALkj54pgvNexEoDtaEVTxT1RcU48pNSGe55GLVfCKBOrSt0K9iTlyvDQe9saAvjpEALw_wcB, which serves as an app that can help organize and prioritize times of the day. An easy one is also utilizing your ical or google calendar to help you schedule things and set easy alerts.
Personally, I am a big advocate of paper, so buying a planner such as this one https://www.amazon.com/Time-Block-Planner-Daily-Method-Distracted/dp/0593192052/ref=asc_df_0593192052/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=459617407428&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=882672753050347277&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9003605&hvtargid=pla-983161388797&psc=1 can really help and be fun to write out. I love using these highlighters https://www.amazon.com/Sharpie-Liquid-Highlighters-Chisel-Assorted/dp/B0002LD14O/ref=sr_1_12?dchild=1&keywords=colorful+highlighters&qid=1615064585&sr=8-12 as a fun way to color coordinate time.
The biggest struggle in all of this is getting your teen to follow through with your suggestions. Try asking the school to do an in-service on organization techniques and executive functioning, or make it a goal and work on it together. https://www.amazon.com/How-Talk-Teens-Will-Listen-ebook/dp/B003V1WW2O/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=how+to+talk+to+your+teen&qid=1615064477&s=books&sr=1-1 Here is a great book with some strategies on how to help your teen.
Therapy can also be a great solution and support for your teen or preteen. While they may feel there is a large amount of stigma around therapy, there is also a lot of talk around normalizing stress and anxiety with teens and supporting mental health.