This was asked by a colleague of mine who is a few years away from having a teenager of his very own.
My answer is an annoyingly chirpy, “Both!” Helpful, I know.
But it’s really hard to say which is more important. If your teen isn’t organized during the school year, and they are as busy as active as the teens I know, they’re going to be overwhelmed, feel out of control and experience panic on a regular basis. If your teen isn’t organized during the summer they’re going to be bored, uninspired and experience regret at the end.
So being organized for the school year and being organized for the summer both seem like extremely worthwhile goals.
If I think about the long-term, however, and think about what life skills I want my teen to have when she’s an adult, I actually think the summer vacation organization is more important. This is because I think it’s easier for people to do goal setting and planning for their paid work than it is for their own personal goals, unassociated with whatever it is they do to make a living.
This is definitely true for me. It comes much more naturally to me to be organized and goal-oriented at work, where someone is paying me money to be this way and my reputation and livelihood are on the line than it is for me to be that way in my personal life, where no one else is really going to keep tabs on me. I really admire adults and kids who are able to do both.
So I change my answer! Now it’s summer. It’s more important for teens to learn how to manage their time in the summer, because later in life this piece is more frequently the one that people have a hard time with. And it may be the piece that contributes more heavily to having a good life overall.