Full Show Notes
When kids are tired from a long day of classes and basketball practice and it’s time to get cracking on some calculus, their gaze might drift from the textbook to their Instagram feed for an hour…or two hours…and then maybe they’ll watch a little Netflix, text their friends, make a TikTok…before they know it, it’s 10 p.m. and they haven’t even started!
Procrastination can get the better of all of us occasionally, let’s be honest–but for students, it can often become a damaging habit that holds them back from getting the grades they hope for or finishing a college app on time. When it comes down to it, procrastination can often take hold of a teen’s time and simply not let go.
To help kids battle their inner procrastinator and become time management experts, we’re talking with Leslie Josel, author of How to Do it Now Because it’s Not Going Away: An Expert Guide to Getting Stuff Done. Leslie has been working with teens and college students for almost twenty years to help them untangle their lives from the sticky web of procrastination and create order from their own personal chaos.
In our interview, she’s giving you tons of tips to guide your teen towards living a more organized life. We’re chatting about how teens can tackle time management, what kids can learn about their habits by doing some self reflection, and how we can give students some control over their learning process to get them more excited about their education.
Teaching Teens Time Management
Leslie is seriously passionate about time management, and she’s got some innovative solutions to your teen’s procrastination problem. During our interview, she proposed a unique tool to help kids keep track of time, a tool they might not be familiar with: an analog clock. That’s right, a clock that ticks every second, with hands that move. You know, from the old days!
She insists that analog clocks serve an important overall purpose: visualising and externalizing time. What in the world does that mean, you ask? It means using objects and divides to get a sense of the passing of time. This includes a calendar, a timer, a planner–and yes, an analog clock– things that remind teens exactly where in time we are. When teenagers place themselves on a timeline, they can better estimate how long it will take to complete a given task.
By using devices to externalize time, teens can give their daily tasks a beginning, middle and end, allowing them to effectively judge how much time they need to spend on this and when they’ll need to be done with that. Instead of just floating unmoored in the hours, they’ll be able to know where they need to direct their energy.
This comes into play when setting rules for kids about what they need to get done. Telling a kid to work on their homework for twenty minutes before sitting down to dinner is going to be a lot more comprehensible than asking them to finish their assignment, Leslie says. In the episode, she breaks down other ways we can help kids stay in control of their time, instead of letting time control them.
Helping Teens Understand Their Habits
For teens to master time management, they first need to identify where and when procrastination seems to take its toll. If they can take some time to consider their daily habits, they’ll be able to find where they’re going wrong and solve their productivity problems.
Leslie encourages teens to map out their time usage in a day on a piece of paper or digital document. This gives them the chance to identify where in the day they are losing time to procrastination, when exactly they are most productive, and what they can do to improve their overall time management.
This activity pushes your kids to confront themselves so that you don’t have to! Instead of telling them that they waste too much time, encourage them to record their own data about their habits–they’ll be able to see their procrastination on the paper in front of them! It can be a thought provoking and even fun experience for them to reflect on how they live and how they can maximize their productivity from day to day.
Leslie says that if kids do realize they have serious time management problems, they often explain their behavior as a self fulfilling prophecy. They think that poor time management is “just the way they work” or simply describe themselves as “lazy”. In the episode, Leslie talks about how we can help kids change their attitudes to shift their self image and become the productive people they were meant to be.
Once teens get to the bottom of their procrastination problems, they’ll be able to manage their time more effectively…but how can we help them go even one step further? By finding the study methods that grant them the most effective learning experience.
Discovering the Right Study Habits
When we look at the research, we find that the most common source of disagreement and discord among teens and their parents is homework. All teens have to do it, but not all teens study the same way–creating a lot of tension between teens who are fed up with what’s expected and parents who just want to see students successful.
Leslie says what teens need to do is discover their own personal studying preferences. Some students do their best work at a coffee shop, surrounded by crowds of talking people. Others prefer to listen to rock music as they solve equations, or, as Leslie hilariously mentions in an anecdote in the episode, sit in the bathtub! When students understand what works best for them, their productivity will get a boost.
There are also lots of other small ways Leslie says kids can become better learners. Incorporating physical activity into the long hours of hitting the books helps improve retention of material. Reviewing things about a half hour before bedtime is also a proven method to help info stick in teens’ brains. Incorporating variation into study habits keeps things exciting and has been shown to be effective at helping teens remember facts and figures.
