by Wendy Taylor
Regardless of a student’s eventual career path, time management skills are bound to be a necessity. The ability to manage one’s time is sometimes a skill acquired from trial and error, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Students don’t need to miss a deadline in order to learn better time management skills for next time—it is all about proactivity and planning.
Track your time
We typically experience the stress that accompanies a time crunch when we have allowed necessary tasks to pile up. Instead of continuing the cramming and crashing cycle, bad habits involving procrastination can be broken by familiarizing ourselves with our own pace of work and following a schedule based on those timeframes. Therefore, being aware of and proactive about your workload is the best defense against procrastination.
- Identify your weekly or regularly occurring tasks; any long term project or ongoing task should be listed.
- For a week, track the exact amount of time that each task requires on a daily basis, including a 10-minute buffer for miscellaneous interruptions.
- After tracking for the week, identify a rough average for the amount of time each task takes per night. Include a 20 to 40-minute cushion for nights that you know a task might require more time.
- Use this as a guide for planning the week’s homework time, including time for studying and/or reading.
- Establish an approximate dinner time and set bedtime, especially for younger children, which can help families manage the schedule and stick to allotted times for weekly tasks.
- When extracurricular activities, family events, doctors appointments, etc., come into the picture, the approximate allotted time for homework and projects helps to configure the rest of the week’s schedule, almost like a jigsaw puzzle.
Rules of Thumb
- Encourage children not to spend more than 30 minutes on an assignment—if an assignment takes more time, parents should document how long it took to complete and what made it time consuming.
- Extended time spent on homework may be something worth discussing with the teacher, especially for children with an IEP or 504 plan.
- Take short breaks every 20-30 minutes while working to maintain motivation.
- Identify an incentive that will occupy you for a limited time (no more than 5 minutes, such as a short video clip, song, timed game).
- Break frequency and length may vary depending on frustration level, time on task, and work
- A short walk to get some water, use the bathroom, or take a stretch may be necessary and more beneficial for those who struggle with resetting their focus after a break; keep the breaks short to maintain a level
- Avoid skipping around from assignment to assignment until you’ve fully completed something or have come to a reasonable stopping point.