Improve Time Management

Blue Clock With Alarm


Time management involves the ability to respond to things in a timely fashion, estimate the time necessary to complete tasks, and to make and follow a schedule. It often involves monitoring your own effort and actions, having an appropriate sense of urgency to complete tasks, and having the ability to follow a step-by-step procedure. In order to improve time management, one must be able to efficiently budget time and accurately estimate how long it should take to complete something.


Home and School Situations Requiring Time Management

  • Working well under pressure
  • Completing in-class and homework assignments on time
  • Working on homework for at least 15 minutes consecutively
  • Prioritizing important things, such as school, over leisure
  • Arriving at or leaving places on time
  • Leaving oneself enough time to complete tasks
  • Waking up on time
  • Getting ready in time to catch the school bus

Hints and Strategies to Improve Time Management

1. Help your child to estimate the time needed for tasks. Knowing how long tasks might take is helpful in prioritizing them. Encourage your child to create a list of things they need to accomplish and to write an estimate of how long they think it will take to complete each of the items. After doing the tasks, you child would check how long the activities actually took and compare the time to his/her original estimations. Doing this on a routine basis can help your child to become more accurate in time estimation and lead to improvements in his overall time management.

2. Maintain a daily to-do list with your child. Post a dry-erase board in a prominent area in the home that states “To Do” on the top, followed by the date. Create two columns, one for you one for your child. Develop a regular morning (or evening-before) routine of listing two to four priorities for the coming day. As your child gets better at doing this, it may be possible to increase the number of postings per day. Generate a longer list of items and use the process of erasing them to prioritize what might be reasonable to do on a given day. This would show a willingness to move tasks around to help set realistic goals.

3. Reward time management. If your child can budget their time to finish schoolwork after school, then perhaps allow them to watch a favorite movie or program later that night. By rewarding behaviors, your child will become more apt to complete tasks on time and maintain good prioritization.

4. Help your child break down bigger tasks into smaller ones. In order to successfully budget time, large tasks should be broken down into certain days and times. For example, if your child has a science fair project due in a month, you can help by breaking down the task into weeks and require that certain parts of the project be done by the end of each week.

5. Make certain tasks into a friendly competition. For example, to get some tasks done by a certain time, such as household chores, you might say “Let’s see if you can beat the timer.” By doing this, your child will have motivation to finish the task at hand.

6. Use interesting technologies to help manage time and set deadlines. Many children love to use cell-phones to communicate with friends. Cell-phones can be particularly useful for remembering homework, setting alarms and deadlines, and providing reminders for activities. Require that (s)he use his cell-phone for these types of time management technologies.

7. If you struggle with time management yourself, acknowledge this, and work on making small but identifiable improvements. Many children who struggle with time management have parents who experience similar problems. View improving your own time management skills as your responsibility, in order to teach your child these skills. Set realistic goals that you articulate in front of your child. For example, you might choose to make school lunches the evening before school rather than in the morning, so that you have more time for getting everyone ready for school. Other small changes such as using paper plates to reduce the amount of clean up after dinner, or purchasing and posting an extra large calendar in a public area, display how you are working to improve your own time management skills. This will assist your child in applying these same skills to themselves.

Games and Activities That Can Practice Time Management

“Boggle,” “Catch Phrase,” and other board games that use a timer – Games which require the use a timer allow players to practice using an allotted amount of time appropriately.

Preparing dinner – Have your child help prepare dinner and plan how to time all menu items so they will be complete around the same time.

Video games where working quickly produces gains – Games such as “Super Mario Bros”  reward players for performing tasks quickly, which can help your child to practice efficiency and time management.

“Dance Dance Revolution,” “Guitar Hero,” and “Rock Band “- Limit the amount of time your child can play one of these games and challenge them to reach a particular level by that end time to allow them to practice working under pressure.

Websites and Articles on Time Management

LearningWorks For Kids: The premier resource for executive function information, offering a detailed explanation of time management, tips for parents, and activities to improve this skill.

University of Florida: This site provides comprehensive tips for helping your child with developing positive time management skills. It will help with time management in areas from waking up in the morning, to after school activities, to a bedtime routine.

ADDitudes: This article focuses on how to instill time management skills in children with ADHD in the classroom. Many of the same techniques can be applied within the home.

New York Kids Club: This blog is a great way to learn some new ways to help your child with time management, providing five distinct ways to go about achieving this executive function.

Books on Time Management

Cooper-Kahn, Joyce, Ph.D. and Laurie C. Dietzel. (2008). Late, Lost, and Unprepared: A Parents’ Guide to Helping Children with Executive Functioning. Bethesda, MD: Woodbine House.

Cox, Adam J., Ph.D. (2007). No Mind Left Behind: Understanding and Fostering Executive Control–The Eight Essential Brain Skills Every Child Needs to Thrive. New York, NY: Penguin Group. [Chapter 6]

Dawson, Peg, Ed.D. and Richard Guare, Ph.D. (2009). Smart but Scattered. New York, NY: The Guilford Press. [Chapter 18]

Espeland, Pamela, and Elizabeth Verdick. (2005). Smart Ways to Spend Your Time: The Constructive Use of Time Assets.Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit.

Kulman, Randy, Ph.D. (2012). Train Your Brain for Success: A Teenager’s Guide to Executive Functions. Plantation, FL: Specialty Press, Inc. [Chapter 6]

Morgenstern, Julie, and Jessie Morgenstern-Colon. (2002). Organizing From the Inside Out for Teenagers: The Foolproof System for Organizing Your Room, Your Time, and Your Life. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company.

Richard, Gail J. and Jill K. Fahy. (2005). The Source for Development of Executive Functions. East Moline, IL: Lingua Systems.