In the episode, Leslie talks about why she personally objects to the term “studying”, saying we should instead opt for the word “practice”. She believes it’s more active, more energetic, and more interesting than “studying”, and helps kids see studying as something to be desired in the same way they might practice soccer, guitar or dancing. We discuss this in more depth in the interview.
In the Episode…
Leslie was such a joy to interview this week, and her ideas about teenage productivity are so helpful to parents everywhere. In addition to the topics mentioned above, we cover:
- Why teens procrastinate more than adults
- The value planners add to teens’ lives
- Why we need to change our overall approach to homework
- The silver linings of distance learning.
While procrastination might feel inevitable, Leslie’s advice is here to guide your teen towards reaching their highest level of productivity. See you next week!
Word-for-word examples of what to say to your teen
1. Change your verbs from the ambiguous “study” to grounded “practice”:
“Go practice your math, go practice your vocab words.”-Leslie Josel
2. Remind your teen the assessment is to find out where you are, not a final road map of what will happen next:(Members Only)
Complete Interview Transcript
Andy: Got a copy of this book, How to Do It Now Because It’s Not Going Away: An Expert Guide to Getting Stuff Done. So talk to me about what inspired this, what do you do? What is Order Out of Chaos, and how did this become a book?
Leslie: That was a lot of questions. Okay, so what you have to know is, I always like to say this, I am a lot older than I look. So I have been at this for 17 years and what you have to know is it all started with my son. And what I found 17 years ago is that there wasn’t a lot out there in regards to ADHD, learning disabilities, ways to help that kind of student untangle their world. Remember, there was really no internet. There really was no, it wasn’t as forceful as it is now. There were no conferences and podcasts and all that. So I really had to make up a lot of things on my own. I’m not going to go into the whole story. I think go to my website. There’s a great story on how I literally was going at the time door to door, family to family, helping them help their students untangle their world, particularly those with ADHD, to now having a global virtual company whose mission it is to help students be successful in learning and in life.
Leslie: We have over 75,000 parents who show up to us. You do not have to have ADHD or executive dysfunction, because we firmly believe in what I call universal learning. And what universal learning is, is that what is good for one segment of the population is good for everybody. So everything we talk about at Order Out of Chaos, even though it might be geared to ADHD or learning difficulties, stuff like that. It’s really for every student. Trust me, every kid has time management issues, everybody.
Andy: Right, everyone could get better at studying, homework, some of these basic things, getting stuff done on time, not being stressed out about it.
Andy: Yes. In fact, actually I think I could use some of that, so.
Leslie: Well, that’s it, and that’s it. Everybody procrastinates. I mean, over 75 to 80%, and you are the science guy, 75 to 80% of students between the ages of 13 and 18 procrastinate on a significant basis, that is across the board. So that is actually, this is my third book, but I really wanted to write a book that was not ADHD-specific. I wanted to write a book that was student-specific. And I forgot to say, I actually am though an academic life coach. That is what I do for kids with ADHD and LD. But what I wanted to do was write a book, because I spend my … everything I’ve ever written. My other two books were parent focused. My weekly column for ADDitude Magazine is parent focused. The webinars we do at Order Out of Chaos are parent focused, but I spend every day with students.
Leslie: So I’m like, “You know, it’s time to write a book that is for students, written in their language.” So that is really why, because there isn’t anything out there. There’s no book written for students about their procrastination and why they procrastinate. And why students procrastinate is very different then why adults do.
Andy: Okay. Well, so talk to me about that. What’s the difference? Isn’t it the same thing?
Leslie: I’m not saying, it’s not completely black and white, there is some gray. But what you have to also remember about students specifically is not again, nothing is absolute. We always want to say that. Everybody shows up differently, right? We need to have that caveat. Every kid is different, same way adults are. But for the most part, your students’ time and what they’re asked to do is not their own. It’s not their own choice. So we as adults, like yes, I know we have to work and maybe that might not, but yet there’s that inner life-
Andy: Have some obligations.
