For many students, time is their most precious resource. Making the most of the time they have enables students to be as efficient and successful as possible, leading a balanced life of work and play. A clear understanding of time is required for students to manage their own time effectively, e.g., plan long term projects, organize schedules, etc. As such, time management skills are an important component of a student’s success – in school and beyond.
In order to meet assignment deadlines and to keep up with schedules related to school and schoolwork, students must engage their temporal-sequential ordering abilities. These skills help us interpret, retain, or create information that is in a serial order. Students with strong temporal-sequential ordering skills are able to manage their schedules, organize their work, and make efficient use of their time. Such students are also able to avoid procrastination (putting off a task that must be done). For students with weak time management skills, procrastination can have painful consequences, affecting both academic and personal success.
Here are some strategies to help students meet deadlines and adhere to school schedules.
- Examine students’ management skills to identify poor management techniques. For example, help students see the ineffectiveness of "to do" lists which do not include objectives, are not prioritized, or whose schedules are not met. In addition, help students understand how compulsive over-planning, e.g., including too much detail or requiring too much time, may also be an ineffective time management technique.
- Talk with students about procrastination. Encourage them to think about why they or others may procrastinate. Do they fail to manage time wisely, are they uncertain of priorities, goals and objectives, or perhaps, are they overwhelmed by the size or complexity of tasks?
- 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.
- Help students come up with strategies for adjusting their work schedule, if time estimations were off target, or if work is ahead of – or behind schedule.
- Teach students how to budget time to create long term schedules, such as when managing a schedule of work and recreation, or planning the timeline of a school project.
- Allow students to practice being "time managers," having the responsibility for working out and monitoring schedules for activities. In essence, this requires students to become project managers, making sure activities lead to products on schedule. Incorporate time management practice into cooperative learning activities in which one student sets and manages the schedule for the group.
Keeping Assignment Books
- To improve students’ abilities to “follow through” on directions, have them keep assignment books that help them stay organized and keep up with work demands. (Many schools or PTA’s will provide these books.)
- Many students, even early adolescents, will need direct instruction in effectively maintaining assignment books based on the expectations of the school and individual teachers. Create a simple system for keeping track of short and long term assignments, tests, and quizzes where students record, check off, etc.
- Discuss different ways to organize assignment books. Suggest that these books may be most effective if students break each day or even individual assignments into a series of “to do” lists.
- Incorporate time management skills into assignment books. For example, have students include areas for notes specifying “things to do the week before the exam”, “things to do during the week of the exam,” etc.
- Be sure that assignment books are checked regularly by a parent, teacher or peer partner.
Breaking Activities Into Steps (Staging)
- Help students efficiently stage or break down long term activities. For example, a history report may be broken down into the following steps: Monday: Go to the library to collect sources, Tuesday: Write first draft, Wednesday: Proofread, Thursday: Revise to final copy, Friday: Take to school.
- 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.
- Provide students with a written schedule of daily and weekly deadlines, such as reminders of tests and important long-term due dates, that they can keep in their notebooks or at home.
- Assign long-term projects one step at a time, and check students’ progress before moving them on to the next step. Emphasize the use of checklists for students to keep track of multi-step assignments and activities. Teach students how to set their own landmarks, or goal points, that will mark their progress towards finishing an assignment.
- Encourage students to write down long term goals (related to class requirements) on a calendar, short term goals (related to weekly assignments, immediate tests and projects) on a schedule or "goals" sheet, and daily goals (related to homework, study related tasks) on a "to do" list.
- Help students understand the place and importance of schedules in daily activities and with regard to long term success. Help students learn how to work within schedules both at home and at school.
- Do scheduling activities with students. For example, plan the day, the week, or even the year together.
- Keep daily schedules on the board, and announce transitions or activity changes in advance.
- Use your own experiences as models for students. Discuss ways you schedule your daily activities, how long you allow for certain tasks, etc. Provide concrete examples, such as your schedule book, a peer’s activity book, etc., and examples using specific academic tasks, e.g. taking a timed test, etc.
- Have students practice budgeting time and planning ahead, particularly when they must prioritize, or fit several tasks into a certain time period. For example, have students come up with a plan for one or more scheduling scenarios, e.g., “How should I plan to study for next week’s test, when I have a book report due the day before the exam?”
- To aid students in their own time management, have them create personal schedules for study time, after school activities, etc. Help students learn to set goals that emphasize the important tasks they need to accomplish.