Time Management and Mismanagement

“He has no plan.” “He’s all talk and no action.” “He struggles to get anything done.” Do these comments sound familiar?

A few weeks ago I was talking to a friend of mine, who is a sous chef, he was complaining about one of his employees. So I became curious and began asking questions. This is what I was told; his employee is a young man who dropped-out high school, who was raised in a dysfunctional home and who is now trying to make his way in the adult working world with no skills or social graces. He works at a snail’s pace and has an excuse for everything. He behaves as if every day is his first day at work. He doesn’t seem to have any routine and struggles to get going. My friend feels frustrated and out of patience with this young man.

Obviously this young man is struggling with more than one set back. He probably has several habits or traits which are hindering his professional development. For the sake of space I will only address one issue: time management. Experience has taught me that most of the people who do well in the work force have excellent time management skills. The king and foundation of time management is “routine”. In saying that they do well I mean they are above average employees, who earn above average wages and are building a career at an above average pace.  Whether they realize it or not, they go through a mental and physical routine in their work place and therefore they get their work done in an orderly fashion with dispatch.  Establishing a routine is the essential in order to have time management skills. Without a “routine” developing time management skills will be very difficult.

We learn routines or at least we should learn them in the home. Our parents are the primary teachers of this skill. As a small child one should have been put on a regular routine with respect to bed time, waking up time, meal times, homework, etc. A child who goes to bed when he wishes does not have a routine.

Time management also involves recognizing priorities, understanding the goal of the work environment, respecting authority and adhering to rules. When a child is raised in an environment that lacks structure the road to developing time management skills becomes difficult. Our work force is highly competitive and with the weak economy, that we are presently experiencing, the competition for most jobs is very high. A person can’t just be good at their job, they must also be productive. If we do not learn these things in the home than our only hope is that we figure it out. Yes it is possible that perhaps some good soul will take time and teach us, but the truth is, our parents have the greatest influence in our lives be it good or bad.

This young man’s training days will expire soon. If he doesn’t grasp the purpose of his job and become more productive his tenure at his present job will end. My friend will hire someone else and start over.

Speak Directly

Speaking directly to a teen does not mean it is a negative conversation. It will prepare them for the world. Too often I hear adults, mostly  parents, skirting an uncomfortable issue for the sake of their teen’s feelings. While we should never attack and insult we should also call death, death. We should call an overdose, an overdose.

The world and its ways do not care what bothers you or your child. Over protecting them from facing reality does not prepare them for it. If anything it places a false veil over the actual events. The best way to deal with the grim realities that accompany a tragedy it to call it as it is.

To Read or Not to Read

Reading is perhaps the most vital skill which all youth must possess. And yet the vast majority of the young men I have mentored do not read. Some, very few at that, become avid readers later in life once the school of hard knocks has dealt them some serious lessons. But could this be the great deterrent to those hard knocks?

We will never know. In most cases, they have had no example of the benefits of reading or of books in their lives. Most of the homes I have ventured into are devoid of books. Children that read are usually the offspring of parents who value reading. It will difficult to be a student of life without an interest in reading.

“Smart” versus Work Ethic

When given the choice between hiring someone who is “smart” and someone with good work ethic, the latter wins every time. There is no sin in being smart or trying to be smarter, but the point is that very few people who are “smart” have poor work ethic. Most of the smart people I have met in my life are people who work hard.

Even in the classroom, I have found the same result. The majority of the teens I have known over the years, the ones who are “smart,” work very hard to earn the grades they receive. I have wondered this outloud for years, “funny how the harder a high school student works, the smarter he is.” Yes it is interesting, indeed.

Passive Parenting and Teens

Passive parenting rarely produces teenagers who are problem solvers. When it does it was accidental. If anything, passive parenting serves to produce teens who feel that they are entitled to get their way. These are the youngsters who will behave as if they know more than their boss who happens to have years of experience.

In my experience, I have witnessed this scenario play out dozens of times. The teen openly defies the boss, is fired or reprimanded, but still fails to understand his or her place in the great scheme of things. They go home, complain to their passive parent, who in turn does not set them straight with some actual parenting. Instead this weak parent will call the boss to try to smooth things over for their offspring.

Living Versus Existing

Living and existing are not the same thing. Many of the young men and women I have mentored have dropped out of high school. Out of the ones I have stayed in touch with most of them have struggled to makes a modest living. Their lack of preparation has left them with minimum wage jobs or dead end jobs.

An education is not an end-all and does not guarantee financial success, but it does open doors of opportunity. Most of my young friends covet a life of excitement and do their best to be happy, but when one lives from paycheck to paycheck or as they say “hand to mouth” there is very little to look forward to other than another day working marathon hours to survive. This is not living. It is merely existing.

No Such Expert

There is no such thing as an expert on youth. Youth culture is dynamic and therefore shifts continuously. It is always  troubling to meet someone who presents themselves as an expert in youth, or makes a claims to know everything there is to know about youth. I much prefer the person who is asking questions, absorbing feedback, reading and opining.

Youth culture continuously shifts, it changes, it is dynamic. The most popular art form with youth culture continues to be music, however reading has also gained great strength; just ask our friend Harry Potter. Rap music has also produced a new and unique brand of poetry and poems. All of this has happened within youth culture. The best we can hope to accomplish in terms of expertise is to be dedicated students of youth culture.

Lessons in a Courtroom

A day in court can emphasize the need to have purpose in your life. For many of my middle class friends the idea that one needs to have purpose in one’s life is a no-brainer. It’s one of those statements that will be met with a sarcastic remark. Something along the lines of, “no kidding,” or worse.

This is not the case for many of the young men and young women I have seen in court. Far too many live in state of stunted animation. There is no planning for a better tomorrow. What comes along, comes along. For many that something is idle time, which indeed is the devil’s workshop. Even if there are thoughts of a goal there is no hurry. Entertainment is king and so goals can wait.