Leslie: We have some obligations, and our brain has matured enough to understand, “I need to do this because of the consequence that might not happen.” But a lot of what adults do is very adult-directed. I mean, something as simple as, “I want to clean out the garage. I know I need to pay my bills.” There’s a very much an internal motivation to get those things done. I would say most things that kids have to do are not, they’re not thinking about it, right?
Leslie: So not only is their time is not their own, what they have to do is not their own. And they want some control. They want some power. I don’t want to say power in a bad way, but they would like some control and some decision-making as to how, not only what they have to do, but more importantly, how they get it done. And that is where they get the control. They might not have the control of what, but they do have the control of how.
Andy: I hear that. It’s like this, even with uniforms, how can I find at least just a little bit of a unique way to wear this or put just a little something on, a flair. It’s like, as a teenager you’re even told what to wear. You’re told how you can and can’t, when you can and can’t go to the bathroom, every little thing. And so any ways that you can find a little bit of autonomy and ways to carve out some freedom for yourself.
Leslie: Right, and then the other point that I think is hugely important. And this is something that I spend I would say all day every day telling parents, is that a lot of the procrastination your students are facing is skill-based, or a lack of skill. Students, this is all brain based. So if you have a student who really is lagging on understanding time or understanding how to study, it’s not going to happen. It’s just not going to happen if they lack the skill to do something. Trust me, most kids do not show up going, “How can I piss off my parents today? Or how can I really do something, right?” I’m sorry. They don’t. A lot of it is not that they don’t want to, they don’t know how to. And we need to really kind of rip that apart and figure out where that break in the chain is for them. And better support them so that they do have the skills and the knowledge to get done what they need to get done. Those are the two I love, there’s a 1,000 differences, but those are probably the two biggest ones.
Andy: You talk about the importance of building a time sense that, before you can really get too far into any of this stuff, you need to at least start getting a sense of how long stuff actually takes, and getting better at estimating how long something’s going to take, which I think is so important, because we’ve all had the experience of being late to something, because it just took way longer to get there then we thought, “It took longer to get ready then we thought.” Or having being up the last day before a presentation because it took way longer to get our PowerPoint done, that we yeah, right? On and on and on–
Leslie: –And on and on and on. Yeah, and it’s so interesting everything you just said. So time is my thing. Time is my jam. I love talking about time, because it’s the one thing we all have the same amount of, but yet how we use it and how we show up about it. Sometimes when I’m like, I guess when I’m tired, I kind of joke that time is almost like another person in the room. It has a massive personality all of its own, because we’re constantly fighting with it. We’re fighting about it. We’re thinking about it, yet it’s invisible. So here’s my overview of about time. And I’m actually going to do this for a minute, because I want you to see what’s behind me. You see that thing on my wall?
Andy: There’s a round–I have seen those old things that they used to use those back in the past, I think. It’s got some hands on it. I’m not sure what …
Leslie: It is called an analog clock. Now here, and I’m like, I literally have to say like, “Do you even know what an analog is?” Not students, you’d be surprised their parents that they don’t even remember what analogs are, but here’s my caveat about time. If you cannot see time, you cannot manage it. And it stops right there. There’s nothing, there’s no debate there, right? It’s no debate. If you cannot see it, you cannot manage it. So the biggest thing that has to happen with your student, or you, and you said all of those things. But what all of those things really mean is you need to always know where you sit in time, where you are in relationship to the rest of your day.
Leslie: Because I want you all to think about being on a boat in the middle of the ocean or wherever. And you don’t see land around you. You are completely unmoored. You are completely off, you’re kind of off your game. That’s not having a time sense. So what people don’t realize is that time is actually three-dimensional, right? It’s not invisible. Time has a beginning, middle and end. Time has a future, time has a past. And the way to really be able to find that time sense is you have to be able to see time move.
Leslie: So all of us are really good about looking at this thing, right? But if you notice, it gives you what? It gives you one time only, and it gives you the present. So if I was to say to you, “Can you show me on your phone what 10 minutes from now looks like? Or can you show me what 10 minutes ago, or how much time has passed from when you started doing X?” You can’t answer that. But an analog can.
Leslie: Because what happens with time is, your child or student, however you want to say it, needs to be able to see it move so that they can picture, I always say picture the end. You have to be able to see where you sit in time. So I want you to picture this, because this is a very cool visual. If your student is either sitting in class or sitting on a Zoom call and they’re like done, put a fork in them, right? They’re like, “Oh my God, when is this going to end?” The first thing they look for is time. They look to see, “Okay, how much more time do I have left?” Seriously, right?
