I’ve noticed an interesting trend in my chance encounters with people. It goes something like this:
Me: “It’s great to see you! How’ve you been?”
Them: “Busy!” Or,
Them: “Crazy busy!” Or,
Them: “Out of control!”
These days, we’re experiencing a crisis of over-commitment and information overload. For people of all ages, attention spans are shorter and distractibility levels are escalated. Responsiveness has markedly deteriorated, cell phones are virtual appendages, focusing is more difficult, and relational depth is increasingly being replaced by superficial breadth. How do we raise focused, productive, disciplined kids in this crazy environment?
Our children are bombarded with information, opportunities, and distractions like no generation before. We have to arm them with a strong productivity foundation and personal disciplines to handle this (often chaotic) new world! Whether they go on to college or the workplace, they will eventually be in charge of how they spend their time—how will they fare?
Studies show time and again that successful people are extremely disciplined with their time, viewing it as a priceless asset they cannot get back. That’s the attitude we want to cultivate in our teens. Another key productivity driver is their ability to focus, and to plan for their achievement. Encourage your children to set goals regarding their career, family, education, finances, service, experiences, recreation/leisure, and daily responsibilities. The more specific, realistic, and measurable they are, the better.
Have you begun to instill these values in your children? Here are some evaluation questions to consider as you “parent for productivity”:
- Are they effective goal setters, planners, time managers, and decision-makers?
- Do they control technology, rather than allow technology to control them?
- In their daily planning, do they focus first on what matters most?
- Do they consider their time as a precious asset?
If you see some room for growth in this area, here are few ideas to get you started on helping your teen build stronger productivity and personal discipline into his or her life:
- Avoid “last minute-Louie” syndrome: Require them to ask for permission to participate in an event a certain amount of time (hours, days) beforehand to allow you time to check your schedule
- When it comes to schoolwork projects, help them plan for completion at least a day before the due date and to work backwards to meet any interim deadlines
- Check your teen’s daily planner on a regular basis to ensure school assignments are being recorded and completed. Set up a reward system for keeping this up.
- Prohibit the use (or better yet, presence) of cell phones at the dinner table
- Include them on your decision-making process when there are important household decisions to be made. Ask them what they would do before you tell them your decisions, and let them go through the process as if they were making the decision.
- Set up a family media use schedule and have each person plan the amount of time they will devote to media/internet/video games. Consider having them earn “screen time” by completing chores and homework assignments.
At the risk of sounding like Fred Flintstone, faster and “right now” aren’t always better—especially when they reduce our quality of life and productivity! Let’s communicate this to our younger generation. Help your teens learn excellent time management and personal disciplines and you’ll also be providing them with the ability to experience success in their relationships, academics, and life work.
Have you seen other people’s personal productivity (or your own) drop off proportionate to their busy-ness and distractibility? How about your own? What are ways you and your family are dealing with—or have overcome—this? Please share your ideas, questions, and comments; we’d love to hear your thoughts.
About the author
Dennis Trittin is the author of What I Wish I Knew at 18: Life Lessons for the Road Ahead and Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World. Through his books, blog, and nationwide speaking engagements, Dennis prepares students for life success and equips parents and educators in their vital training role. You can find him here on Facebook.