Millennial time management typically stinks. Millennials are considered to be confident, hopeful, goal-oriented achievers.
So why can’t millennials meet a fricken deadline!? AND, why are they always late? And WHY do they spend so much idle time scrolling the internet? Here’s how to help your 20-something meet deadlines, start and finish tasks on time.
Are you a millennial who struggles to get things done on time? Or do you perhaps manage (or parent) a millennial, and frustrated observing them failing to accomplish things that move the needle in a timely manner?
In addition to their many positive traits, millennials have become known as terrible time managers.
What is going on with that? And what can you do about it?
Are you tired of having the same conversation with your employees or with yourself? (“You have to prioritize!” “You’ve known about this deadline for months!”)
As you may have noticed, throwing the same time-management tools at younger generations doesn’t work. Most often, you may be met with an arm wave and told they have an app for that. always have the same effectiveness.
There are underlying reasons for what’s going on, and a better approach to getting millennials to be productive and on-time.
Different Time Management Styles
In every generation, there are variations in how people manage priorities, actions, and scheduling, and millennials are no different.
I recommend that you start by taking the Time and Space Style Inventory (as an individual or for your whole team). It helps each person identify where they fall on the different spectrums and approaches to time management.
Some people thrive with the urgency of working up against a deadline. For others, the tension and stress of tight timelines can cause them to lose focus and productivity. You may notice that certain people seem to be able to manage multiple projects and tasks at once (but may move them all forward more slowly). Some are better at focusing on one thing at a time (but may put other things aside until a later time when they can change their focus.)
Understanding different time management styles and preferences is the foundation to helping millennials create successful time management strategies.
The Time and Space Style Inventory (TSSI) provides a framework to change the conversation and gives you tools and recommendations tailored to individual time management styles.
Acknowledging the nature of different individuals including their strengths and approaches is key. However, it’s also important to recognize some of the challenges that are specific to millennials because of the environment they grew up in.
This may seem obvious, but in order to manage time, you have to have an understanding of time. You know the “internal clock” that helps you regulate the amount of time you spend on things?
One issue many millennials and those coming behind them face is that they don’t have the same core relationship to time that older generations do. A big gap is their absolute lack of experience with analog time.
Did you realize that most millennials almost never use analog time? And many have never really learned how to mark time against a visual display.
Sure, they know how to read a clock, but they don’t have the same connection to the second hand and minute hand that some of us do. Previous generations had more things that provided a clear sense of how much time something takes, like 30-minute tv shows that started and ended at a specific time, every day. If you weren’t there on time, you missed it! And, it was ONLY available at the time it aired. Remember learning about “half-a-pizza” on the analog clock – and rushing home to see your favorite show that was exactly a half-hour long? TV programming was a great reminder that helped you estimate and reinforced how long things took.
Make Time More Concrete
Or did you ever watch the kitchen timer wind down as you experienced time passing? Physical timers helped you see time disappearing. These are the constructs that set time paradigms in days past, and the kinds of things helped make the time concrete.
Growing up with analog clocks gave us visual and physical references for time passing – all day, every day. Without that time-passing context, in our “always-on” digital world, millennials simply didn’t gain that same concrete sense of time. If you can watch whatever you want, whenever you want, for as long as you want, time becomes fluid, elusive and at best loses its clear, trackable parameters.
In working with millennials (and younger generations) on time management, I always provide strategies for helping them to “get” time in a more tangible way.
Practice Timing Your Tasks
One way of doing this is to time yourself (or have your people time themselves) doing certain tasks. Maybe estimate in advance how long you think something will take, and then see how close you are. AND track it so you can learn how to estimate more effectively. Another way of learning more about time is to use the Pomodoro Technique. This idea was developed by Francis Cirillo from Italy who remembers his tomato-shaped kitchen timer. He would set it for 25 minutes and stay focused, then reward himself with a 5-minute break.
If you (or your favorite millennial struggles with estimating time on tasks) try the online tool here. Set it to stay focused for 25-minute time blocks, then reset it for your 5-minute break. Opening the app in an open browser tab can help you estimate time on task as it runs in the background to help you track your time in 25-minute work blocks. Whether one struggles with hyperfocus or avoiding/distracting tasks – This little tool is a time game-changer!
Most time management tools require a realistic, foundational understanding of time. You can’t assume that someone has an inherent sense of time, which can often be the root of the problem. In fact, if you are not really aware of how long things take to complete, help yourself by exercising these time estimating strategies.
Another thing that is challenging for many millennials is being self-directed. Many dual-income families operate around a strict schedule – from infancy through young adulthood. So, if you were raised in a situation where life was scheduled for you and you only had to respond to the external schedule, you may truly never have developed self-regulation skills around time. Also missing may be your ability to make decisions about how to spend your time.
So if given a specific timeline and benchmarks, you can show up reliably – when left alone with open-ended tasks and projects, you falter… those timelines, goals, and steps are too vague. Developing the skill of distinguishing so you can clarify a desired outcome and deadlines, then backward planning can help a lot.
There are a lot of time management apps and tools, and millennials are great with technology, right?! Except we all know that a piece of technology is only as good as the consistency and engagement of the person using it.
This is why I recommend that you boost your time management tasks with others. Consider some outside assistance and accountability, (a friend, buddy, or family member) with whom you can share your strategies. This strategy provides an ‘external’ measure. When supportive, this strategy is so much more effective. Millennials left alone, are notoriously bad at self-management in general. One real difference is when you help Millenials connect to their context, or what matters most. When Millenials have a reason (and passion around that reason), they are much more apt to try new things on their path toward self-development.
So that’s why involve others as accountability partners, rather than expecting to be self-directed, is successful. You can share success! And small successes create larger ones. Building on small successes improves your self-regulation skills.
To start the process off, check out the TSSI. Gain a higher level of understanding of the time management challenges millennials face so you can offer new, more effective solutions.