Productive Activities for Teens

If you’re parenting a teen in 2021, you know that finding reliable, productive activities for your teen can be a struggle – especially when they’re stuck at home. Luckily, global crises that leave millions confined to their homes, shut down schools, and cancel extracurricular activities are a rare occurrence. However, the fact of the matter is that in 2020 and 2021, with the coronavirus situation, that’s exactly what we’re dealing with, and it’s the strange reality teens today are facing. 

While ensuring your teen’s safety in this period is a top priority, helping them make the most of this time in a productive, effective manner is a close second. Too much downtime with nothing to do can leave teens feeling bored, lonely, isolated, and uninspired, and that’s the last thing you want right now…Now, if you want a solution to occupy your teen’s free time at home with a productive activity that will bring them fulfillment and help them get ahead of their peers (and add to their resume, even in this difficult time), check out the following list of suggestions for your teen to pursue.

Related: Things to Do Over the Summer for High School Students

Start a Delivery Service

It’s clear to see that many businesses have been highly impacted by the coronavirus – and for most, that’s a negative impact. However, there are a few industries that are actually booming more than ever, due to this pandemic and the relevant restrictions on outside-the-house activities. Food service, healthcare, and delivery are three very obvious industries that have experienced an exponential positive increase in demand during the pandemic, and this opens up the opportunity for those willing and able to seize it. While we wouldn’t suggest your teen go risk their life on the front lines in an ER, we would suggest starting a delivery service as a consideration. For teens who have a car or some method of transportation right now, local delivery service is a great option with validated demand and would enable your teen to start their own business, help at-risk people, and make money in a time when most are struggling financially.

Looking for something productive for your teen? Check out Beta Bowl for ideas

How to Get Started

There’s no need for complicated business plans or startup capital required to get a local delivery service off the ground, especially for teens looking to seize the opportunity now. In fact, some of the biggest delivery-related startup companies (that are worth $1 Billion+) started out in a very similar, grass-roots (and low-tech) manner, as to what we suggest here. You can begin promoting your service via flyers you put in the mailboxes throughout your neighborhood, offering local grocery delivery for those who are busy working from home or who are at-risk and simply don’t want to risk their health by leaving their house.

You can also send out emails to local organizations that are currently closed that might be willing to promote your service via email to their members. You can use a free calendar app like Calendly and allow customers to book a time on the calendar for their grocery order, and they can either pay through the app, another free invoicing option like Invoicely, or via Paypal or Venmo. Their payment can include the grocery budget and delivery fee, so you aren’t paying for the groceries out of your own pocket.

You could easily book out weeks’ worth of business, and if you get so overwhelmed you can’t serve all your customers, you could bring on other local friends or peers as partners or employees. This is exactly how a one-man-business can turn into a real corporation, and in this case, you’re doing the most important thing: solving a problem and filling a need.

Prepare for Next Semester

Another great option for teens is to attempt to get ahead in their studies via online education and enrichment and prepare for the coming semester. Whether you’re an incoming high school freshman or a graduating senior, there are online classes out there that can put you ahead of your peers and open up your future schedule for either more advanced classes or more electives you’d enjoy. Alternatively, this could be a time to pursue independent and online enrichment and extracurriculars that aren’t class-related in order to get those extracurriculars under your belt and free up more time next semester for a rigorous workload.

going back to school

2 Things You Can Do to Start the New Semester Off Right

Even though this time at home may feel like a vacation from your regular routine, it’s important for teens to keep their brains sharp by engaging in challenging activities between now and the next semester. The last thing you want to do is allow the disruption to turn into boredom, laziness, or a lack of motivation – especially because if used efficiently, this can be a great time to get a leg up, rather than slack off or fall behind. This time at home can get old and feel very dull if you aren’t challenging yourself, learning new things, and taking on new opportunities (take virtual courses, learn something new, get ahead in your upcoming classes, etc.).

While many students are experiencing disruptions to their current semester and uncertainty around their summer plans, they can safely assume that their future semesters will continue, and this downtime is a great opportunity for early preparation. A great way to begin is to start looking into the content of your planned future classes and determine whether you can get a leg up by studying ahead of time. This is a particularly good time to look into getting ahead in your core classes, as well as considering which future classes it may make sense to take online via virtual summer school, to better free up your schedule for next semester. Taking difficult AP classes over the summer might not be ideal, but if there are basic necessary classes required as prerequisites to those more advanced classes, these are the ones you may want to get out of the way via virtual summer school.

While one great way to get ahead is to take online summer classes in advance of the next semester, you can also free up time in your future schedule for advanced classes by pursuing resume-worthy accomplishments and enrichment now. You can begin by making a schedule for all of the classes, extracurriculars, test prep, and other upcoming academic activities you anticipate next semester and break out exactly how you plan to spend your time to prepare or get ahead in each one, if possible. The more enrichment, community service, test prep, and college application prep, and research you can do now, the more time you’ll free up to dedicate to your upcoming semester’s classes. This can also alleviate the time pressure of your upcoming semester and allow you more time to dedicate to each class, which can result in increased grades, as well as a lighter schedule. 

