Despite being one of the most common skills listed on job applicants’ resumes, time management is a difficult skill to master. As part of the executive functioning skills, time management is described as the process of organizing and planning how to divide your time between different activities to ensure their completion.
This is something we see a lot of students struggling with, mostly because they underestimate how long it will take to finish a task, even if they have done it before many times. Young students can have a hard time planning, so they wait until the last minute to do their school work. This executive function skill oftentimes presents itself alongside procrastination and task initiation. So, if you’ve noticed low motivation, lack of organization, or procrastination habits in your child, they might need help developing their time management skills.
Let’s be honest, sometimes managing time gets a little bit complicated for us adults too, right?
We all have the same amount of time and you can’t create extra time, but you can plan how to allocate that time to the activities you must complete. As a first step, when our tutors work with students, they need to know what the student’s weeks and days look like. Several activities are non-negotiable, like school, for instance. They consider extracurricular activities like piano lessons or football practice. And then, there are also meals and bedtime. What’s left is the pockets of time the student will have to plan and do his tasks without overscheduling. The goal is for students to learn how to realistically plan their time and complete their tasks.
Once the student has a list of tasks and knows how much time he has available to complete them, they need to be clear on how much time he will need to finish each task. The tutor tries to help by asking, how much time do you think it’s going to take you? Taking into consideration if that task needs commute or a previous and different task to be completed first.
The truth is, most people struggle with the idea of time by itself. When we’re planning to go someplace at a given time, we frequently don’t factor in travel time, for example. You can’t leave the house at 10:30 a.m. if your appointment is at 10:30 a.m. You must allow yourself some margin for traffic, coffee pick up, finding a parking spot, etc.
Students who struggle with time management have a hard time thinking that way. But it is a skill that can be taught and we, at Wright Academics have done it. Once they learn to estimate how long a task will take them, the tutor offers them their estimate as well, along with an explanation of their thought process. We give them tools to understand not only the thought process but the consequences of not finishing the task. We also help them with reminders, either via text or alarms on their phone.
Establishing a routine, creating a daily planner, and setting out reminders are a few tips to help improve their time management skills. One of the methods we use with our students is The Pomodoro Method, developed by Francesco Cirillo in 1980. The method suggests five steps to help you stay focused and mentally fresh while completing tasks:
- Pick a task
- Set a 25-minute timer
- Work on your task until the time is up
- Take a 5-minute break (either to move around, check your phone, drink water) and then come back to it
- Every 4 work sessions, take a longer 15–30-minute break
A set structured time helps to maintain focus, and breaks are a chance for them to reboot, recharge and get ready for the next task. On the surface, time management seems to be a pretty simple concept. You have a task to do and a pre-determined deadline to complete it. When you manage your time efficiently, you’ll be able to fulfill any deadline, whether it’s one you set for yourself or one set by an employer, coach, or teacher. In reality, many people struggle with it daily. If you or your child struggles with it, you are not alone, so don’t be afraid to reach out. There is a way to manage it, to learn how to organize tasks within a certain time, and fulfilling them.
If you want to learn more about our process, please do not hesitate to contact us. If you have any questions about Executive Functioning Skills, you can send them here: Contact us.