Now that we’ve had our students working on overcoming procrastination and developing better study skills, we can turn to helping students organize their time better.Building time management skills will carry students through their whole lives. Everyone has a limited amount of time in the day, and each person has to figure out how to make the best use of that time. Teaching students how to do that now will help them become more productive people in their adult lives. When a person can manage time, that person gains control of the tasks in life.
1) Set realistic goals. Often, even as adults, people set unrealistic goals and then become upset when they aren’t reached. “Why haven’t I lost X pounds yet? I’ve been working out!” “Why aren’t these projects done yet? I’ve been working all day!” Realistic goals include being specific about the desired results or actions. For example, a person who wants to be healthier could set goals of “X pounds lost in X months” or “work out 1 hour per day.” In the same way, a student can set goals of “turn in X assignments” or “read 1 chapter per day.” Measurable, incremental goals are usually realistic, attainable goals.
2) Prioritize the tasks. Without prioritization, students end up working very hard but not reaching the desired results. Prioritizing makes students focus on which tasks are more important than others. Putting the tasks into a priority list gives order and direction to an-otherwise-confusing pile of “things to do.” Students have English, Math, Science, History, etc. homework to do. Setting priorities on which assignments need to be done first will help focus on the task at hand.
3) Break down the steps. Knowing what steps need to be done is crucial to figuring out how long a task will take! Often, my students “don’t know where to start.” When I ask, “Well, what do you have to do?” they just look at me and shrug. This is because they haven’t thought AT ALL about what needs to be done. Define the task that needs to be done. What are the steps needed to complete that? Students need to know what steps are on the journey before they can start walking.
4) Properly estimate how much time that studying or doing a project will take. Yes, this tip was in“Overcome Procrastination!“and it’s included here also because it is such an important skill. Once the student has broken down the steps, of course the next thing to do is figure out how long each step will take! Time management is only effective if the time is estimated correctly. And remember, estimate how long it will take, then DOUBLE it. This will cover all the extra things that come up during the task.
5) Schedule the time and keep an activity log. After breaking down the steps and determining how long each will take, of course schedule the time to do them! Use a day planner, a notebook, even the calendar on the computer or cell phone. Whatever works for the student–wherever the student will look most often–put the tasks there. In addition, as each task is completed, write down how long it took to complete the task. This will help with future estimations of how much time that studying or type of project will take.
Students are not using time efficiently, and becoming better at time management will help fix that. As stated in my post “Study Better, Not Longer!” students have so much to do now. With better study skills, students won’t have to spend as much time studying; and isn’t that what every student wants in the long run: less studying? In “Overcome Procrastination!” I gave some tips on how to get over that procrastination hurdle to become more productive. If students (and parents and other caregivers!) are able to put those tips into practice, learning time management will tie all those other tips together. Efficient time management will lead to better work… and more play.