Time Management in Adolescents during Eating Disorder Treatment

Written by Julie Rami and Nancy Anderson

During adolescence, the brain is growing and building neural pathways faster than any other time in life.   A teen’s capacity to learn is at its maximum but the planning, organizing, and self control skills haven’t caught up yet.   During the school year the tutoring room is very busy with supporting all of our student’s curriculums from their various schools.  Although we have several students, we work individually with each student as much as needed.  In the summer the tutoring room looks very different.  Our focus shifts to service and study skills.  We participate in two volunteer outings each week and spend the rest of our time on various adolescent topics.  Then, towards the end of the summer we start preparing our students for school mode.

This past summer we discussed time management.   Most teens spend about 40% of their time asleep and another 10% in school.  50% of their time is available for everything else.  So, how do we make the most of our time?  We all multitask and feel that it is an efficient way to work.   Although, we all do it, no one is really good at it.  When we are constantly task switching no one task is really getting the full attention to get the job done.  The only way to really stop the multitasking or participating in many things at one time is to eliminate the distractions from the environment.  So what does this ideal environment look like? It should be a quiet, distraction free setting. In order to maintain focus there need to be chunks of time without interruptions.  Studies have shown the ideal length of time is 20-30 minutes.  For that chunk of time use, every ounce of your attention to stay focused on that task.  After each of these sessions take a break.  This is when you can check your phone, email or grab a snack, and then repeat as many times as you need to get through your workload.

Remember we had mentioned that adolescents aren’t the best at planning and prioritizing. Well, this is why they need good organizational skills. The simplest systems are the best such as a planner or a homework app available on an iPad.  Setting weekly goals is simple and a must.  When scheduling and making a plan there needs to be a built in cushion because emergencies do come up.  So, when a student has extra time in their schedule they need to use it to write a paper or study for a test.  You need to find something that works for you as you are the one that needs to utilize it. Using a system like this will help you focus on what needs to get done and then you will have more time for what you think is fun.  Also, remember to keep things simple as the more complicated your system is the more likely you are to give up on it.

Rosen, Christine. “The Myth of Multitasking.”   The New Atlantis 20 (Spring 2008):  105-110.

Bergman, Peter. “ How (and Why) to Stop Multitasking.”  Harvard Business Review, May, 2010.

Learn more about McCallum Place Eating Disorder Centers and our free, confidential pre-admission assessments by calling 800-828-8158.

Nancy Anderson received her Bachelor of Science in Education from Loyola University of New Orleans.  She has certification to teach in Louisiana and Missouri.  She has taught in several traditional and alternative setting before going part time and joining McCallum Place in 2004. She works 1:1 with the students, their home schools, families and therapy teams to ensure student success in an adaptable educational environments.

Julie Rami received her Bachelor of Science degree in Special Education from Eastern Illinois University and her Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a Reading Emphasis from University of Missouri.  She also has certificates in elementary education, social/emotional disorders and learning disabilities.  She worked in a Chicago suburb for 5 years as a resource teacher/inclusion facilitator until she moved to St. Louis.  Upon moving to St. Louis she opened and operated a tutoring business for ten years.  She has been with McCallum Place as one of our teachers for ten years acting as a liaison between the patient and their school.  She addresses student’s needs and modifies materials to ensure student’s success in an adaptable educational environment.