Time management is a key skill for children and makes up a core component of Executive Functioning. As I have mentioned in previous posts, Executive Functioning is comparable to the mission control center of the brain. It helps us plan and execute our goals, both short and long term. It can be something as minor as completing an in-class work task or as complex as having a 7-year plan for starting your career when you are still in high school. Regardless of the goal, your Executive Functioning skills are the keys to achieving it.
Children need to be explicitly taught these skills. A great one to start with is time management.
Time management is the skill of having conscious control over your time and the way it's spent. It can impact productivity and efficiency. As children grow, their schedules become more full. They start to balance more and for many children, start to lose track of their due dates, assignments, belongings, and schedules. The common default reaction to this is for the parents to pick up the slack and to micro-manage their whole family's schedule.
Here are two EASY, SIMPLE and EFFECTIVE ways to help your child INDEPENDENTLY develop their time management skills.
Your child likely has an agenda provided by their school, but if not, you can pick one up from your local Dollar store or Office Supply store! Here is the kicker - it must be used every day. You should set up the expectation with your child that they must show you their completed agenda when they get home from school each day. It should be filled in with the subject, name of the task (not just "homework") and due date. As the teacher, I strictly enforce this with my students. I leave time at the end of each period or day to have students write their detailed entry into their agenda, and then sign off on those particular students who require an extra check. Feel free to partner with your child's teacher to ensure that they have the time and reminder to write in their agenda each day.
My Rule: One of the rules I have that my students find most annoying is that I make them write the homework every day, until the due date or it's finished and handed in - whichever comes first. For example, if they have a reading comprehension task due Friday and it is assigned on Monday, they must write it Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday unless it has been completed and turned in.
"But WHY Mrs. Sadowski? I'll remember! It's at the top of the page on Monday"
K.. but you won't. And here is why I enforce this rule so strongly.
First, kids don't really get agendas. They don't understand how it is not only a place to write assignments and due dates but it is a chronological organizer that moves through time as they do. I try to shift their thinking to be from less of a written reminder to more of a daily to-do list.
At my school, the kids see a number of teachers for different subjects and get assigned multiple homework assignments throughout the course of a week. Not only that, but I assign multiple things throughout the course of a week. On top of that, there are reminders for school activities, fundraisers, spirit days and field trips, etc. What they wrote on Monday will likely get swallowed up by a number of other things and by the time Thursday rolls around, they won't even be looking at Monday. That is why it is so important that they use it as a daily to-do list. If you still have that reading comp to do - then write it down! When you get home, you look at today's date.
I love dry-erase calendars. Paper and pencil calendars work too, but something about dry-erase anything is like an automatic motivator for children. They love it. Wherever your child does their homework and learning, set up a space for a dry-erase calendar and provide them with different colour markers or pens. Develop a simple colour-code system (ie. blue for extra curricular, green for social, red for tests, purple for homework/assignments, orange for reminders, etc.).
When your child brings their agenda home and shows you, the very next step should be to take their agenda over to their calendar and transfer any new items on to it. Field trip announced? Add it in. Project assigned? Write down the due date and any important interim checkpoint dates. To be clear - your child is the one to input the entries on the calendar, not you Mom and Dad! If your child is Grade 2 or above, they can learn this skill - I promise! You may need to model it once or twice, but they can do it!
The key is to have them continuously refer back to their calendar. When their friend calls and asks to hang on the weekend, have them put it on the calendar.
Ugh.. but WHY?
Part of time management is not only just managing the school items, but fitting them into your life outside of school as well. Too many times I've had students come to school on a Monday saying their weekend was crazy busy and they just didn't get around to their homework that was assigned one week prior. Children need to learn to actually schedule time for work and studying, too!
When my students have a quiz or test, I ask them to pull out their agenda and write the following things:
- the test date
- the in-class review date
- 3 days of their choice to write "Study for X Test"
They can work it around their after-school activities, other assignment due dates and social calendars, but ultimately they learn the skill of managing their time by actively setting aside time to study.
If they follow the pattern of writing in their agenda and transferring this to a calendar, they will be on a great path towards their future days of balancing midterms and finals in university or multiple deadlines in their future careers!
It is important to strictly enforce this routine until it becomes second-nature. Typically, I find that by the second month of school, this becomes a solid habit for my students. Being wishy-washy will unfortunately lead to habits that aren't solid and slowly but surely, it will unravel. It definitely requires partnership from both the parent and teacher to ensure that the follow through is happening on both ends. If your child struggles with time management, I implore you to connect with your child's teacher to partner together.
As always, for more tips or support, do not hesitate to reach out.
<3 Happy Planning!