How to prioritize time as a teenager

“It’s not about having time. It’s about making time.”


“Time is what we want most but what we use worst.”

William Penn

I’ve heard that your teen years are some of the most fast-paced, chaotic years of your life. If you’re a teenager (or were one!), whether you’re in middle, high, college, or employed, you’ll most likely agree. It seems that between trying to “make the most out of your youth,” solidify friendships, create unforgettable memories, stay on top of school pressures, worry about your future, and spend time with family, you can’t ever get a break. Or perhaps when you do get a couple of hours or a day to yourself, you waste it binge-watching TV or in some other unproductive task because you’re “tired” to do anything else. And yes, those things are completely fine in moderation, but to really take care of your mental health and make sure the days start to start to blend together, you have to learn how to smartly portion out your time. I’m no doctor or psychologist– just another teenager who knows what works for me.

Start Bullet-Journaling, or at least keep a planner

You’ve likely heard this one before. The bullet journal trend is one you should probably hop on to though. Its a fun totally personalized way of keeping track of your life. Your life, not just school or work assignments. Start writing down everything you want to remember so that you don’t forget. Forgetting is easier than you think. Track goals and tasks you want to have completed within a certain time frame. These self-imposed “due-dates” aren’t meant to stress you out, just motivate you to not procrastinate. Set yourself up a “month” page and write down all of your short-term goals for that month. Write down any habits you want to break as well and you can even track your daily progress. These don’t have to be boring tasks, and honestly they shouldn’t be, but rather a nice mix of a variation of things you want to have done. So school projects, work milestones, family get-togethers, friend hang-outs, that new movie you want to see, trying your hand at something new, auditioning for a performance, or literally anything else will work. It’s a quick way of clearing your head and laying out a game plan. It makes your goals seem a lot more manageable and not just a jumble of mess in your head. In my bullet journal, I try to write little tasks I’d like to get done daily. Some opt for writing down 3 things or goals for that day and make sure those tasks get top priority within the next 24 hours. Three really isn’t that much and it’s a nice number to prevent stressing yourself out. Bullet Journaling has been defined as tracking the past, ordering the present, and designing the future. You’re supposed to get artsy with your weekly spreads and lay things out in a bulleted fashion. They’re significantly more fun than keeping a traditional planner, but if the latter is more your cup of tea, then by all means go for it.

Crack down on distractions

No surprise here. If you haven’t already noticed, teenagers are very easily distracted. I remember last year in History class, my friend and I could lose ourselves in Buzz-feed quizzes for the entirety of the period. We just had to know what animal we secretly were and at what age we would get married. That just illustrates how quickly you can lose sight of what you need to get done. Try getting things done now rather than later. And when I say work now, I mean actually work, not just to pretend to by taking breaks every five minutes and constantly checking your phone. Then you’ll just be forced to spend even more time on the same assignment because you can’t stay focused. The sooner you get something necessary done, the sooner you can start something you really want to try.

Stop doing so much school work

This basically goes against everything society has told you as a coming-of-age student. They drill into your head that grades mean everything and that school always takes top priority. Supposedly school defines “the rest of your life.” But… It kinda doesn’t. Sure, school should have a high priority in your life but it shouldn’t be your highest priority. What about all the other things you want to do. You can’t spend 3 hours every night doing homework and expect to have enough energy to finish other tasks as well. Remember “Quality over Quantity?” Well that applies here too. Just because you spend forever doing a school assignment doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll score better than a shorter, decently thought-out assignment. Start trying to finish as much as you can at school so that after-school you’ll have more time for extracurriculars and other things. You’ll be happier than those who devote all their free time to school work. School is one of the main things that makes teenagers lose sight of their other priorities but it’s time to take control over how much time you’re willing to sacrifice.