Andy: Oh yeah. I remember sitting in class and watching the clock until 3:00 PM so we can get out of here.
Leslie: But didn’t you play with it in your own mind? Weren’t you like, “Okay, I’ve got 10 minutes left.” I can like, “Okay, I can do this. I got 10 minutes left. I’m going to finish this out.” Because you can pause, you can picture the end, and you can pace yourself. So time is huge in somebody being able to activate. Because again, if you don’t know where you sit in time, this is you. Where like, you know what I mean? You’re just, you’re lost at sea. You’re lost at sea. So that’s my time tutorial for the day. I could spend this whole time talking about time, but I know we have other things to chat about, but it’s that important.
Andy: Parents are not immune to this. How often are we with our kids late to stuff? Because we fail to take into account how long it was going to take to get everything going. And it’s easy to say, “Wow, my kid is terrible at scheduling and always is underestimating how long things are going to take.” And well, that’s pretty hard conversation to have, but if you can kind of-
Leslie: But you don’t always have to have conversation. This is where parents, because I get a lot of this like, “Well, what if I’m not great at time?” So here’s my another little soundbite for all of you. The more you can externalize time, the more you internalize it. What do I mean by that? So I’m pretty time managed. I’m literally one of the top time management experts in the world, been voted that. So here’s somebody who is pretty much a time management expert. I have in my office, it’s my home office. I have an analog clock. That’s one, right? I have a phone that I use to remind me, “Okay, Leslie, you’ve got a phone call.” That is time. I’ve got to be somewhere, that’s two.
Andy: Yeah, yeah. I get the 10 minute reminder on the calendar thing popping up.
Leslie: Exactly, so that’s two. I have a calendar, a monthly calendar. That’s three. I have a timer, that’s four, and I have a planner that I use. So I have five things within my orbit that helps me externalize time, and I’m time managed. So I have five things. So if I have five things that help me, if it’s external helps me internalize, I kind of say to parents, “What do you have in your house? Do you have an analog in every room your child spends time in? Including the bathroom, especially. You have a teen at home, there better be a clock in the bathroom. In fact, there should be two.” There’s got to be one in the shower. Sorry!
Andy: Oh well yeah, they could take long showers…
Leslie: And there should be one by the sink. But there needs to be, do you have analogs in every room? Do you have timers? Do you have calendars? Do you have wall clocks? Whatever it is, but the more you can externalize time, the more you and your student or child, I call them students, just easier, will internalize it. I hope that makes sense. And I say that all the time, and that’s like the aha moment. That’s when parents go, “Oh my God, I never thought of it that way.” But it does. Because what happens is, not everything has to be like, “You need to learn this.” A lot of it seeps in, you know what I mean? It’s our brains. When we see things over and over again, we absorb them. So if you have these supports in your home to help teach your child time, it will start to manifest organically.
Andy: Yep, and just having it hitting you in the face all the time-
Leslie: All the time.
Andy: –is so huge, because then it’s like, “Oh wow, actually wait a minute. Hey, I’m supposed to be getting this done by, and wow, I just wasted 10 minutes and whatever.” And then yeah, you see that hand ticking, it brings you, it centers you back. It kind of keeps bringing your awareness to where you are and how, whether you’re ahead of schedule or behind schedule or, you know?
Leslie: Yep, you got it. That’s exactly it. And to your point, whenever I work with students, I always say to them, “I want you to work time over task.” So again, as parents we’re really good about going like, “Just go get your math homework done before dinner.”
Andy: Did you get it done?
Leslie: What does it mean?
Andy: Yeah, finish that assignment.
Leslie: What does that mean though? If your child can’t see the end, remember, we’re seeing the end, but if you say, “Why don’t you go work for 20 minutes before dinner?” It will help your child activate, because 20 minutes is a beginning, middle, and end. Your child’s more apt to start because they can see the finish. Remember we have to see time to manage it.
