It’s early August. One glance at the window of any office supply store will confirm the inevitable – the new school term is just around the corner. Like many parents, you anticipate the new school year with trepidation: back to the pressure of projects, assignments and exams but your child, the student, is not very good at managing his/her time. It’s possible your student feels the same trepidation and has already suffered the stress caused by struggling to manage time commitments.
Here are five strategies that will help your student be successful at managing their time tasks. timeliness and success.
1. Modify your Perspective; Time Can Not Be Managed.
Time is time. It ticks past at the same pace every second of every minute of every hour of every day. No matter how we try, no one has yet found a way to make it stop. Needless to say, the enduring state of time means we have absolutely no control over it. None. Zilch. Nada. You can’t control it, stop it, or manage it.
There, feel better? You are off the hook to manage time. Insert sigh of relief.
What we do have control over is what we do with our time, how we use it. Anything you commit to do, no matter how big or small, is a time task or time commitment. An assignment is a time task; so is taking out the garbage, going to hockey practice and eating supper. Most of us don’t think of eating supper as a time task but just ask your stomach and the coach what happens if the school bus is late and your student can’t get supper until after hockey practice at 8 pm. The better we are at managing our time tasks, the more successful we are at managing our relationship with time.
2. Identify Time Tasks
Help your student be really clear on all the things for which they have time commitments. In most young people’s lives many there are lots, many of which can’t altered, modified or moved. There are 2 types of time tasks – the regular/routine (RR)and the irregular/occasional (IO). RR tasks are frequently the more obvious ones such as class schedules, hockey practice, dance class(es), Youth Group and piano lessons. IO tasks might include assignments, shopping for prom dress and hockey tournaments. I consider exams to be RR since in most high schools the exam schedule is known well in advance and can be clearly planned for. Birthdays would be IO unless you can remember the dates of everyone’s birthday and are certain when the all the celebrations will be. Less obvious RR are sleep, meals and the orthodontist appointments (same time every month right?). More challenging are IO time tasks over which you have no booking control like the hockey games and group projects. Driving time is both RR and IO as it is frequently attached to an activity.
3. Use a Day Planner/Calendar.
Using a day planner, in whatever form, is likely the most significant strategy for helping a student manage their time tasks. Planners provide the opportunity to do just that – plan. And then there are all the synonyms for planning. People who plan and are prepared, have an interesting relationship with luck. Use whatever form of planner works for your student and is appropriate for their age. In some cases this will be the calendar on their phone. In others, it will need to be a wall calendar over which you still have some influence or even help them insert their time tasks.
Start by having the student fill in their RR tasks, remembering to leave space for meals, sleep and driving time. Next have the student fill in whichever IO tasks they are aware of. This is a great opportunity to fill in related tasks such as finding the shoes to go with the prom dress or sharpening the skates before the game. Encourage them to write in all their friends’ and family members’ birthdays. Why? Often there will be parties booked around these dates and with the dates booked in the agenda a student can anticipate a gathering of friends or family around the birthday date. With the heads up on their agenda, they can also budget their funds if they wish to go out to celebrate a friend’s birthday.
If they are old enough, encourage your student to keep the agenda with them at all times in their back pack or hand bag. It will then be available for reference when the opportunity to babysit comes up or a party invitation arrives.
4. Plan Tomorrow Today
Being prepared is still a good motto. Teach your student to check their agenda at the end of the day and plan for the following. If they are still young and using a wall calendar, teach them to check the calendar before bed to prepare their clothes, dance bag, hockey gear or homework books before the rush of the morning.
5. Verb-up the To Do List.
Developing a list of the time tasks associated with assignments and other school activities is a powerful tool for getting time tasks accomplished. Unfortunately, these lists frequently become a list of nouns waiting for attention rather than actions requiring time e.g. Geography project, English outline, prom dress, new binder.
A more helpful list uses at least one verb to clearly indicate what needs to be done and includes a deadline. Being more specific when writing the list also helps your student realize what the full time tasks actually involves and how they will know when it is completed. For example:
Geography project becomes,
Review (teacher) Mr. Sanders topic list and choose a topic for geography project. Submit to Mr. Sanders by September 30.
Prom dress becomes,
Call BFF. Book shopping time this weekend. Set up FB page for prom dress for our grad year. (who knew dresses had their own FB pages?)
Each of these tasks has now become a more complete assignment by verbing-up the task statement. Your student will know what needs to be done and when it is accomplished.
School may be just around the corner but you and your student can be armed and ready for the added pressures it brings. These five strategies will set up your student to manage, not juggle, their time tasks with a straight A result.