Overscheduled? We can’t fix our schedule until we have a clear picture of how it looks now. I once tackled the difficult job of recording my schedule for a week. What I found startled me. I had no time for any unexpected moments in my day even though my days always had some unplanned events. The result was that I was constantly stressed when those surprises interfered with what I had planned.
Show Your Teen How to Track Current Schedule
Caleb and Juan are in a high school class together. Their teacher is concerned about the stress level she sees in her students. The assignment: Make a chart of time spent on various activities for two weeks. At the end of two weeks, write a brief summary of what they learned about their schedule.
That sounds easy enough, but it’s harder than one might think.
Caleb and Juan chose to work as partners. They would devise the chart together and check with each other daily to see if they needed to tweak the tracking plan.
The boys pulled their chairs together and booted up their tablets. Caleb opened Excel and typed activities in the first column of his spreadsheet: Eating, sleeping, school, etc. Meanwhile, Juan did a web search for an app they could use.
Juan sighed. “All the apps I found are for parents to track our screen time.” He laughed. “We don’t want that.”
Caleb turned his tablet towards Juan. “What do you think? I’m sure I left something out.”
“Hey, that’s good. We can add more activities later. How about flipping it, so we have the times down the left column? And let’s look at Excel templates. That’ll save some work.”
They continued to work together until they had a spreadsheet they could use. They both knew they would probably have to make changes as they worked through the two weeks. They chose to chart their activities in fifteen-minute segments. Activities were listed across the top and times were on the left side of the chart. They inserted formulas to total each column. If they record accurately, they will end up with twenty-four hours in a day.
Look at Overscheduled Results
The first step in controlling our time is to find out how we spend it. Keeping track for two weeks will give the boys that information.
Before we look at a sample twenty-four-hour day in the life of a teen, a word about sleep: The National Sleep Foundation recommends 8-10 hours for teens, but few get that amount. To be realistic, we’ll estimate eight and one-half hours though some teens need more.
Below is an example of one teen boy’s schedule. These numbers are averages from a two week period.
- Sleep 8.5
- Meals/Family 2.0
- Self-care 0.5
- School 7.5
- Homework 1.0
- Outside/Exercise 1.0
- Screen time 2.0
- Chores 0.5
- Volunteer/Social 1.0
Each teen’s time will be different. Girls usually spend more time on self-care than boys. Time spent on chores and homework varies widely. Some may skip exercise or get it during school hours. Sometimes excessive screen time cuts into sleep.
Note that this record only had nine activities. It is easier to keep a record if you lump together similar activities so there are fewer categories.
Is Your Teen Overscheduled?
This important first step is a way to find how your teen spends his or her time. From there, you can decide together how to reach balance. Note that I said decide together. Ask your teen: Are you happy with the results? Is there an area you would like to change? How can you do that? If you don’t know how, who would be a good mentor to help you make some changes?
Allow your teen to take the lead in solving the problem, and he or she will be more likely to make the changes. The ultimate goal is to give kids a little unscheduled time each day.