Get Ahead on SAT and ACT Prep

As we mentioned, one great use of downtime at home is getting ahead on necessary test prep. For many students in 2020, their SATs were canceled, but that doesn’t mean students are off the hook forever. When the new test dates are announced, it will be helpful if you’re already prepped and ready to get those tests done and out of the way. For those who don’t get ahead on test prep over this period, they may find themselves overwhelmed with classes, extracurriculars, and rescheduled test prep all at once, when things get back to normal.

applying to colleges

Improve Your College Application

Since most students in the US are being affected by the coronavirus and respective quarantine, teens who are approaching college application season have a big chunk of their time in common. While on one hand, some colleges are making changes to their application requirements and admission standards, a sea of similar-looking applicants is not a formula for acceptance into your dream school.

However, the bright side of this situation for college-bound teens is the fact that while many students may look alike (in having curtailed, online classes, canceled extracurriculars, and postponed or canceled testing), is that this is actually the perfect opportunity for teens to do something DIFFERENT to ensure they stand out after all this. Participation in a unique outside-the-classroom advanced virtual program or embarking on an impressive independent project are some great options to pursue during this time and come out with a real college application differentiator.

Related: How to Make Your College Application Stand Out

Participate in Specialized High School Program

One way to stand out and make productive use of your time is to participate in a specialized subject-specific program for teens or high schoolers. This could be an advanced online core class, a virtual college-level course (hosted by a University or Community College), or an independent academic or STEM-related course.

These types of programs on a resume show admissions officers that a student is intellectually curious, ambitious, and seeking enrichment, even outside their required classes. This is a surefire way to stand out from the crowd in a time when many students are just focusing on the basics (their required classes) and spending their free time playing around on their phone and having zoom-meeting slumber parties with friends.

Beta Bowl can mentor your kids on becoming an entrepreneur

Take an Online Class or Enrichment Program

Similar to the above suggestion, participation in any online class or virtual enrichment program at a time like this will be an impressive differentiator on a resume, even if it isn’t core-class or strictly academic-related. If there’s a subject, skill, or career-related discipline that isn’t offered at your school, you may take this time to pursue learning about it online. With some virtual programs, you can even get certified, depending on the discipline, which could help you beyond college applications.

Likewise, independent virtual enrichment programs (not school-affiliated), whether group or individual, are a productive and impressive use of a teen’s time at home, especially those that result in a concrete outcome or achievement. That’s exactly why we’ve experienced a surge in students enrolling in our Beta Bowl Virtual Entrepreneurial Enrichment Programs over this period since they’re seeking to pursue online virtual enrichment and come away with an outcome of tangible, concrete proof of their accomplishment. In our programs, students come away with a business-building skill set, in addition to their own unique business plan, marketing strategy, financial model, pitch deck, and personalized college recommendation letter.

Start a Charitable or Community Service Initiative

In this time where the US (and the world) is in a crisis situation, teens who devote their time to helping and contributing positively to the situation at hand are sure to stand out, and this will be a lot more impressive than “check-the-box” community service hours. Teens can accomplish this by starting their own charitable initiative, fundraiser, or community service project to positively impact the coronavirus situation. The charitable initiative could be something as simple as selling a product or offering a service and having a portion of the earnings go towards helping people impacted by the pandemic.

For example, these proceeds could be donated to the hospitals and research institutions working on a vaccine or treatment, or the service itself could be a PPE creation charity, in which people donate and create their own “personal protective equipment” for doctors to wear while treating patients. These are just two specific examples, but there are countless other ways teens can help out with a charity, donation, or community service initiative for this crisis.

How to Get Started

While starting your own charity or community service initiative might seem daunting, it really doesn’t have to be. At the end of the day, anything you do with the intent and outcome of helping people affected by this situation will be of great value and service. You can begin by determining what part of the crisis you want to address, for example, the shortage of hospital equipment, the need for food delivery and essential items to older and at-risk people, the newly unemployed population who are struggling to pay their rent, or something else. You can then decide whether you’ll be helping with a direct product or service (like creating your own PPE to donate or delivering essentials to the elderly) or simply raising funds that will go towards the issue (like a fund for vaccine research, or a fund for people who’ve lost their jobs).

Once you’ve scoped out how you plan to contribute to this crisis, you can begin either grass-roots (starting with people you know), or you can try to get a larger group involved via online outreach on social media or through email. This is going to be a big undertaking, but a hugely fulfilling use of your time, and it won’t be overlooked by future college admissions officers and employers.

Tackle a Challenging Independent Project (you normally wouldn’t have time for during the academic year)

Similar to creating the charitable initiative or community service project, you can dedicate this time to creating any challenging but rewarding independent project that you normally wouldn’t have the time for during the regularly scheduled academic year. Think of talents, passions, and interests you have and how you might want to create a project, nonprofit, charity, or business around them. Even if you create a for-profit business, you could donate a portion of your profits towards the coronavirus research or some other noble cause, and this would show admissions officers that you are contributing with a charitable initiative, as well as building a business.