Make time to do your hobby

No more of that “I don’t have time” crap. It’s your hobby which means that you enjoy doing it and you should always make time for what you enjoy. Always. If its something that you really want to do, then you will find time to get it done. Trust us, you have more time than you think you do. Cut back on something else so that you can make time to develop your skill. Hobbies aren’t the most important priority, but they’re still pretty high. They’re often overlooked in our fast-paced society but think about if certain celebrities stopped doing their hobby at a young age. Michael Phelps wouldn’t be an Olympic champion if he had stopped swimming. Simone Biles wouldn’t be one as well if she had stopped gymnastics. Gordon Ramsey wouldn’t be a 16 Michelin star chef if he had stopped cooking. Vincent Van Gogh wouldn’t have been the historic painter we know today if he stopped painting. And Maya Angelou would never have been a poet if she had stopped writing. We see so often that adults, including our parents, give up old hobbies as they grow older. They reminisce about the “good old days” when they were star atheletes but haven’t been on the field since the day they graduated college. Or how they used to be bilingual and would travel abroad but now they’ve fallen into the same routine and can’t remember the language they used to love learning. It’s sad but it’s become the norm. Don’t push your hobbies aside because the world tells you what you should be. Society is pretty good at making you think certain things are more important.

Find new ways to get things done

These can be simple swaps like listening to audiobooks instead of reading paper copies. Or writing or doing something productive during car rides. Or watching a video during your typical morning routine. Simple ways of “double-tasking” without the added stress. Anything audio is ideal because you can listen while doing something else. I love listening to my book on YouTube while crocheting. Yes, YouTube. Not every book will be on YouTube but a surprising amount are. You can choose to pay for Audible if you want, but that’s too expensive for my liking. Just start thinking outside the box instead of completing tasks the same way you always have.

Stop going on social media so much

Now I know you’ve heard this one before. People nowadays seem to blame social media for everything but it can understandably be a productive use of your time in moderation. You don’t have to cut out any of your profiles, just limit the time you spend aimlessly scrolling through your feeds. It’s so easy to get lost watching funny videos and liking relatable posts but you’re encouraging yourself to be lazy when you sit on your phone all day. You get comfortable not doing anything and you don’t work towards your goals. It’s so easy to go on Social Media whenever we have a free moment, we know from experience when it comes to Instagram and Twitter, but you could be doing something a lot more meaningful. Start trying to do something else whenever you have some personal time. Remember that social media is a low-priority past-time and you may never realize how much time you kill on it until you start tracking it. We know we didn’t.

Cut back on your “watch” time

This ties back to cutting time on social media, especially YouTube. Watch time is how long you spend viewing any video, tv episode, or movie. Binge-watching is the craze nowadays but constantly watching how actors live their lives isn’t going to help you live yours any better. After school we used to try to watch 3 episodes of what ever show we were watching and we would even get tips from classmates at school of how to find time to binge multiple seasons. It was fun and we enjoyed it for a time but we didn’t have time to do much of anything else after school. We were constantly thinking about the series instead of skills or hobbies we wanted to develop. Even with YouTube, most teens know that it’s way too easy to get lost on the platform for hours. Deep into the night and you’re anywhere from watching conspiracy theories to comedy skits to BuzzFeed to fandom videos. Of course YouTube isn’t bad and can actually be used as a productive source in regards to self-love and motivation. If you’re going to be watching videos anyway, why not focus on TED talks and how-to tutorials? That way you won’t be wasting time, but working on self-progress. And it’s totally fine to keep up with TV shows you enjoy, but now we opt for watching closer to one episode per week of each series. Most tv series release like that anyway other than Netflix and Hulu series. The shows we watch are spaced out over the year as to when seasons release so we’re not really able to bjnge-watch even if we wanted to.

Figure out what will matter the most to your future self

It’s getting awfully inspirational in here. But what do we mean by this advice? 5, 10 or 20 years into the future, will you be happy with what you spent your time doing now? Will you regret it or feel embarrassed? Will you feel like you didn’t live up to your full potential and that you didn’t take advantage of your teen years? You don’t want to regret wasting your youth. If you really want to figure out how to priority your life, then figure out what your future self will be proud of. Likely not of studying for hours on end or daily watching three hours of TV.