From the October 2002 issue of Startups

Managing your time effectively is a challenge for any teen. This challenge is compounded if you have to run a business while also attending school. People who use time management tactics effectively often seem to have 30 hours in a day to everyone else's 24. They have time to play on two sports teams, they can run a company, service clients, and find new ones--and get A's!--while others barely struggle to stay in the Honors threshold.

It's an art, for sure, yet one that can be mastered with a little effort. These four tips will help you get started:

  • Realize that Murphy's Law exists. 1. Anything that can go wrong goes wrong. 2. Everything takes longer than you think it will. Those two laws should be etched in your mind like the phone number of your girlfriend (or boyfriend), because they dictate the ultimate truth about time management.

    So what do those laws exactly mean in the life of a teenage 'trep? If you leave something to chance, or if you leave the opportunity for something to go wrong because you haven't managed your time well, that something will go wrong. And when you create your schedule and to-do list, always allocate much more time to accomplishing the task than you think you'll need.

  • Prioritize. The No. 1 problem hindering effective time management in teenagers is the lack of prioritizing. Sure, watching MTV may be one "task" you just have to fit in, but let's be frank. In your heart of hearts, you know that with the Spanish test the next day, sales call the day after and presentation due the following day, you've got too much on your plate than to waste precious time on MTV.

    So how do you get started? Say you have 20 things to do. The worst approach is to randomly pick which task to you'll do first, second and so on. Rank the things you have to do in order from most important to least important. Set up the ranking system however you want, using numbers, colors or checks. Then start completing your tasks.

  • Set goals. Goals are important whether or not time management is the topic of discussion. But in time management, it comes into play when prioritizing. If your lifelong goal has been to become a master guitar player, then perhaps dedicating some time to practice the guitar should slide in ahead of going out to a friend's house. When in doubt, turn to your goals for guidance.
  • Don't procrastinate. Procrastinating is the ultimate evil in time management. The "I'll do it tomorrow" attitude can have drastic consequences on schoolwork and your business, from the tangible--like missing a due date--to the intangible, like a heightened stress level.

If you play the game right, these time management standards are perfectly achievable. Implement some of the strategies listed above and make a goal to tune up on your time management skills. You may be pleasantly surprised at the changes that take place in your life--and your business.


Fourteen-year-old Ben Casnocha is founder, CEO and chairman of Comcate Inc., a San Francisco firm focused on providing technology solutions for local governments. His work has been profiled in over 50 magazines, newspapers, radio stations, TV outlets and Web sites nationwide. Got something to squawk about? Write to Casnocha at ben@comcate.com.