6 steps to help high schoolers with ADHD create a time management system

High school brings increasing independence and choice. Teens now have the opportunity to pick their own classes and explore extracurricular activities. That independence can be exciting. For some, it’s a sneak peek at what college might look like. But for teens with ADHD and trouble with time management, that growing freedom can be challenging, too.

Creating a time management system can make things a bit easier. Schedules can help teens procrastinate less and find enough time to get tasks done. Here are six steps to create a system for your teen with ADHD.

1. Use a monthly calendar to mark down deadlines.

Start with an electronic or paper calendar. Use the school’s website to enter important dates from each marking period onto the monthly calendar. Be sure to include dates like the start of midterms and finals.

Enter any test dates and deadlines for essays and projects. (In college, the syllabus for each class will include dates.) If your teen is using an electronic calendar and a paper one, make sure the dates are entered in both places. When the monthly calendar is filled in, print out the electronic version if there is one.

2. Break it down by week.

From the monthly master calendar, create a one-week calendar that shows each hour of the day. Again, you want a paper version, even if it’s created electronically.

Block in ongoing commitments like classes, clubs, etc. Then slot in regular study and homework blocks throughout the week. Factor in short breaks. Add these weekly commitments to the master calendar — both the paper and electronic versions.

With an electronic calendar, set up every commitment as a recurring event. Checking it during the day is a good way of staying on track.

3. Keep the weekly plan and monthly calendar visible.

Place paper versions of both the monthly calendar and the weekly plan up on the wall. Check the weekly plan each night as a reminder of the next day’s tasks. Use the monthly calendar to keep track of exams, long-range deadlines, and unscheduled activities. Cross off each day as it passes to see how the semester is progressing.

4. Update the calendar with anything new.

Add things that come up at the last minute. These might include new assignments, deadline changes, or an appointment to meet with a teacher. If a new appointment falls during a scheduled study block, move that block to somewhere else in the week where there’s available time.

5. Break down long-term assignments into chunks.

As soon as an assignment is given, create interim steps for far-off deadlines. These steps might include doing some research by a certain date or completing a first draft in time to bring it to the writing center for feedback. Add these steps to the paper and electronic calendars.

6. Sync the electronic and paper monthly calendars a few times a week.

Pick three or four regular times each week to update the monthly calendar. Add any changes made to the electronic calendar to the printed one as well. That way, long-term deadlines are always visible.

Read about ways to help your high-schooler learn organization skills. Get tips on how to help your teen get organized. Listen as this expert explains what executive function skills are and how to help kids build them.


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