Procrastination is something that can affect any person of any age. While children are often prodded to overcome procrastination by their parents, by the time a child is a teenager, doing what needs to be done in a timely fashion becomes his or her own responsibility. If your teen is struggling with procrastination, there are some things you can do to help the situation. Try implementing these six steps to help your teen overcome procrastination.
1. Teach Your Teen How to Prioritize and Manage Time Many teens and adults procrastinate because they simply have not learned good time management skills. People are not born knowing how to manage their time, and if you have a teen who is easily distracted and overwhelmed, it’s a skill that could make a big difference in how much he or she procrastinates. There are many methods for learning time management. First, make sure your teen has a planner of some sort. People who struggle with procrastination often find that the kind that lays each day out by the hour is the most effective and easy to use. Then have him or her fill in due dates, his or her work schedule, and whatever other obligations need to be met. Talk to your teen about how long each task will take (encourage him or her to allow more time than they think is necessary), and assign a time for each item to get done. Just having it down in writing can help a teen avoid procrastinating and putting things off.
2. Suggest Rewards for Staying on Task While virtue is its own reward, it’s human nature to look for tangible rewards to doing things that we have to do. For example, it feels good to have work done on time, well in advance of deadlines, but we often need some external motivation to actually work ahead on tasks. If your teen has a project that was assigned on September 15 and due on October 1, it’s very natural for him or her to put off thinking about it until September 29.
Encourage your teen to come up with self-imposed rewards for meeting milestones on a project. For example, your child can make a deal with him- or herself that if they can get resources assembled by September 18 and an outline done by September 21, they will treat themselves to a trip to the mall, an ice cream date with friends, or something else that they’d enjoy. If your teen tends to procrastinate when it comes to household chores, have them work hard for 30 minutes then take a 5-minute break. A version of this, called the Pomodoro technique, is an effective way to get many different types of tasks done.
3. Help Your Teen Find Accountability It can be hard to get things done when you are the only person vested in the process. Finding an accountability partner can help your teen stay on task. This could be someone in your family, a friend, or even an online group. It’s okay if the partner does not have anything to do with the actual task or tasks that need to be accomplished; just the act of telling someone what you intend to do can help with follow-through. You could be the accountability partner for your teen, but that’s only if you are able to simply acknowledge your teen’s efforts rather than nagging or getting emotionally involved. If you need your teen to clean out the garage, for example, then you are probably not a good accountability partner for that task, because you will get annoyed if it doesn’t get done. Only partner up with your teen on tasks that don’t personally affect you, if possible.
4. Encourage Them to Just Do It Many times, we procrastinate doing things because we think that they will be a big or unpleasant project. Then when we actually do the task at hand, it only takes a few minutes. The problem is when we procrastinate many small items, which leads to an overwhelming to-do list. If your teen is procrastinating about getting something done, encourage him or her to just do it. If they think it will take a long time, set a timer for ten minutes and tell them to work at it diligently for that amount of time. Often, they’ll see how much headway they’ve made during those 10 minutes and will either finish the chore or will agree to do another 10 minutes in a little while. Marla Cilley, better known as the Flylady, is a big fan of setting a timer for two, five, or 15 minutes and just working hard for that amount of time. She helps people overhaul messy homes into homes that they are proud of using this method. Little minutes spent on tasks can really add up and overcome procrastination.
5. Set a Good Example All of these tips can be used by adults, too. If you find that you also struggle with procrastination, it can help your teen if you get your situation under control. Take a look at the above suggestions and choose some that you think might help you avoid procrastination. Share your struggles and your triumphs with your teen, too, because this will give them hope that they, too, can overcome the bad habit of putting things off.
6. Seek Professional Help to Overcome Procrastination If Needed If your teen is not able to overcome procrastination, there could be an underlying issue. Depression and anxiety can both cause someone to put off necessary tasks. So can problems like ADHD. If you suspect that one of these could be an issue for your teen, don’t hesitate to seek help. Start with a Certified Life Coach in your area or his or her primary care physician, who can refer you to a counselor or specialist.
Getting the procrastination habit under control now will help your teen throughout the rest of his or her life. Work together to find a solution now, while the stakes aren’t as high as they will be in a decade or two. Look for a Life coach or a therapist if necessary, and let your teen know that this is a common, but treatable, problem to deal with.
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