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.

Time Management Tips & Tools

Here are some helpful tools and tips to help your students master basic time management strategies: 

Use an Academic Planner to Help Your Student Plan and Stay on Track

Whether they use a paper planner or electronic calendar, make sure their planner is set up as a grid system. That way they can see their week at a glance. 

TRY: Order Out of Chaos’ “Academic Planner: A Tool for Time Management” 

Record all their class assignments, after-school activities, work commitments, even plans with friends. Writing down their responsibilities will allow them to know what they need to do AND when they have time to PLAN to get things done.

Start With the Most Challenging Task First

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

Use Analog Clocks to Show the Passage of Time

Analog clocks, as opposed to digital clocks, show that time moves. It also lets your students 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.

Make Tasks Achievable

Students are more likely to complete their assignments if they break them 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.

Use an Outline to Tackle a Long-Term Project

If your student is tackling a long-term project, begin by working with them to outline the goal of the project. Break down tasks into manageable parts and then work backward. Assign deadlines for completing each one. 

Rely on visual organizational aids like planners, post-it calendars, or whiteboards (my favorite) to record all relevant information and deadlines.

Help Students Develop “Time Sense”

Help students determine how much time things take them to do and become more realistic about how long specific tasks take.

Have students write their time estimate for completion. Then, have them compare their assessment to the actual time it took them to complete the job. 

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.”

Keep Track of Time with Devices

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.

Use A Playlist to Give Time Structure

If your student allows it, set it to music! Music is rhythm, and rhythm is structure. And we 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. It can also soothe and regulate the brain. 

Have your students create a 30-minute playlist of music they love. The key is to play the same playlist every time they sit down to work.

Get Active

Put “energy” into their homework tasks. For example, have your students 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.”

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 essential to help your students understand that just like any other muscle, strengthening their time-management “muscle” takes consistent training. Learning to manage time requires learning new behaviors and developing strategies. 

It is similar to running a marathon. As their “coach,” we want to help our students identify their struggles, what skills are essential for them to carry out specific 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


About Skills 4 Life:

Skills 4 Life Pediatric Occupational Therapy offers a broad range of pediatric occupational therapy services in the Boulder & Denver area to help your child master age-appropriate developmental skills, become more independent, increase academic success & develop confidence. The experts at Skills 4 Life specialize in handwriting, keyboarding & executive function coaching, but also work with children on social & emotional learning, motor skills, self-regulation strategies & activities of daily living. Skills 4 Life Pediatric Occupational Therapy offers your child a safe, compassionate environment to learn the critical skills they need to be successful. Learn more about our team & services at www.skills4lifeot.com, or you can contact our office by email at karina@skills4lifeot.com or by phone at 303.351.1828 for a free consultation.