Time Management for Kids

Easy tips to help children manage their time better.


Does your child wait until the night before an exam to begin studying? Is there ever a last minute panic before an assignment is due? Does she have no conception of how much time it might take to finish a homework assignment or prepare for a test?


If you answered yes to any of these questions, your child may be in need of some time management strategies. With so much schoolwork and extracurricular activities to keep track of, managing time can seems daunting to almost any student. So what is the best way to balance all of these demands? A helpful tool for time management success is to break tasks down into daily, weekly, and monthly views.


The Daily View

Maintaining a daily planner is critical for effective time management. Some teachers post assignments or syllabi online, and students might feel that they just need to look on a website to figure out what they need to do. To properly manage time, however, all students, even those who attend a web-oriented school, should maintain and regularly use a daily assignment planner for all tests, assignments, and afterschool activities.

How should this planner be set up? First, the planner must be large enough to have a wide box for each day – not one so tiny that it is nearly impossible to write legibly. Each box should be divided into the following five columns: ET, AT, O, D, and Assignment. The planner should stretch at least two weeks ahead.

At school, the only place they should write their assignment is in the “Assignment” column. Then, each day, when they sit down to do their homework, the first task they should do is complete the Estimated Time (ET) column, estimating how long they think each task will take. Based on the estimated times, they should choose the order in which they would like to complete their assignments. They might choose to complete the shorter ones first to get them over with, or they may prefer to work on the longer tasks first. Either option is fine, as long as they stick with the plan.
The next step is completing the assignments in the order that they chose. They should keep a clock handy and time themselves to see how long it actually takes to complete each assignment. After each assignment is complete, they should write the Actual Time (AT) for that assignment in the column. Students should compare Estimated Time to Actual Time. At first, they will likely be amazed at the difference between these two times. Yet the more they practice this strategy, the more realistic they will become with their time expectations, and the more alike the times will become. Finally, when they have completed each assignment, and it is put away in the proper place to be turned in, the student can put an “X” in the Done (D) column. A well-used planner might look like this:

ET    AT    O    D    Assignment
30m    40m    2    X    Math – complete pages 22-24
50m    60m    3    X    English – write paragraph on summer activities
20m    35m    1    X    Science – complete lab report

The Weekly View

It can be easy to lose sight of long-term deadlines if students only see them as part of a daily plan. Thus, looking at a weekly calendar can help students view assignments, projects, tests, and activities that are coming up in a given week. Every Sunday night, students (and parents can help, too!) should create a weekly calendar, on paper or a large white board, or using computer software.
All upcoming events and due dates for that week should be written on that weekly calendar. Include baseball games, science fairs, quizzes, projects, and school projects. Break long-term tasks, such as a research project or cumulative exam, into steps, and note each step in the calendar. This practice will help students plan for the week and start that week on a positive note.

The Monthly View  

Purchasing a magnetic monthly calendar with a white board surface is a wise investment for helping your child to build effective time management skills. At the beginning of each month, all dates should be filled into the correct square and all upcoming due dates, activities, projects, appointments, practices, and exams put on this calendar. After each day passes, a red dry erase marker can be used to cross it off. This perspective will help students plan for the month ahead and know what to expect from a broad viewpoint.

Time management is a challenging task for many people. As students progress through school, the demands on their time increase quickly as the academic rigor rises. Learning to manage time from daily, weekly, and monthly viewpoints can help students gain perspective on their near-term and long-term expectations. The earlier students learn these tools and put them into practice, the easier their transition through school will be.

Dr. Emily Levy is the director of EBL Coaching, which offers one-on-one tutoring and three-week intensive summer programs. For more information, call 646-342-9380 or visit www.eblacoaching.com.