Ep 32: Productivity for Teenagers

David Allen, the author of "Getting Things Done", one of the best-selling business books of all time, explains how to get teens excited and motivated about their goals and productive as they pursue those goals. If you have a "lazy" teenager, you won't want to miss this one.

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Full show notes

If your child isn’t living up to their full potential because they waste too much time on distractions, just imagine how much harder life will be when they have to manage adult responsibilities! Teens today must content with YouTube, Facebook, and other social media platforms that constantly vie for their attention. Activities like sports practice, club meetings, school applications, study time, and more can really add up. Fortunately, though, having a busy schedule prevent you from dealing with lazy teenagers if your teens learn how to manage their schedules effectively.

Teens with an abundance of hobbies and responsibilities have more opportunities to explore their interests. However, it can be difficult to distinguish distractions from tasks that are worth pursuing. When teens get confused by this distinction, they may neglect their responsibilities and are often written off as being immature or lazy. And stress and distress for teenagers is on the rise, which can take away their motivation to complete even basic tasks.

Without the right approach to balancing their workload, kids become easily overwhelmed in their developmental years and leave their parents dealing with lazy teenagers. First, they start staying up late at night doing work and might skip a few homework assignments to get some sleep. But poor time-management practices can easily snowball into a reoccurring bad habit. Without a dependable initiative to reach their goals, your child could resort to shutting down. They might even lose their vocation.

To better understand dealing with lazy teenagers and boost their productivity, I spoke with David Allen, founder of the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology and author of Getting Things Done for Teens: Take Control of Your Life in a Distracting World. Here, he’s teamed up with two terrific co-authors and a handful of graphic designers to make his powerful productivity method more accessible to lazy teens.

Imagine taking all the time-management skills you’ve learned through trials as an adult and apply it to a modern-day teenager’s perspective. That’s exactly what David has done here. HIs book has sold over a million copies, and its predecessor (geared towards adults) has sold 1.6 million copies, making him one of the most sought-after mentors for parents, teachers, and business owners.

In this interview, David runs me through the super simple five-step method developed in his book for dealing with lazy teenagers. It’s shockingly easy to follow for such a robust system!

To navigate the pressure of being overscheduled and overworked, David explains that dealing with lazy teenagers involves getting the stress (literally) out of the brain. Basically, it’s the practice of pushing information outside your brain so things don’t get so chaotic and overwhelming inside your brain. This allows teens to focus on what they’re doing without having to think too much about failing the test they’re studying for or being judged too harshly during their upcoming presentation. Here’s how it works:

The first step in the GTD method is to immediately capture any incoming ideas or actionable thoughts that catch your attention. It could be that you have to send an email to a teacher, or you just remembered that movie recommendation you were supposed to look into. The point is, you need to get the idea out of your head and write it down so you don’t have to think about it anymore. This way the thought won’t distract you while you’re working on your current task. This is great tactic for dealing with lazy teenagers.

By being present and making good moment to moment choices, teens can create time for the fun things they want to do. That’s why this first step is so valuable. Anyone can get bogged down without sufficient motivation to complete a task, but if your interests influence what you’re doing in the moment, you’re more likely to pursue the task with increased enthusiasm.

According to David, dealing with lazy teenagers isn’t about magically getting your teen excited to do something they hate. It’s about how to help them figure out what they really want to be doing. If teens are able to organize their workload into manageable pieces, they’ll be able to get things done expeditiously.

Let’s say your teen is interested in hosting a Halloween party. By using the first step of capturing ideas, they can create a list of things they need to do without dwelling on the pressure of a successful event. While completing their homework, they might jot down a quick reminder to pick up cups and streamers and then get back to the assignment at hand. When it’s time to address the Halloween party, they’ll be able to organize their ideas with more attention and detail.

I was so lucky to talk with David about his methodology because he succinctly demonstrates how to apply it when dealing with lazy teenagers who don’t even know their interests yet. He says you can start by observing what your teenager is already doing. You can prompt them with questions like “Do you enjoy what you’re doing now? How can do more of that? When would you like me to check to see if you’ve reached your goal?” These questions, along with David’s other techniques, can help shift the scale of confrontation so that your teen takes control of their actions.

David explains that by letting teens set the standard for what they want to achieve, they’ll be redirected to confront themselves about not meeting their goals. This helps parents dealing with lazy teenagers to affirm their child’s autonomy, letting them set the standard for what they want to achieve. This technique of redirection allows parents to motivate their teens without getting into a confrontation.

In fact, a lot of our conversation had to do with this topic of redirection. Redirecting passions into careers. Redirecting wasted time into our personalized vocation. Redirecting hard work into being engaged and taking on a role in the driver’s seat. These kinds of exchanges can even shift your parenting approach to dealing with lazy teenagers so that it’s conversational and engaging.

When people are gifted with a myriad of opportunities to explore, David’s five-step method is perfect for dealing with lazy teenagers. This is the time for your child to explore as many interests as possible so that your child can begin to invest in them. That’s what I find so encouraging about David’s approach: it’s inviting, and that can be especially useful during teenage years and early adulthood.

Both parents and teens can benefit from David’s work and he’ll tell you exactly how you can implement his method today! In our interview, we also cover topics like:
  • How to handle the stress of opportunity and manage the volume of possibilities
  • How the GTD frameworks goes beyond organization to give your teen purpose
  • Engaging teens and their distractions vs. confronting them
  • Balancing what you know with how to take on new interests
  • Helping your teen set some goals
  • How to reduce risky behavior and build autonomy
Talking with David was absolutely inspiring. His approach to getting things done provides an exciting and accessible framework for dealing with lazy teenagers. So much so that our conversation helped me frame how to appropriately engage my own commitments! If you’d like to know just exactly how David’s Getting Things Done approach works so well, tune in to our podcast for the full approach!

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Creators and Guests

Andy Earle
Andy Earle
Host of the Talking to Teens Podcast and founder of Write It Great
David Allen
David Allen
Originator of GTD, founder of David Allen Co.
Ep 32: Productivity for Teenagers
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