Time Management

By Flora Richards Gustafson

Stopwatch“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff that life is made of.”
– Benjamin Franklin

You have 168 hours in a week. The problem with time is that it isn’t tangible, according to Julie Morgenstern, author of “Organizing from the Inside Out for Teens” with her daughter Jessi Colón. You can’t see, feel, touch or smell time (unless you forgot to put on deodorant). Morgenstern compares time to a school locker that has a limited amount of space. Just as you can only fit so much into a locker, you can only fit so much into your schedule. To make time more of a concrete concept, think of it as blocks of empty spaces that you fill.

Making a schedule
Organizing your schedule is like organizing your locker. Morgenstern explains that an organized locker has similar items grouped together so they’re faster to find. For example, your books are in one spot and your backpack and coat are in another. An organized schedule has similar activities grouped together throughout the week (e.g., doing homework every day between 3:30 and 5 p.m. or going to bed and waking up at the same time) so your days have some consistency.

Non-negotiable obligations
When creating a schedule, look at a calendar that has hourly blocks of time. Morgenstern advises that you first fill in the “non-negotiable” activities into the empty slots. These activities include sleeping, going to school, homework, sports practice, family obligations, chores, a job and personal free time. “When you see your non-negotiable obligations in the schedule,” Morgenstern explains, “you’re more motivated to not waste time and make better decisions about what you do with it.”

Filling in your schedule
After plugging in your non-negotiables, use the empty slots for activities that are more flexible -- hanging out with friends, hobbies or finishing a school project. The extracurricular activities you choose should be ones you truly enjoy, Morgenstern says. Do things that bring you joy and help you feel energized and fulfilled.

Instead of wasting time every day figuring out what to do, Morgenstern advises that you plan ahead. For example, at the end of each day, take a look at your schedule for the next three days. “When you plan ahead, you plan for the unexpected,” she says. Seeing how different activities fill your day helps you prioritize and make better decisions. Just like with a school locker, don’t completely fill your schedule: Give yourself some flexibility and room for unexpected events, such as homework taking longer than usual or a friend needing to talk.

Decision making and time management are skills that you’ll use, build and refine for the rest of your life. Practicing each day will help give you a sense of control over your life and, as Morgenstern asserts, “Control matters.”


About the Author

Flora Richards Gustafson