Time management is a challenge for everyone; especially for middle and high school students. Between homework, school, after-school activities, family, friends, jobs and more, their time is truly NOT their own. And in this fast-paced culture, effective time-management skills are essential.

How can you help your student master basic time management strategies? Here are some helpful tools and tips.

1. Use an academic planner to help your student plan and stay on track. Whether they use a paper planner (I recommend Order Out of Chaos’ “Academic Planner: A Tool for Time Management” ) or electronic calendar, make sure their planner is set up as a grid system so they can see their week at a glance.  Record all their class assignments, after-school activities, work commitments, even plans with friends.  This will allow them to know what they need to do AND when they have time to PLAN to get things done.

2. Remind your student to do the hardest, longest or thing they least want to do first so that they will find it satisfying to move on to tasks they find more enjoyable.

3. Analog clocks as opposed to digital clocks show that time moves and lets your student know where they stand in relation to the rest of the hour or day. Hang an analog clock in each room that your student uses (Yes, even the bathroom!) so that they can see the “sweep” of time.

4. Make their tasks achievable. Your student is more likely to complete their assignments if they are broken down into manageable parts. It is much easier to write one paragraph for an essay in an afternoon than it is to complete the entire research paper.

5. If your student is tackling a long-term project, begin by working with them to outline the goal of the project.  Work backwards. Break down tasks. Assign deadlines for completing each one.  Rely on visual organizational aids like planners, post-it calendars, or whiteboards (my favorite) to record all important information and deadlines.

6. Help your student determine how much time things take them to do.  To become more realistic about how long certain tasks take, have them write down time estimates and then compare them to the actual time it took them to complete the task. The more a student records and corrects how long it takes them to do something, the better they will become in developing a “time sense”.

7. Devices such as timers and buzzers can help a student self-monitor AND keep track of time. For example, during quiet or reading time, a timer placed on a student’s desk can help the student know exactly where the time is going and also help the student become aware of when transitions to other activities will take place.

8. If your student will allow it, set it to music! Music is rhythm and rhythm is structure. And we all know that all students, especially those with learning differences and attention deficits need structure.  Music can help a student plan what to do next, anticipate and react as well as sooth and regulate the brain. Have your student create a 30-minute playlist of music they love. The key is to play the same playlist every time they sit down to work.

9. Get active. Put “energy” into their homework tasks by having your student stand up to read or walk the dog while they review their notes. Research shows that the more we move, the more our brain “lays down its learning”.

10. Make homework fun! Set up homework stations around your house and play “Hide the Homework” with your student. Wherever they find the homework is where they do it! By adding energy and fun into their daily routine, you will keep them motivated and on-task.

It is important to help your student understand that just like any other muscle, strengthening their time management “muscle” takes consistent training.  Learning to time manage requires learning new behaviors and developing unique strategies.  I like to equate it to running a long distance marathon. As their “coach” we want to help our students identify their struggles, what skills are essential for them to carry out certain tasks and assist them in developing strategies and tools to help them make it to the finish line!

Article by Leslie Josel, Author, “What’s the Deal with Teens and Time Management”
Principal of Order out of Chaos