Students Don’t Need More Time Management Tips

By Maxine Seya

If our teens forget to submit an assignment on time or is up until 1 a.m. finishing a school paper, it’s because their “time management” skills are subpar.

Does this sound familiar?

We hear college counselors tout the rite of passage of applying to college because it teaches high schoolers how to manage their time.

We hear and read recommendations for teenagers to get a job after school, start a club, or join some extracurriculars because it helps them develop “time management” skills.

The list goes on.

Jumping with energy

What if time management isn’t the goal here? What if a lack of time management skills isn’t even the problem?

The idea introduced in the book The Power of Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High performance and Personal Renewal suggests that we should be managing our energy, not our time.

Based on extensive studies of elite athletes, the authors discovered that high performing athletes all have something in common: they use rest to boost their performance.

High schoolers need better energy management, not time management

Most high achieving high schoolers are depleted of energy by the end of the day. A full day of school, then sports practice, then club meetings, then homework until the a.m. hours. It’s no wonder their faces sometimes look sullen and expressionless like marathoners on their 24th mile.

Their peers look up to them for being so productive and so capable of juggling so many things at once. They cheer each other on for sleeping only 3 hours a night. They clap their hands when their peers say, “I just spent 40 hours this weekend doing my college essays.”

Typical college applicants are applying to college at the same time as they are juggling some of the most rigorous classes they’ve taken in high school. Senior year is typically when our teens take the most APs and honors classes. It’s also the same time they’re juggling leadership roles in school clubs, varsity athletics, or church because they’re finally old enough to be a student leader. Add on college applications, identifying best fit colleges, writing compelling essays, asking for recommendations, staying on top of deadlines, worrying about financial aid? Our high schoolers are on the verge of burnout, if not already totally burned out.

Three hours of sleep a night, or even six hours of sleep a night, is not enough rest to offset an 18-hour intensive work day.

It’s no wonder their grades slip, athletic performance drops, and personalities get a little more irritable.

Suggesting that our teenagers improve their time management skills wrongly implies that they have unlimited energy to accomplish all of their tasks.

We should help them manage their energy instead.

3 ways to help college applicants manage their energy

Prioritize sleep.


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Maxine Seya
Maxine Seya is a former investigative journalist, college consultant, and admissions interviewer. She studied at Peking University (Beijing, China) and Université Paul-Valéry (Montpellier, France) and investigated for CNN and Huffington Post before graduating from Northwestern University. She founded SocratesPost to share the human stories behind the admission gates and offer parents clarity as they help their teens with college.