Time management skills are essentially life skills. Kids and young adults need this skills now and in the future. All educators and parents want our learners to be able to work independently, use time well, and complete tasks on time. In order to meet these expectations, students need to learn, understand, and continually practice skills for time management.
Kids and young adults can benefit greatly from just learning what time management is and why it matters. The whole idea is that we can work smarter instead of harder, helping us to complete our work more efficiently in a shorter time frame. To kids who struggle with time management, this idea that they can learn tips and tricks to use their time better can actually sound like magic! Best of all, these skills are so broad that they can be integrated into every single thing we do. From every content area to every chore at home, we use time management skills (and they really DO pay off).
What is time management? Time management is having an accurate understanding of time and making decisions to complete tasks in a timely way. As with most other executive functioning skills, time management isn’t just one isolated skill. It includes being able to estimate how long tasks will take, prioritizing, dividing time between tasks, pacing yourself, using time wisely, and working to meet deadlines.
• Examples of Time Management •
Here are some examples of what strong time management skills might look like on the spot:
- Prioritizing which homework assignments to start before beginning a list of work.
- Someone pacing themselves on a test to make sure they finish in the given time frame.
- Writing out a daily schedule to keep track of times and events.
- Chunking a project into sections to complete it by a specific deadline.
• Possible Signs of Challenges with Time Management •
It’s important to think of time management as a foundational skill for overall success. Imagine this: A student understands the content in a class well. They start working on a graded project to demonstrate their knowledge. The student is doing a fantastic job – truly their best work! The problem is that they realize the deadline for the project is tomorrow and there is no way they will be finished on time. Does the student turn in a half-completed project? Turn it in late? Rush and complete work that isn’t their best quality? Give up and turn in nothing at all? All of these outcomes demonstrate a clear issue with time management. Simply put, time management skills are a critical element to doing our best work.
Possible signs of time management challenges might include:
- A learner spending too long on one problem or section of an assignment.
- A student working on an assignment due next week (or not working on anything at all) when they have other work that is due next period.
- A student consistently actively working but not finishing assessments or other assignments in a given time period.
- A student who appears to always be in a rush at the last minute to finish work.
• Interventions, Supports, and Strategies for Time Management •
As with all executive functioning skills, time management abilities can be strengthened and improved over time. Here are some strategies, activities, and ideas to help learners with time management challenges in the classroom:
- Teach time management and other EF skills explicitly
- Discuss and practice prioritizing with multiple tasks (one way to do this is make a list of assignments and go back and order them by importance)
- Teach how to make checklists for a set of steps or tasks
- Practice estimating time for different takes (you can even make it a game! “How long do you think it would take you to clean your room?”)
- Use a visual timer to visually show how much time is left for a task or session
- Use chimes to warn 5 (or 10) minutes before transitions
- Maintain a relatively consistent and predictable daily schedule
- Keep the class schedule listed in the same spot every day
- Teach, practice, and discuss routines frequently
- Have students put their schedules on the front of their binders or desks
- Identify and reduce distractors (you can even call them time-eaters!)
- Discuss and practice strategies for moving on when stuck (skipping a problem, rereading, asking a friend, etc.)
- Practice, model, and teach organization (since it is easier to use our time well when we are orderly and organized)
- Practice planning out longer project together with mini-deadlines along the way
- Provide work check-ins to students to make sure they are on the right track
- Teach how to maximize downtime (ex: if you finish your work early in study hall, look over other work and start something else!)
- Teach students how to check-in with themselves (“How am I doing? Am I on track?)
- Play time-based games (add a timer to most any game like Pictionary or Scrabble to get kids managing their time!)
- Discuss and practice what it means to “pace yourself”
• Strategies for Parents to Support Time Management at Home •
Here are some strategies parents and families can use at home strengthen skills for time management:
- Model and practice estimating how long a task might take
- Create a home calendar with important events listed
- Discuss daily priorities and tasks at a common time (such as breakfast)
- Develop a daily schedule with dedicated homework and chore times
- Use strategies to stay organized and tidy
- Reduce and give limits for social media and television time
- Practice making to-do lists together and ordering items by importance
- Identify, discuss, and reduce distractions (“time-eaters”)
- Establish routines (for morning, after school, and bedtime)
- Avoid over-scheduling (kids and young adults need downtime to learn how to use their free time, too!)
- Consider digital calendars or apps
- Model and discuss thinking ahead (such as putting clothes out for the next day)
- Use a timer for working sessions
- Use and discuss deadlines for tasks (“Your room needs to be organized by Thursday.”)
- Provide rewards and incentives for completing tasks (“When all your homework is done, you can have 30 minutes of video game time.”)
If you notice that your learners need some extra support with their time management and other executive functioning skills, I have units to target executive functioning skills for middle and high school learners and executive functioning skills for younger learners. Get all your materials in one spot to make teaching these skills a breeze!