Andy: Well, we’ve talked about that previously on the podcast in terms of letting your kid know how long this conversation is going to take. “Hey, really want to talk about X topic? I know it’s not a fun thing to talk about. This is only going to take 15 minutes.” You know, even setting a little timer. We had a guest who was talking about how she used to make this rule with her teenagers, that anything they brought up in the car during the car ride, as soon as they got home, the conversation would be over and she would never bring it up again. So they could just talk about anything during the car ride.
Andy: And she said, she was like, “I got gold that way. I got really good stuff because they would bring stuff up three blocks away from the house when they knew, hey,” and it’s like exactly what you’re talking about. It’s an external and you have a very good feel for how long it’s going to take to drive three blocks or whatever. So it then makes you feel safe to bring something up and say, “Oh, hey, mom, anyways, by the way.” You know?
Leslie: I love that. I actually, it’s funny you said that. I, not so much now, my kids are older. But when my kids were younger, we actually did do that. When we needed to have a conversation, particularly for my child who had the focusing challenges, we would set a timer and say, “This is how long this conversation is going to take. Can you hold?” And that’s really, really great, because again, I am an ADHD expert and that’s our executive functioning and what that is, is the effort level. I always say, “Your kid can’t sit on high alert forever, not knowing how long it’s going to be.” You’re putting the parameters around time. But what you’re doing again, and I know I sound like a broken record, but I think it’s worth repeating, is you’re making time visual. So I love, love, love that.
Andy: And the car ride’s cool. Because then you can feel it too-
Leslie: Oh, I love that.
Andy: … it’s like also it’s physical, you’re moving through it, you know? So yeah, yeah. Getting all those senses involved.
Leslie: And I even to do that. I’m going to, this is like, it has nothing to do with the book, but it’s just a great tip. I get asked all the time, like remember, I work with parents whose kids have challenges. So if they catch their kid lying, not a massive lie, I’m not talking about stealing or things like, but you know, like kids saying, “Of course I did my homework,” and the page is empty, like those kinds of crazy ridiculous lies. Where the kid goes, “I didn’t eat the powdered doughnut,” and his face is like full of dust.
Andy: It’s all over your place. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Leslie: We don’t do. And again, it’s a little bit of a time thing is, we don’t have the conversation right then and there, we actually do the opposite. We say, “You know what? I’m going to give you till eight o’clock tonight. Give you a few hours to collect your thoughts, figure out your story. And then we’re going to meet at eight o’clock and then we’re going to have the conversation.” I know it’s not a time thing, but it reminds me very much of the car thing. It’s kind of the opposite of the car thing. We’re giving everybody a chance, for the parents’ brain to calm down and the child’s brain to rev up.
Leslie: Because most kids we know we call it fight or flight, but they also freeze or fib. So I’m adding that to the list. We don’t want to freeze. And if your child is caught like this, they’re going to freeze. They’re just going to freeze. And you’re only, you’re going to go up and they’re going to go down. So by postponing the conversation, you’re going down and your child has a chance to collect his thoughts, get his brain wrapped around it, and everybody now meets in the middle.
Andy: And it gives your kid a little bit of a sense of control. And I like doing that also. And then even giving them a little bit of a choice.
Andy: So, “Hey, let’s talk about this later. Do you want to go for a walk or sit on the back porch?” Let’s talk about this later, before dinner or after dinner, you know? Just so that, it’s still going to happen. We’re still going to talk about this, but just it’s like we were talking about earlier, giving them just a little bit of feeling of autonomy, giving them some sort of a way that they can have some sort of control, I think is huge.
Leslie: Huge, you and I are totally on the same page. And my mantra is, it is, my mantra always is, it’s a parent’s job to set parameters, but it’s a child job to negotiate them, back porch, in the car, right? Pick 4:17, 4:23. You know what I mean?
Andy: 20 minutes. What about 10?
Andy: Okay, 15. It’s okay.
Leslie: But I believe I agree with you. That the choice and the autonomy is I think critical.
Andy: One thing that they always recommend people do when you’re trying to get more healthy is to just spend a week or two writing down, keeping track of everything that you do that’s active and writing everything down so that then you can start to just make small changes, figure out what’s going on. But I think it’s also does exactly what you’re talking about here is it brings awareness to it. It puts it down on paper, and by physicalizing it, then now it makes it easier for you to see what’s really going on and see what you’re doing, instead of just kind of going through the motions and feeling like you’re in that boat, just getting kind of swept along. So I like that you have this idea of tracking your time, spending a week tracking kind of everything that you’re doing throughout the day and starting to see really what are you actually spending your time on.
