When in school, students are expected to follow routines and complete assignments within certain time frames. Children must follow these same guidelines when continuing the learning process at home, managing their time and effort to complete homework assignments and projects on time.
Time management is critical to many of the expectations placed on students, including initiating assignments, taking the appropriate amount of time to complete tasks, meeting deadlines, and maintaining a busy schedule.
Time management involves several neurodevelopmental functions, including attention and temporal-sequential ordering.
Getting started on assignments requires students to engage their attention. Students must be alert to the task at hand, possibly shifting focus to a new activity, and have the mental effort necessary to initiate the task. The ability to preview, or think about the outcomes of a task before beginning, can help students conceptualize what a report will be like once a topic is selected, what materials will be necessary to do an assignment, etc. Previewing is an aspect of attention.
Taking the appropriate amount of time for a task involves both temporal-sequential ordering and attention. Temporal-sequential abilities help us understand the order of steps, events, or other sequences; generate products in a meaningful order; and organize work, time, and schedules. These skills are related to a student’s ability to appreciate time in general and estimate time appropriately.
Tempo control, a facet of attention, helps students allocate the appropriate amount of time to the task at hand and predict the time required for an upcoming task. Tempo control also instills a sense of “step-wisdom,” the knowledge that it is more effective to undertake activities in a series of steps, rather than all at once. Tempo control allows a student to match his/her pace to the demands of a given task, e.g., to take the right amount of time to finish an essay test, to do a homework assignment thoroughly yet efficiently, etc.
Here are some possible signs that a student is competent in time management:
The student …
- Is able to get started on homework assignments, reports, or projects on his own
- Takes an appropriate amount of time to complete the task at hand, such as doing a homework assignment or studying for a test
- Is able to meet deadlines related to schoolwork and follow established schedules
- Comprehends time-related vocabulary (e.g., first, last, when, before, after, next)
Here are some possible signs that a student is struggling with time management:
The student …
- Either rushes through work, not taking the time necessary for a thorough job, or takes an excessive amount of time to complete a task/assignment
- Has difficulty meeting deadlines and/or following an established schedule
- Is often tardy, frequently not realizing when he or she is running behind
- Has trouble with long-term assignments
Strategies to help students struggling with time management:
- To help students get started on an assignment, encourage them to start a homework session or study period by planning what will be accomplished during the session. If necessary, help students develop objectives that are clear, specific, and measurable (e.g., how long they will work, how long the report will be, how many problems they will do, etc.).
- To help students understand the appropriate amount of time to allot to tasks, require students to plan for a designated number of minutes, work for a designated number of minutes, review for a designated number of minutes, etc.
- Have students practice estimating and managing their time. For example, have students keep track of activities in a log, first recording the estimated time they think the activity will take, and then documenting the actual time it took to complete the activity.
- Create a large classroom wall calendar that shows an outline of the stages and time frame for completing long-term projects. Note important steps and dates with color cues. Review the calendar regularly.
- Allow students to practice managing time by being a “project manager” when working in cooperative groups, making sure activities lead to products on schedule.
We’d love to hear what strategies or activities you’ve used to help promote effective time management in your classroom or at home. Leave a comment below with your ideas!
- More strategies on getting started on assignments
- More strategies on taking the appropriate amount of time for tasks
- More strategies on meeting deadlines and keeping schedules
- Related research on temporal organization