“It is eleven o’clock. You should go to sleep now.”
“But I haven’t finished my homework yet.”
This common exchange between my 13-year-old daughter and me occurs more often than I care to admit. Even though she gets home at 2 pm, she often procrastinates completing her homework until right before bedtime. She is also a repeat offender of waiting until the last minute to start research projects.
Being productive when completing homework or in a job is an issue for many teenagers who are easily distracted by electronics, socializing or other fun activities.
“The best tip for teens to improve productivity is to put your phone away. Our smartphones can be exceptionally useful tools, but they can also be exceptionally distracting,” says Emily Price, author of the book, Productivity Hacks. Price wrote the book based on fifteen years of interviewing people ranging from low-level employees to CEOs. Price says, “Everyone and every company has a different approach to ‘how to work.’”
Price recommends that teens put their phone in another room when they are trying to be productive. If they need their phone to for homework, then she suggests using “Do Not Disturb” mode to limit the distracting sounds of a “pinging phone”. She says, “Being disconnected for a few hours can make a tremendous difference to your productivity.”
Price also suggests a dedicated workspace. She says, “Having an ‘office’ or a place where you traditionally do your work can be great for a number of reasons. First, it can help put you in the mindset for ‘work’ when you sit down. Secondly, it can be a signal to other people in your home that you’re busy working and shouldn’t be disturbed.”
“The most important thing when it comes to teens being productive in school and with homework or any jobs is making sure that they are intrinsically motivated,” says Maria Sanders, a licensed social worker and certified parent coach.
Sanders explains that you can help your teen become motivated by allowing them to feel competent, connected and autonomous. She says, “It is important for teens to come up with their own plan of action of how they can be productive rather than having the parent dictate the best tips and strategies.”
If a teen can be involved in their decision-making process of how to be productive then it is more likely that they will follow through with their work. While they are thinking of a productivity plan have them consider any obstacles or challenges that will be barriers to their productivity along with their strengths and resources.
Both Price and Sanders agree that starting the day by eating breakfast helps your mind to become more alert and provides energy to be productive in school. Since most teenagers get up early for school, eating breakfast can be a challenge. If this is an issue due to time, then Price suggests drinking a smoothie or eating a protein bar. She says, “Breakfast doesn’t have to mean eggs and bacon, but it should involve enough calories to kickstart your metabolism and keep you full until lunch time.”
Sanders explains that if your teen isn’t eating breakfast then ask questions like, “Do you think skipping breaking is working for you? Do you have enough energy during school?” These questions can help teens to feel part of the decision-making process and think about their choices.
Another key factor in being productive is getting enough sleep which is often an issue for most teens who like to stay up late and need to get up early for school. Price says, “One of the best things you can do to boast your productivity is to get enough sleep.”
Price suggests that teens do not sleep in the same room as their phones which can disrupt or prevent them from going to sleep. She also says that taking a warm shower before going to bed can relax your muscles and prepare your body for sleep.
If your teen isn’t getting enough sleep at night then Sander encourages parents to ask questions like, “Do you feel tired in the morning or during the day? How can you improve the amount of sleep you are getting at night?” These questions can help them to figure out a way to improve their sleep schedule.
In Price’s book, she recommends various apps that can help increase productivity. Some apps that Price thinks teen would find beneficial are:
RescueTime: This app will track how much time you spend on certain websites and certain apps on your computer. Your can use this information to be more aware of time spent on social media and then change it by setting a timer when using social media if necessary, to be more productive.
Just Read: A Chrome extension that will remove things like flashy webpage styles, pop-up ads, and comments, and turn the article into a simplified text which helps to prevent distractions while reading.
Forest: This app grows virtual trees when you’re not using your phone. When you launch an app or browse the Internet, the trees wither and die. Using this app will make you more aware of how much you’re using your phone and encourage you put it away so your virtual trees and productivity can grow.
Grammarly: This web and mobile app can read through the text you write and look for any spelling or grammar errors.
FocusWriter: A minimalist word processing app for Windows, Mac, and Linux that forces you to focus on something you’re writing by preventing you from doing other things on your computer. The app blocks programs and websites that might take your attention away from your writing, and it allows you to set timers to break up your work into sessions so you’re not working too much at once.
When you take care of your physical health by having proper nutrition and sleep, then you can focus on two key factors to improving productivity which is motivation and preventing distractions.
Sanders says, “It is important to understand how powerful our children are when they are motivated.”
Cheryl Maguire holds a Master of Counseling Psychology degree. She is married and is the mother of twins and a daughter. Her writing has been published in Parents Magazine, Upworthy, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings and Your Teen Magazine. You can find her at Twitter @CherylMaguire05