Leslie: Yes. And I’m going to say this. When I have kids do it, I’m very mindful that they don’t have to tell me certain things. They can group it. No, I work with teens and college students and I want to kind of make that clear to them, but I do it for a lot of reasons.
Andy: Oh, there’s a gap in here between 8:30 and 8:45–
Leslie: All it has to say is “friends” or “personal time”–I don’t care. Because they all deserve it. But what it also does is, and it’s exactly what you said. And I get this all the time from parents, like the buy-ins and the conversations. And I’m like, “Sometimes the conversation doesn’t need to be had. Sometimes the data speaks for itself.”
Andy: Self-confrontation. That’s what we always use to try and achieve in my research. You know, we’re trying to confront people about their alcohol use. You don’t want to say, “Hey, you drink too much.” You want to just say, “Hey, look, here’s how much you drink. And here’s how much everyone else in your class drinks. And here’s how they compare. And it looks like you’re in the top 10%, interesting.”
Leslie: Right, you’re not, “What is it about that?”
Andy: “Here’s the data.”
Leslie: Right, “Here’s the data.”
Andy: No need to say, “So you’re going to need to start doing that less.” We just, we can let them confront themselves sometimes, you know? This helps you achieve that same thing.
Andy: You don’t need to necessarily go through every hour with them and say, “Oh, it looks like you wasted an hour of your afternoon.”
Leslie: No, no, you don’t want that. And we kind of look at it and say, “Well, what do you?” Once they do it, and it’s a very funny thing. I think some people would go like, “Kids really do it?” Actually they do, and they actually really like it. Because it’s, I don’t know, it’s game-like, it’s fun. And again, I don’t make them go like, “Okay, every 15 minutes.” Like if you’re hanging out, if it’s your personal time, I just want that. I don’t need to know what you did in that personal time. I just want to know what’s the difference with your personal time and study? There’s so much aha moments, and I love how you said it, that come out of that. That is very much a self-revealing. Like, “Oh, I didn’t know I did that.”
Leslie: And again, wrapping all the way back to the beginning, and I’m only bringing it up because we talk a lot about, I feel, I talk a lot about this in the book. Is that a lot of what makes somebody procrastinate are these almost like self-fulfilling prophecies of like, “Well, this is just how I do things and I guess it just sucks. Or I’ve just been called lazy my whole life, so I guess I’m just lazy.” And I’m like, “Ah, no. Too easy, you don’t get to do that.” It’s funny, I come from that position, like that’s a cop out and you don’t get to do that.
Leslie: You get to throw yourself a pity party for a little bit, but then you got to back the car out of the one way street and we got to move on. And the moving on is going, “Oh, that’s what’s getting in my way.” And when they do it, it’s a beautiful thing, because there’s obviously way more buy-in. And for me, data driven information is kind of where I get the buy-in, because it’s not me versus them, or a parent versus them, or a teacher versus them. It’s them versus them. And I’m just facilitating the, “So what do you think about that? Or how is that working for you?” And it kind of comes to light.
About Leslie Josel
Leslie Josel is the author of How To Do It Now Because It’s Not Going Away and What’s the Deal With Teens and Time Management?. Leslie is an ADHD-academic and parenting coach, founder of Order Out of Chaos, and the creator of the award-winning Academic Planner: A Tool for Time Management.
Leslie writes the weekly “Dear ADHD Family Coach” column for ADDitude Magazine, the premiere magazine for adults and children with ADHD and Learning Disabilities. Until recently Leslie was a contributing parenting writer for Family Circle Magazine and has been featured in broadcast and print media such as The Associated Press, Forbes Magazine, and The Hallmark Channel. For the last four years, Leslie has been named by Global Gurus as one of the top 20 Time Management experts in the world. She speaks internationally to associations, educator groups and companies such as 7-Eleven Corp, MD Anderson Cancer Center and Merrill Lynch.
Leslie lives in Mamaroneck, NY with her husband, Wayne, her children now emerging adults. In her all-too-rare spare time, you can find Leslie hiding out in her car indulging in her favorite treats: entertainment magazines and frozen yogurt.