How to Get Started

In order to get started on creating an independent project or business like this, you should begin with a clear plan. You’ll need to know what problem you’re solving, whether it’s a need or a want (and how to market and sell differently, to suit the specific offer), who your target customers are, and how best to reach them. These are all pieces of what we teach students in our Beta Bowl Virtual Business-Building Accelerator programs, so teens who go through our program end up building and launching their own independent business projects. Since our programs are virtual, this is another great option if you’re looking for a step-by-step curriculum on how to take a business or idea from inception to completion, and Beta Bowl students have startup mentors and collaboration to help guide them through the process.

In addition to coming out of our program with a ready-to-launch business, business plan, marketing strategy, financial model, pitch deck, and Successful Completion Certificate, students will also get a personalized letter of recommendation that speaks to their individual progress, growth, and accomplishments. Students who commit their free time at home to this type of independent enrichment and the meaningful real-world project will be a cut above their peers at the end of this period.

Need an awesome extracurricular activity to stand out? Check out Beta Bowl to see what they have to offer

How to Improve Your Productivity Skills

So you have plenty of ideas for productive activities, but you still find it challenging to accomplish your goals. Here are a few tips to help you improve your productivity skills: 

Set Achievable Goals

You’ve heard this before, but making your goals achievable can be highly motivational. Ensure your goals are SMART – that is, 

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

Determine what you want to accomplish and break it down into smaller, achievable goals. Be precise about what you need to do and think about how you’ll know when you’ve done it. Finally, make sure that your smaller goals will help you accomplish the larger ones and give yourself a time limit. It should be a realistic time but firm enough to put just enough pressure on you to keep you moving. You may even prepare a treat or a reward for yourself when you accomplish your goals. 

Create a Work Routine

Be more consistently productive by developing routines. Try to wake up, work, break, and go to bed around the same times of the day every day. Of course, there will be times you’ll have to deviate, but trying to create work routines will get you in the habit of work.

Having work routines will also help when you’re in college with its increased social and academic demands. 

Try to:

  • Wake at the same time every day – even on weekends.
  • Begin to work or study at the same time each day.
  • Eat your meals and snacks around the same times each day. 
  • About half an hour before you go to bed, turn off your electronic devices.
  • Establish a reasonable bedtime so that you get plenty of rest.   

Rest is essential when you want to be more productive. Your mind and body need to get adequate time to restore their energy. 

And don’t forget to make time for 30 minutes of exercise every day. It isn’t a time-waster. Your mind, body, and overall energy are boosted when you engage in exercise. Regular exercise is also a great mood enhancer and stress reliever.  

Make a Plan and Stick to It

Being organized will always be a great aid to productivity. Think about what you have to get done – the big things and the small things. Now do a massive brain dump. Include not just tasks to be done, but even decisions you have to make or things you have to think about. Next, create a master list of everything in order of priority. You may need to create more than one list, depending on the categories. Then make a plan for how it will all get done. 

Your plan can be a daily plan for reaching your objectives, or it may be a more extensive plan where you’ve broken down your primary goals into smaller targets. 

Once the initial enthusiasm wears off, you may not be so excited about your plan – but stick to it. Follow it each day and tick things off as you go. You’ll look back and be so glad you did.

Finish a Task Before You Start Another One

This might sound counter-productive; after all, isn’t multi-tasking the holy grail of productivity? Every task that you have to accomplish takes up a little real estate in your mind and exerts a little pressure on you. When you can complete tasks, your mind is that much freer and less stressed. So having lots of things to do but only doing a little of each isn’t as productive as you think. Choose your tasks and complete each one before you move onto something new. 

Do Your Hardest Task First

As a supplement to the above tip, make sure you do your most challenging tasks first. Getting your hardest or least enjoyable tasks out of the way early can be stress relieving and free your mind for other, more important things.  

Carefully Choose Your Work Environment

Where you try to work or study will significantly affect how much you get done. Don’t just think of your physical comfort or geographic convenience when looking for a location. Find a quiet, distraction-free area where you’re not likely to run into too many other people, especially friends. 

Work in Time Blocks

Doing your work in time blocks can boost your productivity and focus while providing you with plenty of downtimes. The longer we work, the less productive we can be. Methods like the Pomodoro Technique show how effective a routine of scheduled work and break cycles can be.

Final Word

Of course, the current pandemic crisis is devastating and disruptive to many people’s lives, including many teens. However, it doesn’t need to be the cause of a pause or backtrack in your teen’s education, personal enrichment, or progress towards future higher education. In fact, this downtime at home is a great opportunity for motivated students who use it wisely and productively to get ahead of their peers, make the most of their free time, and embark on personal growth and enrichment. Whether your student takes online summer classes, starts their own business or charitable initiative, or gets college-application-ready, spending this time focused and productively is the best way to keep your teen motivated, fulfilled, and on track for success.

Related: What Extracurricular Activities Should I Do in High School?