how to build time management skills for students

Improving Time Management Skills

Every parent wishes their child could excel with time management. In almost every facet of life, the ability to prioritize, plan, and divide time between various tasks and responsibilities is invaluable.  

Time management applies to all the time we have in a day.  Students also have to be reminded that sleep – especially in teens – is critical to remembering content, creating emotional stability, and improving wise decisions.  Poor time management can lead to anxiety, poor work quality and emotional dysregulation.  Time – like money – can slip through our hands without a well thought out plan.  

Strong time management skills can be liberating, but this type of self-discipline is more complex than it appears.  Time is abstract, meaning it’s not always obvious or in front of students.  The operating rule of thumb:  Students cannot prioritize what they cannot see.  Some students don’t prioritize that major project for school until it’s suddenly staring them in the face the night before it’s due. Others may not effectively manage their time in the evening to prepare for exams or other important academic markers.  If you think about most of the heated conversations you’ve had with your kids about school, a lack of time management was likely a contributing factor.

While adults quickly come to appreciate the importance of time management in their own lives, today’s students experience immense pressure when it comes to time constraints.  The lack of structure in the lives of students presents unique challenges—especially during a year with virtual instruction.  Helping students better hone time management skills starts with identifying the issue.

What does poor time management look like?

Parents may recognize the signs of poor time management intuitively—generally it takes the form of procrastination or staying up too late.

Has your child recently done any of the following?  

  • Waited until the last minute to finish projects or study for tests
  • Demonstrated unwillingness or inability to break work into smaller parts
  • Gotten lost in assignments without realizing how much time it is taking
  • Stayed up too late to study or complete work

Students struggle increasingly when these problem areas become bad habits.  Apart from identifying when your student has an issue, addressing time management ultimately requires a level head and appropriate action plan in close coordination with your child.  

Addressing and improving time management skills

Expecting students, especially those with working memory issues, to prioritize without a comprehensive list in front of them is unrealistic and makes prioritizing nearly impossible.  In order to address time management, students first need to become aware of themselves, learn to recognize their time and how it interconnects with their revolving responsibilities. 

How to Learn Time Management with Visual Aids

If students cannot prioritize what they cannot see, it naturally makes it easier to incorporate visual aids to better approach time management.  Creating a visual support can help neutralize tensions between you and your student as well as establish common expectations, allowing your student to improve their abstract understanding of time and better appreciate how it shapes their ability to be successful in all areas of life.  To help your student better visualize time management, try having them create a time/task overlay—a visual where time and tasks are mapped out in the same place, so students have a realistic plan and see their responsibilities grouped together.

Experience is a great teacher. I learned that conflicts generally result from mismatched expectations. With my own child, he needed to study for a significant test.  He was terrified and thought I expected him to study for 8 hours on Saturday and 8 hours on Sunday.  As you can imagine, tensions were high.  We created a visual support and agreed that 3 hours was about all that was needed over the weekend.  Like a puzzle, he cut out ‘study hours’ and decided when he was going to do the work.  He followed through without any arguments because he was involved in the decision-making process of how he spent his time.

Building Time Management Skills: Advice for Parents 

Let’s be honest, chasing your child around about ___________ (assignments, tests, chores, a summer job) is exhausting.  It can also alienate them which makes wielding our influence as parents more difficult, especially when it matters.  When our kids go to college and we’re not nagging, will it work?  Teaching students how to plan ahead and better manage their time is a life skill they can enjoy and rely upon.   

Improving Time Management with Effective Students Academic Coaching

Whether it applies to time management or other essential executive functioning skills, knowledge is power.  When students are informed of their present state, they can begin to make choices about their future state and plan their activities going forward.  This may directly translate to better grades, fewer arguments about school, and a brighter overall future for your child.

Effective Students helps your student better “forecast” what’s ahead, allowing them to focus on the near future and better prioritize tasks.  Once students are aware of their present state, our academic coaching empowers them to better prioritize, frees them to make choices, creates more awareness, pushes back as needed, and provides insightful discussion around outcomes if they achieved the students’ goals. 

No matter where your student is in school, the good news here is that this can be taught.  Students can experience emotional relief, completed work (on time) and become empowered to make healthy choices about their time.  Keep in mind that practicing and developing this skill takes time.  The sooner parents start, the better. 


© 2023 Effective Students by W3 Connections Inc.