The pressures and mounting responsibilities on youngsters can feel overwhelming, but, as our expert columnist Kieran Townsend reveals, here are three simple and effective ways to help the adolescent in your life thrive!

For adolescents, the world can feel like their oyster – so much possibility, so many exciting visions of the future, but, at the same time, so many unknowns and distractions. Between developing socially, contemplating their futures, growing responsibilities, and looming exams, how can teens and students best set themselves up for success?

Whether you’re a parent, guardian, teacher, or friend, the following are some useful ideas that have come out of my sessions with young people, but, of course, can still be helpful for anyone to apply, regardless of their age. I find the key to getting results with young people is to take accountability, encourage them to come up with their own methods, and focus on what they can control. As a coach, I can advise and guide, but, ultimately, they have to make the processes personal to them, and want to take action.

Morning & evening routines

Making some simple changes to morning and evening routines is an effective starting point. Often small changes in lifestyle can really set ourselves up for success. I often use the question: what would your future self thank you for?


  • Prepare the night before. Ensure all books are ready, devices charged, and any snacks out. Setting clothes out uses an approach of satisfaction, which is a decision-making strategy where an adequate result is good enough. This could involve wearing the same type of clothes each day, like Steve Jobs did. This streamlines the process and limits decision making, saving energy for bigger choices throughout the day.

  • Have an evening wind down. This helps to reduce stress and improve sleep, and may include using softer lights, reducing screen time before bed, and some sort of journaling practice.

  • Create a plan for the next day. To make this personal and fun, you could call this a ‘daily victory planner’. This may include key things they need to get done, exercise they are committed to, a gratitude practice, and a reward system.


  • Aim to wake up 30 minutes earlier. See this as ‘bonus time’.

  • Drink a glass of water first thing. Kick start the body for the day.

  • Enjoy some quiet time. Creating their own thinking time, or meditation practice, can help to approach the day with a calm and less reactive mindset.

  • Look at their day ahead. What lessons do they have? What would a successful day look like?

Create a tight focus bubble

This is an approach I often use for students working on projects or revising for their exams.

  • Create a portable productivity system. This is simply about ensuring they have all the essentials needed to help them study at opportune moments, such as a computer, books, headphones, and stationery.

  • Have a personal study playlist. Combine this with noise-canceling headphones for focus and flow.

  • Consider the environment. This is about knowing where they work effectively, so, for some, it might be staying later at school, others may be productive at home, or a neutral venue such as a coffee shop.

  • Adapted Pomodoro Technique. Working for 20–30 minutes followed by a short power or reset break, and then another block of study. The break also becomes the reward for focused study, which helps motivation.

  • Act like someone is watching. This is a quick mindset trick to stay focused and raise standards.

Set identity-based goals

This is a process I have adapted from James Clear’s book Atomic Habits, which focuses on starting small and building momentum with a series of ‘mini wins’ to reinforce this identity. Carving out an environment in which we make it as easy as we can to execute actions for our goals is an important part of the process. The goal is to aim for 1% better each week, which is attainable, and builds consistent progress.

The process:

  • Decide your identity

  • Quick habits to support this

  • Consider the environment

  • Actions to take


  • Identity: I am someone who gets my work completed early.

  • Two-minute habits: checking diaries at night to know when their deadlines are.

  • Environment: ensuring their calendar or diary is accessible at all times.

  • Actions: creating time to plan ahead at the start of each month; adjusting study time as deadlines approach; a productivity system which works for them.

Tip: Use the ‘never miss twice approach’ to help keep them on track, so if they miss a study session, or let the positive habits slide once, know it’s not the end of the world, but be sure to get back on track for the next one.

Creating, and maintaining, healthy and productive habits isn’t always easy, so show them compassion if progress a takes a little time. Know that every little action is a positive step forward, helping the teen in your life to thrive through the challenges of adolescence, and grow towards the goals they’ve dreamed of.

Learn more about Kieran at Life Coach Directory.